Well, winter has truely arrived. And Saturday was the living embodiment of that. Rain, wind, and chill was on the menu but the Blacks have long been known for their love of the tough conditions (that's why we love the Uni Main, right?) and boy did Saturday deliver in spades. With 3 of 4 wins on offer, it was the most successful day of footy for 2023 thus far. A sign of the improvement of all teams and some significant depth being developed across all grades. Have a read below to see what our players' were able to recount.
As we reached the midway point of the 2023 season, the senior boys found themselves in 8th place with a 2-7 record, which hardly did justice to the quality of football they were playing of late. Despite gaining momentum over the past 5-6 weeks, a victory against our Round 10 rivals, Caulfield, was crucial to ensure just reward for effort. The significance of this match was undeniable, as only one win separated the two teams. If there ever was an eight point game, it was this one. True to Melbourne's mid-winter climate, the weather became a topic of discussion before the match, with a strong breeze expected to heavily influence the outcome. Captain Moorfield won the pivotal coin toss and swiftly elected to kick with the wind in order to start the match.
The Blacks got off to a dream start, with newcomer Patrick Fairlie’s early goal, providing an immediate spark. This was followed by a composed finish from spearhead Nicholas Hey, making it two early goals. Despite the promising start, Caulfield managed to settle into the match better and adapt to the challenging conditions. They secured vital territory against the wind and notched up two late goals, narrowing the margin to just 3 points by the first break.
The second quarter proved to be an arm-wrestle between the two teams. The Blacks' defence continuously stifled Caulfield's offense, with the ever-reliable Henry Bennett and the young intercept specialist, Henry Robertson, standing tall and winning crucial one-on-one contests. After some resolute defending early in the quarter, the match took a drastic turn as the rain poured down, transforming the contest into a battle of attrition., with a solitary goal for Caulfield being the only major in the quarter.
After receiving some motivating words from Coach Bower during halftime, urging the boys to embrace the contest and the challenging weather conditions, the senior boys came out firing in the third quarter. An early goal from Nick Hey set the tone for the quarter, and then familiar names like Josh Steadman and Lachlan Knight took over the game, displaying dominance at the stoppages. The Blacks' territorial advantage and control of possession ultimately overwhelmed Caulfield, resulting in a flurry of late goals for the Blacks. Austin Steere's long-range effort and a composed finish from the lively Max Dow were highlights, extending the lead to 35 points at the final break.
Despite the dominant third quarter, Caulfield had the advantage of the breeze in the final quarter, meaning the Blacks needed to maintain the same level of effort to secure victory. The Blacks continued their relentless pressure and composed ball control in the fourth quarter, quickly dispelling any concerns about the final result. The strong second-half performance was sealed by fan favourite Louis Vescio, who calmly slotted his second goal of the day to secure the crucial four premiership points.
Steadman was named best on ground for his tireless performance in the ruck. He received ample support at ground level from players like Knight, Vescio, and Fairlie. Youngsters Robertson and Dow also had standout performances, rounding out the best players with their season-best showings. The win capped off an outstanding day for the club, with all three senior teams claiming victory and securing the four points. The seniors improved to a 3-7 record for the year, gaining strong momentum as they approached a monumental opportunity against the reigning premiers, St Kevins, next Sunday for Indigenous Round.
After falling just short in the first outing, the twos boys were eager to get their first win of the season against one of the lower placed sides in Caulfield. The wind was blowing a gale and we found ourselves kicking against it in the first quarter.
From the outset it was the engine room that got the team going. The dynamic duo in Tom Cousins and Jack Kennedy got to work early and got the ball going our way. Despite, his lack of size, James Carpenter was the main target down forward clunking plenty of marks. After a tough quarter into the wind we were down by a few points.
With the wind in the second quarter the boys began to play some free flowing footy and started hitting the scoreboard. In his first game back since last year, James Sansom proved why he was a class above kicking multiple goals and proving a great target. Harry Dent and Sam Auckland-Evans were also instrumental down back not letting their men even think he would mark the ball.
After half time again against the wind the boys defended well to limit the amount of goals kicked by Caulfield. Cezary Carmichael consistently won contested ball in all day, while Lachie O’Hara got on the end of his handballs. The only goal to be scored by Caulfield was a free kick on the goal line given away by a small mental lapse. In the last the boys kicked away ensuring the win was never in doubt. Tom St Clair had his goal kicking shoes back on and provided a great target. Every time the ball was kicked their way it would only go as far as Jordan Tunbridge who was marking everything. In his new role down back Zach Harris provided great leadership and ball use down back.
After playing such good football over the past few weeks the heart and souls were due for a win and they did not disappoint. It was a valiant team effort in which all of the boys contributed to the victory.
Round 10 came around with the Phoenix and Williamstown both desperate to double their premiership points and avoid being on the bottom of the ladder. The earlier round four clash between the two teams saw the Phoenix run hot in the premiership quarter, only for Willy to run out 21 point winners. While both sides fielded much different teams to the round 4 game, the Phoenix had a plethora of talent coming into the side, with the addition of Sean Heiner-Hennessy, Scott Glover, Nick McCaffrey, Jason Raz and Sami Regague. The Phoenix were also keen to continue with the momentum they found in the second half of last weeks game against Collegians. After seeing how well St. Kilda’s game plan to not play a genuine ruckman the night before worked out, the Phoenix ran with a similar set-up, having James ‘Maido’ Maiden line up for the first bounce of the day.
Kicking with the wind, the Phoenix had all the attacking play in the first 5 minutes of the match. Marko Paulic kicking long into the forward 50 with Sam ‘Dougs’ McDougall showing no one in the league can contest with him in a one-on-one, clunking it on the second grab. While the kick didn’t split the middle, captain Josh ‘Levo’ Leviston celebrated early to persuade the goal umpire enough to call it a goal, reminiscent of Hicksy against Old Xavs a couple years prior. First gamer, Sami Regague, was using his goalkeeper background to repel Willly’s attacks from the defensive 50 but once Willy settled with the tone of the game, they found 2 marks inside 50, converting truly from both shots. The Phoenix got their hands back on the footy by building a wall across our attacking 50, but the lack of ‘kicks for cans’ at the end of Thursday footy sessions across the year showed, unable to kick a goal and kicking 7 behinds to go into quarter time with scores level. Quarter time score read The Phoenix 1.7.13 to Williamstown CYMS 2.1.13 with scores level.
As the second quarter began, Oscar ‘The Big-O’ Gale was eyeing off the shorter opponent in the middle, and the change was made to put him back in the ruck. We were to reap the benefits straight away had it not been for a questionable call by the Willy umpire claiming the Phoenix kick for goal was ‘touched’. They continued to killed the Phoenix momentum, with kicks carrying much further with the wind, resulting in a goal for the home side. With the Phoenix getting used to the conditions of the Crawf from recent weeks, we got down and dirty, willing the footy forward at all costs and Scotty Glover the beneficiary in the goal square, kicking the Phoenix’s second of the day. Will ‘Haysey’ Hayward’s back 6 held strong with the strong aerial presence of David ‘Deez’ Drentin and tackling pressure from Chris Canny however Willy converted well from the shoulder of the 50 to head into the main break with a 10-point buffer. At half time the score read The Phoenix 2.9.21 to Williamstown CYMS 4.7.31
Jotaro ‘Jojo’ Howard-Shibuya set the tone early for the second half, laying a bone crunching tackle that would have the AFL media asking for 3 weeks. Despite wayward kicking in the first half, Sean Heiner-Hennessy made it look easy from a tough angle, kicking a much needed goal. Doug’s showed his groundwork is equally as good, tapping the ball back into play for Dolen ‘Dools’ Vogel to find Nick McCaffrey for the Phoenix second of the quarter. With two ‘ball boys’ behind the goal, the Phoenix made the most of their time with the wind, and it wasn’t long until Sean Heiner-Hennessy gave us all a sense of déjà vu kicking his second of the quarter from a similar angle. On the back of his 3-goal performance last week, Patrick ‘Patty’ Milner shared the love, handing off to Levo who made BT proud, using the wind to work it left to right, to kick his first of the day. Even though locals Matt Keogh and Nick Powell weren’t playing, the entire Phoenix team seemed to move into Williamstown, as we were living rent-free in their heads, Willy players letting out frustration on Maido and even on Phoenix goal umpire, Kurt Hemphill. A flurry of 4 goals whilst keeping Willy scoreless saw the Phoenix hold a 21 point buffer leading into the final quarter. The 3rd quarter score read Uni Blacks 6.6.52 to Williamstown CYMS 4.7.31 a lead of 21 points to the Blacks at the last change
With the message at 3-quarter time being “to waste time”, Gaz chucked the washing on and put his opponents in a spin-cycle. As he did the whole day, Maido kept presenting, sending the ball inside 50 multiple times and it was not long until he was rewarded with his own goal after second, third and fourth efforts from Raz. Willy found entries late but couldn’t convert, finishing with a goalless second half. When the siren went, it was pure bliss for the Phoenix, breaking the drought and securing their first win since July 31, 2021. While the team song had a shaky start, the boys belted it out and the victory Phoenix finally spreading its wings. The 27-point win was soured by the injury to Haysey but the team belief is high as we head down to the snake pit next week against St. Bernard’s. The final score read Phoenix 7.19.61 to Williamstown CYMS 4.10.34 The Phoenix running out winners by 27 points
Round 10 brought a cold windy winters morning for the under 19s with arguably their biggest test yet against 1st on the ladder Old Carey. Bucking the trend from recent years of under 19s blacks football the 2023 class had seen a full 24 players available for selection over the mid semester uni break which meant the blacks were going into the game with a full bench and a strong side.
As Harris went out to do the toss his bad luck at it continued with another loss on his coin toss tally which meant the boys had to battle the toughest conditions possible, into the wind and up the infamous Crawford hill. Old carey seemed to move the ball effortlessly through the blacks which resulted in 3 quick goals. However the blacks steadied and although going scoreless for the quarter some strong second half defensive work kept Old Carey in reach with quarter one ending 0-23
The second quarter started and the blacks looked a different team, they carried that same defensive pressure they brought at the end of the first. Complimented by some offensive firepower. After a kick over the top of the old carey defence put the ball between henry baker and the goal. Albeit around 85 metres away. Baker soccered it off the ground 3 seperate times in pursuit of the big sticks before finally getting there on the line just in time as the Carey defenders slid in an attempt to touch it before it made it over, to no avail. Although the goals were the major talking points of the quarter the whole back six did a fantastic job keeping Old Carey scoreless for the quarter. The score was 18-23 going into the main change
The blacks knew that running out in the third quarter it was all about building pressure through repeat stoppages and breaking Old Carey down through constant body contact. This is where the Mids started to show some grunt led strongly by Mason Blyth who was first to the footy on many occasions but willing to wear a strong tackle to allow for another stoppage. All the mids got their hands dirty for the first 15 minutes of the quarter which felt like the ball hardly left the defensive 50 pocket. And although time was being run off the clock it could only last so long before that changed when Old Carey kicked a flurry of late goals to see them jump out to a strong 23 point lead with the scores going into 3QT being 19-42
The fourth quarter saw a fast and aggressive start from the blacks knowing they needed at least 4 goals to get a win on the day and it couldn’t have started much better with goals from Felix smith and a long set shot from Blyth to cut the margin to less than 2 goals. However this was short lived as the Old Carey mob regrouped and slotted 2 tough set shots to settle themselves with a commanding 4 goal lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. Credit is due for the Blacks as everyone kept fighting right through to the end with two late goals, one of which Kyle Reynolds took advantage from a trademark Finn McMahon high tackle free kick and kicked it. Many believe he took the goal off Finn to stay in touch with the league goal kicking leaders although he’d never admit that. However it was deemed to be illegal giving McMahon his deserved goal. Ending the game with a final score of 6.4 40 to 8.6 54 in favour of Old Carey.
The best players on the day were Blyth, Conheady, Knights, Little, Phillipson, F.Smith. As the uni break is in full swing the blacks are hoping to field some strong numbers again and go into the VAFA season break with a win over Mazenod next week strengthening their position in the top 4.