Round 12 saw the normal round of fixtures disrupted, with the U/19s having a week off. The Seniors, Reserves and Phoenix all head to venture away from the comfort of the beautiful inner-north, heading over to the South. Both Seniors / Reserves were off to the college to play the Old Xaverians whilst the Phoenix headed down to Como Park to take on Old Geelong. A huge congratulations to club stalwart, Jordan Tunbridge (pictured), who played his 100th game in the Reserves against Xavier.
Amidst the swirling winds that enveloped Xavier College, the stage was set for a highly anticipated showdown between the University Blacks and Xavier. The atmosphere crackled with intensity as these fierce rivals prepared to battle it out for what was shaping up to be one of the most important games of the season.
The game kicked off with a burst of energy from both teams. The University Blacks wasted no time making their mark, as McKinna opened the scoring with a superb goal, setting the tone for their dominant first quarter performance. Xavier defenders were left scrambling as Larby and Hey capitalised on the hardwork of their midfielders, showcasing their goal-scoring prowess and extending the Blacks' lead.
Xavier, however, refused to back down. They fought tooth and nail to gain control, matching the Blacks' intensity with their own ferocity. The contest became a grind in the second quarter, with both teams displaying exceptional defensive efforts. It was a true battle of wills as players threw themselves into bruising contests, each vying for a moment of brilliance that could shift the momentum in their favour.
The action didn't stop there. In the midst of this athletic extravaganza, Ayui nearly pulled off the mark of the century, reaching heights that would make even the best NBA players envious. The crowd collectively held its breath, hoping for a gravity-defying grab, only to witness Ayui narrowly miss out. Xavier finished the quarter kicking two goals to the Blacks’ one goal.
As the game progressed into the second half, the University Blacks began to assert their authority. Their midfielders, led by Curnow, Vescio, “The Vindicator” Knight, and Steadman, orchestrated seamless transitions from defence to attack, providing their forwards with numerous scoring opportunities.
Xavier launched fierce counter-attacks and fought valiantly to narrow the margin. Their determination was evident in their relentless pressure and unwavering resolve, refusing to let the game slip away without a fight. However, a clutch contested mark and goal from young gun Jack Cassidy in the final minutes provided the Blacks with a comfortable four goal lead heading in to the final break.
In the final quarter, the University Blacks' backline stood tall, determined to maintain their lead. Led by Chicken Bennett, the defensive unit thwarted Xavier's forward thrusts, displaying impeccable positioning and strong marking skills. Jack Cassidy's impact on the game extended beyond his silky skills. He proved to be a game-changer by winning several crucial contests in the midfield, displaying his strength and tenacity. His ability to come out on top in these pivotal moments further solidified his influence and ultimately contributed to his well-deserved recognition as the "Best on Ground."
When the final siren sounded, the University Blacks emerged victorious, claiming a well-deserved win. Their dominance throughout the game, exemplified by the brilliant performances of players like Cassidy, Steadman, and Moorfield, showcased their skill and determination. The Blacks head into the bye weekend with some strong form having won their last three games.
After coming off two of their better performances of the year in rounds 10 and 11 where they secured their first win vs Caufield, then had a hard fought 2 point loss by St. Kevin’s the university Blacks reserves were looking forward to the challenge of facing the ladder leading old Xavierians in round 12. The match marked 100 games for a favourite son of the club Jordan ‘Tunners’ Tunbridge, which further added to the motivation of the team to try and get the result to make it a day to remember for their much beloved teammate.
However, from the opening bounce the blacks side were up against it with Xavs aided by a very strong breeze converting there first goal only 15 seconds into the game. The first quarter was one was traffic despite strong defensive efforts from Harry ‘Harvey’ Dent and Sam ‘Sacky’ Ackland-Evans, and the blacks went into quarter time trailing 6.5 41 to no score at quarter time.
The second quarter produced a much tighter affair with Sam ‘Robbo’ Robinson and James ‘Sang’ Sansom lifting around the ball to make it a much more even contest. The blacks had chances early in the quarter but were unable to convert with Old Xavs getting the first two goals of the quarter. The the blacks finally produced there first goal of game at the 18-minute mark with Joseph ‘Joey’ Smith converting from the boundary after winning a free kick. The blacks went into halftime trailing 54 to 8.
The wind again proved to be a massive factor in the third with the majority of the footy being played in the Xavier forward half. Old Xavs did a good job setting up behind the ball and pressuring at the contest making it difficult for the blacks to transition the ball out of their defensive half. The university blacks fought hard around the contest but some costly free kicks and some good pieces of skill from Xavs meant they kicked 5 goals to none in a dominant third quarter.
The blacks fought hard until the end of the match drawing the last quarter 1.2-8 each with Finnian ‘Finn’ Raymound and Jack ‘Keno’ Kennedy continuing to work hard in the midfield as they did all day. The blacks’ final goal of the day came courtesy of the man in his 100th game Jordan Tunbridge who got on the end of a loose ball after it was driven inside 50 by Lachlan Pereira and slotted it home from the top of the goal square, which was great reward for effort after putting a strong showing in the ruck throughout the day.
Overall, it was a disappointing day for the seconds side who will look to rebound against Old Melbournians after the bye.
The mighty Uni Blacks Phoenix arrived at Como Park looking to make amends for their 101-point loss to St Bernard’s in round 11. There was an optimistic feeling around the changerooms as the boys prepared to take on Old Geelong. Their first meeting of the year had seen Old Geelong run out 61-point winners, however the improvement shown by many individuals and the team as a collective had everyone excited.
It was an all too familiar slow start for the 2023 Phoenix, with Old Geelong quickly kicking the first two goals of the game. The first quarter was proving difficult, but some good contests and marking from Thomas Hogan and defensive work from David Drentin kept the Blacks in the game. The Blacks tackling pressure increased as the quarter went on, led by Will Combridge and Jotaro Howard-Shibuya, eventually leading to some scoreboard pressure. Contested handballs from Jordan Pfeffer and Thomas Dooley-Heath created a Josh Leviston inside 50 to Sam McDougall who took an excellent contested mark and converted the goal. When the siren sounded to end the first quarter the scoreboard read Uni Blacks 1.1. 7 trailing Old Geelong 3.3. 21.
The story of the second quarter was all Hugh Higgins! Rumours about what he had eaten for breakfast quickly circulated amongst spectators as he proceeded to take contested mark after contested mark. Higgins wasn’t satisfied though, adding some pace from stoppages, and even running bounces to the mix as well. The first of the Blacks goals came from a fortunate Leviston, in the right place at the right time for a turnover, kicking a running goal from 30m. This was followed by an accurate Cam McNeil set shot coming from some constant hard running and pack crashing from Hamish McManus and Chris Canny. Although at times it felt like the Blacks were on top, they were unable to stop Old Geelong responding with 2 goals of their own. The first half came to an end at Uni Blacks 3.3. 21 trailing Old Geelong 5.5. 35.
3RD Quarter: Old Geelong started the second half with the wind and some quick scoreboard pressure before the Blacks were able to gain some control of the play. The backline worked tirelessly with Emilio Eugenio playing his best game of 2023 to take numerous intercept possessions and be a point of frustration for the Old Geelong forwards. The Blacks were able to score of the back of this with a left foot snap from Leviston resulting in a goal. Old Geelong threatened to put the game out of reach but just as he had done in the second, Higgins created a little magic. Higgins made a good contest in the forward line, crumbed the ground ball that he created and slotted a marvellous snap from deep in the pocket. What was better? The celebration of course! After the game it was a genuine concern that Higgins would struggle to talk about anything else for the foreseeable future. Inaccuracy from Old Geelong kept the Blacks in the game. At 3 quarter time the scoreboard read Uni Blacks 5.4. 34 trailing Old Geelong 9.11. 65.
Fourth Quarter: Taking full control of the wind in the last, the Blacks got themselves well and truly in the contest. Pfeffer was rewarded for all of his hard running with a forward 50 mark and dead eye set shot. This capped off a good day in the midfield for him and highlighted his improvement and consistency as the year has progressed. With repeated inside 50s the Blacks seemed to have the better of Old Geelong early in the last.
Chris Canny found himself in unfamiliar territory with ball in hand at the top of the 50, with his eyes lighting up to launch a booming shot on goal. Kicking like a true defender, the ball threatened to go out on the full, but some crafty marking on the line from Darbi Moody was crucial. This was followed by a textbook snap putting the Blacks in a position to make a last gasp comeback.
Unfortunately, Old Geelong hit the scoreboard to seal their victory, with a late Dolen Vogel lace out kick leading to a Leviston mark and check side keeping the final margin to 19 points.