On a mostly clear mid-autumn Saturday, the University Blacks Football Club were spread far and wide from north to south across the expanses of Melbourne, during their Round 5 match-ups. Nevertheless, some relentless and skilful Blacks football was on display at 2pm on Saturday, with our Seniors and Under 19s sides both coming away with convincing wins. For the Phoenix, and the Reserves, they had a tough day at the office for different reasons.
The Senior team made the voyage down to Gerry Green Reserve, to be hosted by the winless Parkdale Vultures. Head Coach Bower made the call earlier in the week, to give some battered and bruised bodies a week off, with Co-captains Josh Steadman and Jordan Quaile among the few taking the game off. Naturally, vice-captain and key defender Campbell Moorfield took the reins for the day, and lead from start to finish with the sort of leadership that his mentor and 2014 A-Grade Premiership winner Adam Pitt would have been proud to see.
With a familiar bayside wind blowing from one end of the ground to the other, the Blacks won the toss and took full advantage of the breeze, allowing only 2 inside 50s to the Vultures for the quarter. At the other end however, with inaccuracy in front of the sticks keeping the hosts in the game. Winger Lachlan Knight was strong early, launching multiple attacks forward, whilst Senior debutant Henry Robertson was impressive, his meteoric rise through the ranks (having played Phoenix in Round 1, to debuting in Round 5) a hot topic throughout the Blacks camp during the week. He held his own well, justifying the coaching group’s belief in the young Blacker.
After quarter time and now playing into the wind, the Blacks quickly edged ahead thanks to a couple of goals, before being inundated by the Vultures in what was their most dominant phase of the game. Our inexperienced defence (missing Matt Dea and Jandre Slabbert, both being rested) was put under the pump with Parkdale continually pumping the ball inside 50. Parkdale were able to slam a few goals home, but after wrestling back momentum to stem the flow of majors, the Blacks were content enough to go into the main break with a 3 goal lead.
Challenged by Bower to assert their control on the game in the third quarter, and after swinging some magnets around on the board, the Blacks completely opened the game up. Traditional defenceman Brendan Dess, and ruckman Xavier Vearing were able to link up multiple times out of the midfield, and were duly rewarded with multiple goals being shared between traditional midfielders, James Sanson and Harrie Lahy.
As a result, the Vultures were unable to get on the counter attack at all, and failed to trouble the scorers for the third quarter. With the margin beyond 10 goals, the game threatened to turn ugly once Nick Hey and Daniel McCullough got in on the act, but bravely and admirably, the Vultures fought on until the final siren sounded, winning the last quarter against the only undefeated team left in Premier B.
Banking the win and moving onto next versus the new and improved Old Haileybury at home, the Seniors will gladly welcome back some walk-up starters into their side, with some youngsters inevitably going back to the Reserves, confident that they can take some valuable lessons and experience from their match up against Parkdale.
Meanwhile, for the Reserves, they unfortunately were not afforded the opportunity to run out at 11:40am against Parkdale’s Reserves, owing to a forfeit. Never a desirable outcome for any fan of football, least of all the players of both sides who miss out on getting a game in. The players organised a self-directed captains run at Princes Park, still keen to get some touch in and work up a brief sweat on the track. The Reserves are showing some terrific commitment to their craft this season so far, and will no doubt be chopping at the bit to tackle Old Haileybury next weekend, eager to make up for lost time.
The Blacks wish Parkdale all the best until our next encounter with them in Round 12 - 2021 is shaping up as a tough year for them - as they look to head into next season with some momentum following the challenges of 2020.
Playing in the unfamiliar time-slot of mid-Saturday afternoon, the Phoenix were at a ground where they have had some dark days, Stradbroke Park. Stradbroke is to Old Xavs as the Crawford is to the Blacks, hosting the Red and Black’s legion of Thirds and Unders sides, in what can sometimes be lopsided contests given their pedigree of football.
Saturday was no exception; the Phoenix asked to take on the ladder leaders with a side that had again undergone several changes from the winning team that defeated Caulfield the week prior. No less than 51 players have pulled on the Blue and Black for the Phoenix in the first 4 games, surely a record.
With the formula for beating the Xavs not changing year on year – match them on the inside and harass them to stifle their ability to move the ball on the outside, the Phoenix knew what they were up against and how they had to play to win.
Alas it was one of those days where everything went right for the hosts, as a tough old day at the office followed for the Phoenix.
Some great individual performances were on show though; in his first game for the year, Angus McIntyre was determined as ever to keep his head up and toiled away in the midfield, Tom Howard had about 10 intercept marks (partly thanks to how often the ball was going inside 50 for Xavs), and Captain Rohan Cleary didn’t let the tough situation get to him, leading the whole way from start to finish as a Captain should.
In the VAFA Premier Thirds, it is inevitable to come across games such as this. The Phoenix find themselves truly in the middle of the table, able to win games but have to dig very deep to match it with the powerhouses of St Kevins and Old Xavs.
As is the case, the Phoenix lads will quickly forget the weekend gone and focus on next week back at the Crawford, where they host Hawthorn AFC – a team that the Phoenix have not played in the Thirds competition in this writers living memory!
Lastly, but certainly not least, the Under 19s were on at the delayed time of 2:30pm, somewhere within the vast maze of grounds that Bulleen Road encompass for Carey, Trinity and Marcellin.
Matching up against Old Carey, the young Blackers sensed an opportunity and took it with both hands, as is colourfully described by one amateur poet who bore witness to the events below:
“The sun came up on Saturday, much like the day before, and the day before that. But when the sun came up on Sunday, the world had changed, for the U19s had sung the Blacks song for the first time.
It was a tussle early, with tight contests and plenty of ebb and flow. But gradually the game ebbed a bit more the Blacks way and the goals began to flow.
The team doctor was called in at quarter time to check Sam Ackland-Evans for leather poisoning. The all clear was narrowly provided but to stay on the safe side Sam was advised to limit intercept marks to one per minute.
Tom St Clair and Douglas Warren had their kicking boots on, always better than slippers or such. Every shot from near and far sailed straight over the goal umpire’s hat. Or would of had the umpire being wearing one. Tom flew higher than Shai Bolton over one pack and very nearly hung on to what would have been a clear leader for the U19s mark of the year scooter.
Pat Somerville didn’t get any shorter as the day went on and his super ruck service started to bring up bruises on the chests of our on ballers.
Meanwhile Harry “cannonball” Hogan was hitting the footy like there was no tomorrow then calmly slotted a couple of timely majors while Hugo “wig keeper” King was relentless at the bottom of the packs. Albert Upjohn, Harry Dent and Jack Reddrop were miserable in defence and launched many a counterattack.
Meanwhile Jed “set the” Toner was doing just that by crunching the packs like a steam train. Toot toot. Charlie Smith was doing what he does best in setting up opportunities with deft touches and Jack Cassidy showed plenty of his customary dash and attack.
Meanwhile the editor says no more paragraphs starting with meanwhile.
So anyway after Jim Connelly iced the win with a glorious long range goal coach Sexton praised a pressure count that was “through the roof” and congratulated the lads on the win and their efforts for the season thus far in a strong competition. The song was sung in a unique lilting style which had a definite musicality to it and the boys and the healthy gathering of supporters went off happy.”
That’s it for another Round of Blacks Football; we push on again to next weekend with all four teams being back at home in Parkville. Keep an eye out for times and locations, as the Under 19s may hopefully be moved to a 9:20am start on the Main.
Additionally, a veteran Blacker notches up his 100 game milestone, one who has tasted ultimate team success in the prior decade and been a highly valued playing member that thrives upon Blacks Acts. We speak of none other than Harrie Lahy! Keep your eyes peeled again for a tribute to him later in the week. Until then, up the Blackers!