The Seniors got it done for skipper Jordan Quaile in his 100th, in a wet and wild contest on Saturday afternoon.
Rain began to fall just as the ball was bounced, making the contest a bit greasy early. It was no issue, however, for Daniel ‘Chopper’ McCullough, who took a strong grab inside 50 and finished truly to open the Blacks account. Alastair Robbins doubled the lead shortly after with a nice set shot from a tough angle on his wrong side, thanks to the ‘reverse moz’ effects from a few supporters.
The Centurion in Quaile showed he’ll probably be good for at least a hundred more. A clean pick up at centre off a slippery deck was followed by an optimistic bounce on said slippery deck, before he sold a dummy on 50 and slammed it home.
De La Salle managed to stem the bleeding and have a few skirmishes forward of their own, but several strong grabs at half back by Matt Dea (which would be a theme all day) held them at bay. It was at the twenty-minute mark that the home side kicked their first and only goal for the quarter.
Louis Vescio appears to be making a habit of short bursts of brilliance. He laid a big tackle which was set up by an impressive corralling effort against three opponents by James Samson, and the resulting free set off a chain which resulted in a handy Xavier Vearing goal. Not a minute later, Vescio took a strong contested mark on 50, before wheeling and hitting a pinpoint pass to Petherick 15 metres out. He made no mistake and gave the Blacks a 25-point buffer at quarter time.
An early Chopper goal in the second was quickly negated at the other end, and from there the game tightened up significantly. Another rain shower only added to the hotly contested nature of the match, which was largely played between the arcs for the next 20 minutes.
It took a bit of Chopper brilliance to break the deadlock. He grabbed a tumbling footy and threw it onto the outside of his boot whilst being tackled, and the ball seemed to defy physics as it flew out behind him into the waiting goal. However, De La Salle goaled late via a brilliant snap of their own from the boundary to take the quarter by 2 points, the half time margin at 23.
The Blacks certainly had a skip in their step after the break, kicking three goals in five minutes. Quaile opened the flurry with his second, a fortuitous tumbler from the boundary, where the ball appeared to sidestep defenders in the goal square to work its way through. Sam McKenzie and Henry Bennett added their own with solid snipes from 40 soon after.
The downpour that was teased in the first half finally arrived. The heavens opened and reduced the ball to bar of soap. And as if that wasn’t enough of a hindrance, the ball itself went flat late in the quarter and needed to be replaced by a medical sub! A quarter-hour slugfest ensued, before Robbins kicked his second to stretch the lead to 44, but two late De La Salle goals pegged the margin back to 33 at the final break.
The final quarter was sloppy to begin with as rain continued to pour, but Dea was apparently immune to it. He took yet another strong contested mark at half back and hit Chopper on the chest, before a 50-metre penalty made his fourth goal a formality from the goal line. Not to be outdone, Robbins chimed in with his third mere seconds later, sidestepping his defender with agility unheard of from a man of his stature and snapping truly.
With the result all but certain, the rest of the match fizzled out without much incident. Hare kicked his first in the Seniors and was duly mobbed by his teammates, and a final De La Salle goal late in the game just pipped the score above half of the visitors’.
The Ressies went down to De La Salle in a free-flowing and see-sawing affair at Waverley Oval. Momentum swings characterised the opening half, but it was De La Salle who managed to knuckle down after the main break and put the contest to bed.
De La Salle came out of the blocks firing, kicking two before the Ressies were able to settle. Having been jumped, the visitors began to fight back, and a fortuitous 50-metre penalty gifted the first to Sean Heiner-Hennessy, in his first game in the side after being called up from the Phoenix. Tom ‘Nugget’ Cousins drilled home a big captain’s goal soon after. However, two late De La Salle goals stretched the margin to 13 at the first break.
Momentum swung like a pendulum throughout the second quarter. A silky pick-up and snap by McKinna cut the lead to 6, before Seattle native Max DePina chimed in with his own magic minute. He took a strong grab on the right forward flank, then kicked it crisper than a post-match Carlton Dry from 50. The resulting centre bounce produced a clearance which hit him flush on the chest on the left forward flank, and his mirror-image goal gave the Blacks their first lead of the game.
A couple of big tackles and late hits brought a bit of spice into the game, and both Cousins and Harry King appeared to struggle with respective knee and ankle complaints, with the latter ruled out of the contest as a result. Blake Cooke produced consistent desperate efforts and one-percenters, but a late De La Salle surge earnt another two goals to give them a 5-point buffer at half time.
The third quarter was fast-paced and free-flowing, but neither side was able to make the other pay, as the teams traded behinds for the first half of the term. At the 13-minute mark, De La Salle finally broke through, and big bomb from 50 shortly after stretched their lead to 19 at the final break.
A De La goal from the opening clearance of the last put the Blacks down by 4 goals and change, and from there, the ball lived in the home forward 50. There wasn’t much to be excited about from a Blacks perspective, with defensive efforts seeming to drop off as time wound down. McKinna fought valiantly ‘til the final siren and helped set up the only Blacks goal for the last, which came via Will McIntosh. It was far from enough though, with the home side 27 points the better at full time.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the Phoenix had a tough old time of it at TH King Oval against St Kevin’s. With 15(!) changes to the side from last week, the team was always going to have its work cut out for them.
The players arrived at the ground ready to roll, and probably enjoyed the clearest conditions for the entire day out of any of the Blacks sides. There was no dew to kick off the turf as the umpire blew his whistle to start the match, and from there it was tight early.
Trailing at the first change by almost 4 goals, the team was confident that with a few adjustments, that they could claw their way back into the contest and challenge the Skobs; this was the theme of the past two rounds, give the opponent a head start and then wake up and fight back.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be the case this week, as St Kevin’s put the Phoenix to the sword in the second quarter, from there, the match was done.
Not to say that there were no bright sparks in the game though, as with several Phoenix players playing up a grade in the Reserves, dedicated and loyal players who had missed the opening two rounds finally got to debut for the side, and showed plenty of promise is small patches.
New comer Jordyn Taylor was valiant until the end, never giving up in any contests and showing a desperate determination to win some ground balls. Tom O’Farrell was superb given the circumstances in defence, without his efforts the margin at the final siren could have been much worse.
Henry Lamb, Chris Canny and Denis Curnow all showed grit and toughness in what was their first game for the Phoenix in 2021, showing the depth the entire Club has at the moment.
Next week, the Phoenix return to their home on the Crawford and will no doubt be ready to rise again to meet the challenge thrown down by Caulfield Grammarians Third’s.
Last but not least, our young and exciting Under 19s were ‘away’ on the Uni Main on Saturday, facing off the Blues.
In every Under 19s season, there are some tough lessons to be learnt along the way. Naturally, when 30 or more young men come together from across our land to play football, with no prior experience playing together, you are going to have some tough days at the office.
Despite this, the team never once wavered and persisted hard all day until the finish. Remaining committed to training and improvement is no doubt the only way forward to eventually breakthrough and win their first game, which is certain to be sooner rather than later, given the talent among the squad.
Next round, the team will play their first game on the Crawford Oval, hosting St Bede’s at 11:40am, before their first dedicated social event of the season with the Senior playing group; no doubt an important night in the life of any young wide eyed and bushy tailed Blacker…
With three rounds down now, the flow of the Monday to Friday training routine and match day Saturday is becoming comfortably familiar again, after such a long time off. We look forward to being back home this Saturday and seeing many of you once again.