Round 1 of footy season always brings two things, 1. An air of excitement; and 2. The early beginnings of answers to these age old questions. Was our pre-season good enough? What does the season have in store for us? Do we have it in us to make the 'big dance' at the end of the season?
Saturday April 8th gave us some early indications of the answers for these questions across all four grades (Under 19's, Phoenix, Reserves and Seniors).
The anticipation for the seniors match was extremely high come 2.40pm. The Blacks entered the game with a different looking line-up compared to the 2017 season and all fans were eager to see how the team would operate on the field. Play was fairly even across the ground with both teams definitely feeling each other out early on. Lachlan Huntington and Lochie Dornauf were providing strong targets inside forward 50 and both were able to hit the scoreboard with a goal each. Lachlan Knight in his first game as a Blacker was showing a real nous for getting his hands on the footy and put the Blacks into attack many times in the first quarter. Campbell Moorfield was showing everyone just how much he developed last year in the senior team by continuously foiling any attacking foray created by Mazenod. The Blacks went into the quarter time break with a 7-point lead, but many were waiting for the shackles to come off from both teams.
The Blacks used the second quarter to assert their dominance over the Mazenod side with the half backs of Jarrod Carlson, Samuel Bennett and Chris Carson providing plenty of drive for the Blacks. Dornauf continued clunking everything that came in their direction, but he seemed to be having trouble finding his boot when it came to kicking at goal. A number of behinds and two out on the fulls in the second quarter allowed the score line to flatter Mazenod. His pressure though remained at a high level and a bone crushing tackle on an unsuspecting Mazenod player had the crowd in raptures in front of the Ernie Cropley Pavilion. Experienced heads in Josh Steadman, Bede Mahon and Angus Locke were providing plenty of input, while first gamer Joel Beasley was oozing class out on a half forward flank. The Blacks went into the half time break with a 38-point lead and eyeing bigger things in the second half.
Coach Cameron Roberts had a frustrating third quarter as Mazenod started to make inroads in the game. The Blacks started lose their shape and structure across the ground and Mazenod made the Blacks play for this. Moorfield and Lachie Haysman were a couple of players who could hold their heads up for their performance in the third term, but as a whole the Blacks effort was not at the required level. Luckily no real damage had been made to the scoreboard with the Blacks holding a 35-point lead at the three quarter time break.
Roberts urged his charges to get back to the required standard in the last quarter and prove to themselves that they are a quality football side. The response was immediate with the midfield of Knight, Mahon, Jordan Quaile, Hugh Curnow and Matthew Burt feeding the ball in at a rapid rate to Dornauf, Huntington and Locke. Goals started to pour in and first gamer Louis Vescio was lauded as he kicked his first goal as a Blacker! The Blacks used the last quarter to put the game out of doubt and when the final siren sounded they had beaten Mazenod to the tune of 59 points.
Coach Cam Roberts was satisfied with the win, but acknowledged that some rustiness was evident throughout the game. Hopefully this should mean even better performances as the season goes on!
Uni Blacks 15.16.106 defeated Mazenod 7.5.47
Goal kickers - L. Huntington 5, L. Dornauf 4, A. Locke 3, J. Beasley 2, L. Vescio
Best - J. Carlson, L. Knight, A. Locke, C. Carson, J. Beasley, C. Moorfield
After an up and down 2017 season the Reserves were extremely keen to start the 2018 season with a bang and that is exactly what happened with a centre clearance from the first bounce finding Miles Rowlands who booted the first for the Blacks. After this though it was apparent that Mazenod were up for the battle as they hit back with a goal of their own. Peter Aitken was dominating the hit outs and the likes of Stephen Flight, Tom Monkhouse and Cameron Turner were all finding plenty of the footy. Some rustiness was evident though as the Blacks struggled to hit the scoreboard and only entered the quarter time break with a 3-point lead.
The second quarter closely mirrored the first quarter with the Blacks dominating large portions of the play but being unable to pull away from a plucky Mazenod unit. Samuel McKenzie started to impose himself in the forward line and provided the Blacks midfield with a strong target, this strong target allowed the small forwards in Scott Myers and Julian Di Nezza to bring themselves into the game and both players were starting to become dangerous near the goal mouth. The Blacks took a 6-point lead into the half time break, but coach Linc Merlo was happy with the positive signs of play he saw from the boys.
Linc put it on the players to start putting the domination they were showing on the field on the scoreboard and he received an immediate response from Flight, Myers and McKenzie who helped give the Blacks a nice three-goal buffer. The backline of Lewis Steere, Alex Hayward and Jordan Tunbridge were continuously intercepting any Mazenod attacks and constantly pushing the ball forward. This stronger play from the Blacks saw them take a 23-point lead going into the three quarter time break.
Not satisfied with a 23-point lead the Blacks were urged to continue pushing and completely shut off any chance for a Mazenod revival. The boys finally got some rewards for their domination, keeping the Mazenod team to a solitary behind in the last quarter while putting on another three goals of their own. Flight and Myers both showed that as older statesmen in the team they know a thing or two, while Monkhouse and Turner were rewarded for their continuous attack on the ball.
Uni Blacks 11.9.75 defeated Mazenod 5.4.34
Goal kickers - S. McKenzie 3, S. Myers 2, J. Fuller, T. Monkhouse, J. Di Nezza, D. Foott, P. Aitken, M. Rowlands
Best - S. Flight, S. Myers, T. Monkhouse, C. Turner, D. Arnold, T. Cousins
The Phoenix team led by new coach Mick Farrell were full of expectation coming into round 1. Having retained their status in the Premier Thirds competition the team was excited to push that one step further from their 2017 season.
What they were met with was an Old Melburnians team that mirrored the 'Monstars' from Space Jam. The Phoenix struggled early on in the game to match Old Melburnians for strength and height and thus found themselves down by 15 points going into the quarter time break.
Coach Farrell made some adjustments at the quarter time break to best combat the size they were coming up against. This proved successful as the Phoenix were able to snag their first goals for the 2018 campaign. Unfortunately though they couldn't seem to find a way to eat into the quarter time deficit and went into the half time break 16 points down.
The Phoenix were confident that they could catapult themselves into the lead with a strong second half showing. It was quickly a case of Deja vu for the team though as they shared goals with opposition to finish the third quarter down 17 points. While some more positive signs were shown in the last quarter it was a case of not being able to make up for a poor start as the Phoenix ultimately went down by the three quarter time margin of 17 points.
Rohan Cleary, Daniel Johnson and Jaxon Hickey performed well for the Phoenix team and will be some players looking to pressure those players above them in the Reserves.
Phoenix - 5.5.35 defeated by Old Melburnians - 7.10.52
Goal kickers - P. Eaton 2, W. O’Brien, J. Leviston, D. Restrepo
Best - R. Cleary, D. Johnson, J. Hickey, C. Farrell, H. Ukich, P. Eaton
The day kicked off with the Chris Smith led Under 19's coming up against Collegians out on the University Main Oval. From the get go the U/19s made it clear that this season will be very different compared to the past few campaigns that the University Blacks have experienced at the U/19 level.
Whilst still fairly new to the club, the U/19s showed that over the pre-season they have picked up on the Blacks style of football with their attack on the ball and pressure all over the ground highlights in the first quarter. This strong style of play saw the Blacks go into quarter time with a healthy lead.
The second quarter quickly provided the U/19s with an insight into how competitive the VAFA competition is with Collegians hitting back with some quick goals to start the quarter. Coach Smith would have been happy however with the response he received from his players as they began to work their way back into the contest. Both teams began to trade goals and all fans at the ground could see that we had a match on our hands! The Blacks managed to find themselves with a single digit lead heading into the half time break.
The third and last quarter were more of the same with both teams establishing periods of dominance but being unable to fully get on top for a sustained length of time. With five minutes left on the clock the Blacks lined up for a Max Gawnesque type goal to put them in front. Unfortunately the result of this kick was eerily similar to that of Max Gawn's and the Collegians team managed to hold on for an 8 point victory come the final siren.
The players and coach will be able to take many positives out of this game and their is a genuine excitement around the U/19s group that has not been seen in years!!
Uni Blacks - 11.12.78 defeated by Collegians 12.14.86
Goal kickers - P. Milner 2, S. Laube 2, J. Saliakos 2, D. Taberner 2, K. Dawborn, J. Reynolds, M. Gray
Best - S. Laube, C. Direen, L. Sevior, J. Perks, K. Dawborn, M. Gray