It was ball night and there was plenty of excitement all around the Blacks' verse. With teams spread around Melbourne, east and north, there was optimism across the board. Have a read below to see how we went across the grades.
Coming off the back of a remarkable performance against Old Xavierians last week the senior boys were hoping to make it three out of 5 wins for the season. Recognising this during the week the boys were up against the strong and mature Old Scotch side who sat on top of the William Buck Premier ladder. Expectations were high coming off two beneficial sessions and an enormous win which epitomised the “belief” mindset when attacking this week’s opposition. When Saturday rolled around excitement was high as it was not only game day, but the most anticipated event on the Blacks calendar “The annual Blacks Ball” and victory would make the night a whole lot sweeter. Overcast skies and a Camberwell Sports Ground with thick mud covering the center square it was shaping up as classic Melbourne suburban football conditions.
Starting off the 1st quarter the midfield group led by Steadman made it clear to the opposition that it was going to be a tight hard-fought contest in at ground level all day. And so it was through Curnow’s and Vescio’s resilient tackle pressure, Knights poise through multiple “selling sandy” efforts and Cassidy’s ability to come forward to defend, set up multiple opportunities throughout the first quarter. This hard effort was rewarded by a lurking Steere, always dangerous within the forward 50, with a classy intercept goal. This accompanied by Grocott’s goal put Blacks in front at quarter time by 6 points.
No sooner was the 2nd quarter underway the desire to win was exemplified within the first minute through a clearance win and excellent small forward pressure led by Max Dow to intercept skew handballs capitalizing on Scotch’s mistakes and a composed goal was snapped by Tom Larby to extend the lead. Scotch responded in kind, however this was followed up by Stevenson’s first 2 goals of the season through a classy set shot to push the lead further and a cheeky out the back dribbler kept us in the competition. Despite scoreboard pressure Scotch’s stylish and tenacious gameplay saw them lay on 4 more goals which left the Blacks trailing by 22 points at half time (56-34).
Always having the goal each week to play 120 minutes of football, players were reminded by Coach Bower that the job was far from done and players had to lift if we wanted to defeat the experienced Old Scotch side who we knew were going to come out firing through their strong handball chain link- up game style and their ability to take the game on through the corridor. The 3 rd term struggled to flow for the first half of the quarter as the ball remained on the far side of the ground with repeated stoppages from both sides through both teams midfielders hunting efforts. However, to put the game back on our terms multiple efforts were exemplified by Grocott’s second silky goal of the day when he slotted one from the far side. This was complemented by Ben Oliver’s multiple pressure acts combined with Max Dows clean hands who got the ball to Austin Steere and completely copied his first goal putting the blacks within a couple points of the reigning ladder leaders. Despite these efforts Scotch reminded the crowd of their 6-1 start to the season and they capitalized on their opportunities scoring freakish goals from outside 50 and near the boundary leaving the Blacks with a 33 point deficit.
At the last break the message to all players was intensity and effort to bring numbers to the contest allowing our key forwards opportunities to attack the scoreboard. Scotch came out again with a strong attacking mindset taking multiple deep forward entries however McKenzie showed his prowess and skill taking contested marks preventing them from scoring. Unfortunately our ability to exit our defensive 50 let us down and allowed Scotch to rebound and link up through hands and scoring twice more. Lachlan Knight’s ability to be smooth around the contest through deftly feints again gave us hope and led to Angus Mckinna’s Eddie Betts type goal which swung in late from the boundary. Scotch though, wasn’t having any of it and continued to open the gap on the scoreboard decisively. A late polished hit up lead and goal by Nick Hey who was assisted by Cassidy’s lethal right foot gave us a glimmer of hope but it proved too late and through Scotch’s determination and their ability to take their chances they defeated the Blacks by a well fought yet comprehensive 52 points.
Campbell Moorfield was named best on ground after countless intercepts. He was followed by key-forward Matt Grocott, who kicked 3 up forward. Joel Ernest, Jack Cassidy, Josh Steadman and Lachlan Knight all battled hard and continued fighting all day.
It was understandably melancholy within the rooms and though there were glimpses where we played our best football, when versing a side like Old Scotch, opportunities need to be taken. A big positive from the day was the effort and persistence shown from all 22 players and leading into the bye this week the group will seek a reflection and recovery mindset which should stimulate a focused and driven atmosphere within 2 weeks time as we take on Collegians in a very winnable game.
For those at home on Saturday I would say it's fair to say that the conditions were a mixture of grey, soggy and glum. That didn't stop the almighty 2's firing up in the change rooms prior to the bounce of the ball. Our opponents; Old Scotch. A formidable outfit boasting a dominant 1s side, the lads knew we were in for a challenge. Supercoach delivered an impressive keynote, informing the players that underdogs will either cower or attack. The first quarter was definitely a representation of the latter.
Jordan "Father" Tunbridge delivered an impressive first goal only minutes (technically) after the birth of a healthy baby girl; congratulations from all the club! In reality, the first quarter was filled with many moments, and a particularly tight score-line. Some another notable points would have to be Hugo "Prince" King's almighty chase down on the near wing, Zach "Provides the most elaborate sledges I've ever seen" Harris and Jason "Mr Adelaide" Raz's competition at the contest. Another notable moment was the crash and bash from Xavier "Not related to Henry/Sam" Robertson's impact from a contest 50m away. Have never seen a more intense 'throw the body at the footy' style attack on one contest. Get the man in the guts.
The second quarter Old Scotch began to assert their ascendancy. Tom "South Yarra Penthouse" St-Clair provided much joy to the bench - who were understandably struggling with the shocking condition of the terrain around said bench (RIP suede boots) - kicking a nice/classy goal. Louis "Captain Almighty" Steere was very unlucky to cop an in the back that was converted by Old Scotch. A greater travesty there has never been.
The 3rd quarter we were down, but certainly not out from an effort perspective. In my short time I've known the University Blacks, one thing seems to ring true and that is effort at all 4 quarters. James "Salmon" Carpenter enacted an excellent smother with the reverberations percolating through the surrounds of Camberwell. In quick succession, Henry "Medium rare" Lamb provided a similar contest to much fanfare around Uni Blacks base camp. The bench noted a minor melee deep into 3Q which "South Yarra Penthouse" was unfortunately absent to which I was personally a bit flat about. No other individual I'd rather take into a melee IMHO. Another notable takeaway was Tom "Second" Cousins' intensity. Always a mainstay in any Blacks 2's outfit.
The 4th quarter started and we were up against it. Conditions sucked, scoreboard was not with us, and yours truly had mud seeping into their boot. However, Ross "Night" Porter was tough all day, particularly against there FF which was an almighty task. In a hilarious moment and to much delight to the bench, "South Yarra Penthouse" pushed "Night" in the back to claim an uncontested mark with "Night" furiously appealing to the umpire as to why there was no free kick. TSC had sprinted away with "Night" eventually getting the gist. William "Bread" Baker was also solid all day, providing pin point precision by foot.All in all, the lads fought hard. Old Scotch, or whoever is at the top of VAFA Premier, will always have strong depth and we were just defeated by a more skilled outfit (nothing the training track can't fix).
T. St Clair 2, J. Tunbridge 1, A. Lovel 1
J. Tunbridge, R. Porter, L. Steere, J. Kennedy, H. Lamb, T. Cousins
After a gloomy and rainy morning, the Phoenix boys travelled out to Bulleen to play against Old Trinity. In what seemed like a massive ground in comparison to the hallowed ‘Crawf’ oval, the Phoenix boys were looking to get their first win of the year. ‘We don’t lose on ball night’ was constantly being thrown around, and the boys’ spirits were high.
The boys immediately came out firing in the first quarter in what has been described as the best five minutes of football the Phoenix have played all year. Whilst Trinity scored the first goal of the game within the first minute, The Phoenix led by Hamish ‘Hammer’ McManus starting off red hot out and being involved with the first score involvement seeing Hammer break from the centre, before feeding it to Patto Milner, dishing off to Josh Leviston who converted and put the Phoenix first goal on the board to draw level with Old Trinity.
Shortly after, Will Combridge converted, and the Phoenix now had two on the board and the lead! Keen to make it a third Hamish “Hammer” McManus again hard at it and gaining meters on his opponent, kicking to Oscar Gale, who then hits the next tallest bloke on the field Sam McDougall who kicked his first goal of the game. Following up on being really competitive in their last two outings the Phoenix now two goals up and for the first time this season all of a sudden looking a threat. Whilst threatening the scoreboard Old Trinity missed several gettable chances. Milner continued where Hamish McManus left off in turn, sending a beautiful weighted kick down the throat of Sam McDougall and another opportunity to goal. McDougall now starting to have an impact on the game converting the last two. This was immediately countered by a couple of quick goals from Old Trinity, however, for the first time in 2023, the Phoenix were up going into the first break 04.02.26 to 03.04.22.
The second quarter saw the Phoenix with a few inside 50s at the start, but they were unable to convert these opportunities into a goal. Trinity ended up taking the first goal of the second term and took the lead. Sam McDougall continued to present forward and managed to kick a goal from forty-five out to keep the Phoenix in the game. He then kicked another to bring his tally to four for the game, an equal game high for McDougall. Defenders Chris Canny and Hugo Higgins were solid in defence, but Trinity managed to snag three in a row before half time to start pulling away. The Phoenix sent the ball into the forward square in the dying seconds of the first half, where it spilled over the back. From the boundary line, it looked like Kurt Hemphill had soccered a goal across the line, but the goal umpire quickly signalled a behind. It wasn’t until the half time break that we found out it was touched through. At halftime the scoreboard read Phoenix 6.4.40 to Old Trinity 8.8.56. Trailing by 16 points at the main break but playing really well the Phoenix would look to use the halftime break as an opportunity to rest and get ready to go for the last half.
The second half of the game saw Trinity take the ascendancy and pull further away from the Phoenix. An unexpected goal came from Nick Powell when he attempted to spot McDougall up on the lead. The ball was kicked over their heads and must’ve travelled 55 metres before dribbling across the line for a goal. The Phoenix were finding it difficult to convert, getting unlucky with shots on goal either hitting the post or getting touched across the line. Will Combridge was clearly feeling the nerves as he lined up for a set shot that was shanked but managed to scrape through. At three quarter time the score read 12.11.83 to 8.7.55 twenty-eight points behind the message at three quarter time.
Even though it felt as though the game had started to slip away from the Phoenix the boys were still in it – and the message from coach Rob Borg was quite clear – lets throw everything we have into it and score that first goal of the last. Unfortunately, the fourth quarter saw most of the ball in the Trinity forward line, making it difficult for our defenders. Once again, Hugh Higgins was solid all day in defence, using a combination of hands and face to taking marks from opposition, however Trinity ended up running away with the game and won quite easily in the end. Bill Gardner played well all day, and Ryan Brown had some key moments up forward. Other players who contributed well on the day were Hamish McManus, Pat Milner, Chris Canny and Sam McDougall.
Although it was a shame to lose on ‘ball night’, the Phoenix boys are going into the bye next week for some rest and recovery, they have proven that they can match it against their competitors and look forward to playing four quarters of good footy and finally getting the illustrious win that feels very within reach.
Another week and another game on the fabled Crawford as the Unders faced Glen Eira in probably the biggest game of the season so far. With the Gryphons sitting one place above the Blacks and with a strong showing the week before going down by a solitary points against ladder leaders Old Carey the Unders were going into the game with much to prove. The Blacks were not going into the game out of form though, the past two weeks had shown great promise with two strong wins and the forward line beginning to fire on all cylinders with an average of 27 scoring shots each game. As the rain came down and with the Crawf heavily saturated, it was bound to be a scrappy occasion and the ability to adapt to conditions would certainly decide the days victors.
The first couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Blacks, an early goal to the Blacks had the supporters up and about early. Things continued for the Unders as the early pressure really put Glen Eira under the pump as it wasn’t long before another goal was on the board for the Blacks. The relentless forward pressure from the Unders suffocated the Gryphons defensive structure as the ball was not allowed to exit cleanly. In total the Blacks kicked 5.3 to 0.1 for the quarter highlighted by a running check side snap from Ed Phillipson to give the Blacks two goal in about 20 seconds. The midfield was well and truely on top throughout the quarter, playing a style of football much better suited to the wet conditions and getting the ball into the forwards quickly allowing them to unsettle the defenders and create chaos at ground level.
As the second started it was apparent that the Glen Eira had certainly listened to their quarter time ‘chat’ as they flew out of the blocks. They had gone from playing a predominantly outside game to booting the ball high and long at every chance just hoping to gain territory. From this point on it became a scrap, the heavy ball was never going to travel anywhere near as far as usual and so the middle is where it stayed for most of the quarter. The Blacks forward pressure had defiantly dropped off from the first and with less entries goal we’re becoming hard to find. A solitary goal was all that the Unders could muster and while the quarter was probably a pretty even contest, untimely free kicks and a late turnover gifted Glen Eira three goal for the quarter to get themselves right back in the hunt.
After a stern discussion from Muz the second half began, and lasted for about 30 seconds before a double concussion stopped play for 7 or so minutes. With both players taken care of and the ground cleared play resumed and in a similar fashion to the second Glen Eira were up for the fight. It took about another 7 minutes for play to be stopped again thanks to a massive falcon to one of the Gryphons while smothering a kick. The break in play couldn’t have come at a better time for the Blacks who were under the pump and had made some mistakes that were lucky not to have cost them a goal or more. After a few messages were run out and play resumed the Blacks looked to shut the game down, playing a stoppage heavy game to drown the press from Glen Eira. Sam ‘Unc’ Henning was once again dominant through the guts using is size to advantage and charging through the pack to move the ball forward at all costs. The third was another three goal to one quarter favouring the Gryphons and while the Blacks felt like they had played a better quarter Glen Eira had cut the lead to just eight and were letting everyone know.
The fourth started and right from the start the Blacks looked the better side. The short and sharp words from Muz invigorated the Blacks and they were not about to go down without a fight. As the rain began to fall once again during intermission the Unders were able to adapt their style of play to suit the conditions much better the Glen Eira and in a similar performance to that seen in the first quarter the Blacks owned the last. Four last quarter goals to one sealed the deal and to top it all off a thumping helicopter punt as it was described into forward 50 from the Irish import Rory O’Brien in his last game before heading back home. The half back line of Conheady, Blyth and Little were instrumental in the movement of the ball between defence and attack and also thwarted countless attacks further up the ground before they could gain any momentum.
It was the strongest showing of the year for the Unders against a team who are almost certainly going to be there or their abouts come seasons end. The ability of the Blacks side to adapt their style of play to better suit the conditions was the match winning factor as when conditions were at their toughest Glen Eira just couldn’t keep up. No more evident is this than on the scoresheet where in the first and last quarters the Blacks out scored the Gryphons 62-7 but when the ground was at its cleanest it was Glen Eira who lead the scoring 41-15. The packs were also aided by the ever fading bench of the Gryphons, who thanks to two massive falcons, a head clash and shoulder injury were left with only 18 by the end. The midfield of Harris, Henning, Knights and Donnellan were key and with some of the cleanest pickups below the knees in the wet really kept the Blacks in the Hunt at the coalface. A week off for Kings birthday and then the toughest three weeks of the season begin, the Uni holidays always means that numbers will be low but with the opportunity for others to show the craft it may awaken the strongest Unders side the Blacks have seen for a few years. Best players of the day were Sam Henning, Ben Donnellan, Kyle Reynolds, Tom Harris, Michael Daffey and Ben Little