Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
The Big V representative program is successfully behind us and it is now time to focus on the final third of the William Buck Premier season as the battle for both finals and relegation heats up.
While St Kevin’s OB and Collegians are the two most likely premiership contenders with just three losses between them for the year, no less than six teams could still suffer relegation. Just two games separate Old Melburnians in 5th and SBMT in 10th, but it is Old Scotch (7th) who boast the highest percentage of 103.35%.
St Kevin’s OB (11-1 & 152.93%)
Recent Form: LWWWW
Run Home: Uni Blues, SBMT, De La Salle, Old Scotch, Old Brighton, Old Melburnians
Thoughts: SKOB has set the benchmark yet again in 2018 after finally breaking through for their first A Grade/William Buck Premier flag last season. Despite missing key personnel for large parts of the year such as co-captain and champion Anthony Lynch, SKOB has continued to win games in very short periods. They average almost 10 points less than 2017 but have strengthened defensively with Sam Critchley and Will Coates helping them to just 62.5 points against per game. Billy Kanakis has been a standout up forward with 41 goals and sits atop the goal kicking leader board. Having played the Lions twice for a 1-1 record, expect a clean sweep in the remaining six games as they prep for an assault on back-to-back flags.
Collegians (10-2 & 150.57%)
Recent Form: WWWWL
Run Home: Old Xaverians, Uni Blues, Old Scotch, Old Brighton, De La Salle, Old Trinity
Thoughts: For three years now, the Lions have been a defensive juggernaut (they still only average 65.6 points against) but it’s in attack where they’ve seen the most improvement in 2018, averaging 98.75ppg and leading all comers. Will Johnson was the main target up forward before suffering injury and they’ve since lost Anthony Bruhn for the season, but they’ve shared the goals with Alexander Croft (18), George Burbury (18) and Sam Hibbins (17) at the forefront. Viv Michie is in Woodrow contention and Taylor Hunt has unsurprisingly been one of the recruits of the season. Star forward, Lachie Ferguson, made his long-awaited return last weekend, so another tilt at their first flag since going back-to-back in 2011-12 is certainly on the cards.
Old Brighton (8-4 & 89.46%)
Recent Form: WLWLL
Run Home: Old Melburnians, De La Salle, Old Trinity, Collegians, SKOB, Old Xaverians
Thoughts: The Tonners were unstoppable in the first half of the season with seven wins from their opening nine rounds, using their gut-running and unrelenting pressure to work sides over. Young stars Anthony Zimmerman, Tom Yorgey and Quintin Montanaro have excited, while Harry Hill continues his elite form from the past two seasons. They’ve since lost several players to the lures of the European summer and the Bin Tang Island of Bali, but with most set to return over the coming weeks, they should be able to win at least one or two games and set themselves for finals. The still sit three games clear of fifth, with few others putting their hand up to take their spot at this stage.
Old Trinity (6-5-1 & 89.91%)
Recent Form: LLWLW
Run Home: SBMT, Old Scotch, Old Brighton, Old Melburnians, Old Xaverians, Collegians
Thoughts: After their most difficult pre-season in recent memory, the run and gun nature of Old Trinity has returned in 2018. They’ve improved in both points for and against in comparison to last season, and stars the ilk of Harry Tinney, Anthony Scott and Jake Steinhart are operating at an elite level. Brendan Iezzi is set to return in Round 16 so with three games under his belt prior to finals, he’ll be one of the keys alongside Gabe Hamilton to winning a first semi. The T’s face four sides below them on the ladder over the next five weeks before finishing with the Lions.
Old Melburnians (5-7 & 80.75%)
Recent Form: WWLLL
Run Home: Old Brighton, Old Xaverians, SBMT, Old Trinity, Uni Blues, SKOB
Thoughts: OMs have impressed for the most part of 2018 and sat as high as fourth after the opening nine rounds. They’ve since lost three straight to De La, Collegians and Scotch by an average of 10 goals. Matt Thomas has been exceptional in his eight games, as has Tom Paule despite a broken hand earlier in the year. It’s their star down back who has provided the most headaches for opposition coaches as Josh Freezer has experienced his strongest season to date, commanding their defensive 50 as arguably the number one ranked defender in the competition. This weekend’s match-up against Old Brighton is as important a game they’ve played, before going on to face another three teams who currently sit below them on the ladder in the run home.
University Blues (4-7-1 & 97.22)
Recent Form: WLLWL
Run Home: SKOB, Collegians, Old Xaverians, SBMT, Old Melburnians, Old Scotch
Thoughts: With most pundits predicting another top four finish for the Blues prior to the season, it’s been a disappointing opening 12 rounds from a side who has made preliminary finals for the past three years. However, the beauty of the current ladder means the Blues are just two games outside the four but face a much tougher run home than the T’s. The flip side of the ladder means they sit just half a game in front of De La in ninth, so anything is possible for James Walker’s men. Ayce Cordy has been the dominant ruckman in the competition with 16 goals to go alongside his elite form around the ground. Tom Quinn (20) and Tim Harper (22) lead the way in front of goal.
Old Scotch (4-8 & 103.35%)
Recent Form: WWWWL
Run Home: De La Salle, Old Trinity, Collegians, SKOB, SBMT, Uni Blues
Thoughts: From a 0-7 start to a 4-1 record over the past five weeks, the Cardinals now hold the third best percentage in the competition. While they certainly didn’t fire on all cylinders in their Round 12 loss to Xavs, the previous four weeks were outstanding as they knocked off Brighton, OMs, SBMT and Xavs. Nick Jamieson and Jack Bull have led the charge as two of the most influential midfielders in the competition, while Harry Larwill (20) has 14 goals over the past month. Young gun, Max Martin, has sparked excitement and was justly rewarded with an U19 Big V guernsey. They still need to face Trinity, Collegians and SKOB on the run home but two more wins, in conjunction with a strong percentage, should save them from relegation territory.
Old Xaverians (4-8 & 98.16%)
Recent Form: LWLLW
Run Home: Collegians, Old Melburnians, Uni Blues, De La Salle, Old Trinity, Old Brighton
Thoughts: Despite a disappointing campaign to date, Xavs were outstanding in their last hit out against the Cardinals as they ran out 54-point winners at Toorak Park. And boy was it needed! They have Collegians in the upcoming round after defeating them earlier in the season and then five games of which they’ll be hoping to win three. In their corner is the fourth strongest percentage in the competition. Given current positions on the ladder, their Round 16 clash with De La bodes as the much-see match and a potential relegation battle.
De La Salle (4-8 & 83.73%)
Recent Form: LLLLW
Run Home: Old Scotch, Old Brighton, SKOB, Old Xaverians, Collegians, SBMT
Thoughts: De La’s Round 12 victory over Old Melburnians ended a four-game losing streak and carried them to four wins alongside Xavs, Scotch and Blues. The injury curse has hit De La as badly as anyone in 2018 and their percentage has suffered accordingly. Liam Murphy will almost certainly be shortlisted for the Grill’d Rising Star following his own outstanding performance, while Jake Williams is in Woodrow Medal-winning form again. Their run home is difficult with matches against SKOB, Collegians and Brighton, but we’ve seen De La finish strongly in the past and would never put anything past the Waverly Oval locals.
St Bedes/Mentone Tigers (3-9 & 79.83%)
Recent Form: LLLWW
Run Home: Old Trinity, SKOB, Old Melburnians, Uni Blues, Old Scotch, De La Salle
Thoughts: After winning their first match of the season, the Tigers took another 10 weeks before securing their second victory (vs Xavs) but have made it count with a follow-up win against Brighton last weekend. While they still hold the lowest percentage and are one game behind the pack, the Tigers look to have hit form and will be at their best against Old Trinity in a match dedicated to Jane Barnes this weekend. Big V representative Michael Barnes has been outstanding for the Tigers, while Nathan Smith has 22 goals from just eight games when he isn’t playing VFL.