Round 9 saw all return to the bye after a successful Ball Night and a well deserved week off. With the extended group refreshed, there was a vibrant feel to training across the board with each team facing their own individual challenges as they embarked on the second half of their season.
After a well earned fortnight of no football, our Seniors returned after a gallant effort against Scotch to take on a similarly classed opponent in Collegians. The week off had done wonders for the group, though had not dispelled any of the confidence that had been building in the month prior. Two wins in four games, with one loss less than a goal and the other a tight affair against the ladder leaders, meant there was a quiet confidence building. And there was a similar feeling in the air ahead of Saturday. Conditions were swirly with the sun providing much needed warmth on a cold winter day at the Uni Main.
The first quarter did not start as planned, with Collegians coming out strong and kicking the first 4 goals of the game. The early stages proved a wrestle of contested football with Collegians getting on top, using their bigger bodies and slick hands to dominate contest. Though as the quarter wore on, the lads settled, consolidating on both field and scoreboard to stop the bleed and reset. The backline held strong, despite some fast paced ball movement, with some excellent efforts from Ernest and McKenzie to quell opposition goals.
With the second quarter underway it was clear that the boys weren’t going to go down without a fight. They say contested ball is everything in football and the first five minutes proved that. Some early physicality from Knight and Steadman set the platform before a quick clearance from young gun Jack Cassidy set up goal-kicking forward Matt Grocott out the back. The momentum had shifted. The physicality had gone up across the ground with some fantastic efforts from young and old alike. Never one to back down, Henry Bennett continued to run the straightest of lines under the most intense pressure. A quick mark and turn by Nick Hey led to another Grocott goal out the back and the boys were back. Continuing on his earlier form from the quarter, Cassidy bobbed up with a craft snap and the margin was back to 3 goals.
The quiet confidence had returned at halftime with a composed and calculated discussion forming the basis of the halftime chat. And the third quarter picked up where the second ended, with a real arm wrestle. Despite an early goal from Collegians, it was clear the Blacks were now the ones leading the intensity in the midfield battle. And it was off the back of this that the chances started to flow. Despite this, capitilisation proved difficult. Though some return wasn't far away. The Blacks again managed to find a goal out the back with a Hey mark and snap, followed by a first goal to young forward Oli Bouchez. After a terrific aerial contest, Bouchez converted with a perfectly executed soccer goal off the deck, emblematic of his beloved Harry Kane.
An early goal to Grocott kept the lads in it, and had many daring to dream of a famous victory. But with multiple chances in the last, and some very gettable, victory slipped away. There was absolutely no doubting the effort or intent from the Blacks, the end result a product of Collegians being classier with skill and ball movement. It's been clear to see the progression of this youthful group over the first 9 weeks, and with a very winnable match against Caulfield this week, a huge chance to put some clear air between themselves and the bottom two.
After a well-deserved week off, the reserves were delighted to return to football. Looking for their first win of the season, they took on a strong Collegians. There was an air of excitement in the change rooms pre-game and, being post the bye, the football was always going to be intense. The conditions were perfect for football: the sun was out, the deck was dry and the boys were pumped. As always, the Uni Main glistened beautifully in the sun. By just looking at the far University wing you could tell that the wingers would have a field day out in space. This was perhaps a slight contrast to the pavilion wing, which looked like a boggy marsh and felt like a treadmill to run on. All in all, it was a fantastic day for a tight contest.
The boys were pumped up by a passionate training session speech from Ross Porter, who was playing his last game for the season before shipping off to Denmark. This prepared the boys nicely for a tight first quarter, bringing the heat early. Jack Kennedy, in a new-look role at full-forward, brought a level of intensity that the opposition were not expecting. Crunching one of their defenders in a holding the ball effort, he then slotted a beautiful goal from the arc. Joey Smith, in his first game of the season after a long break with injury, fitted in nicely on the half-forward line, moving well up the wings. It was a close game at quarter time, with the blacks down only down by a goal.
Kicking against the wind in the second quarter was tough. The Collegians ran in surges and put our defence under immense pressure. Lewis Steere led from the back, having the tough role of rotating between full-back and ruckman. His impact was immeasurable as he was constantly organising the boys from behind.
After a serious half-time rev up from Rob ‘Patto’ Paterson, the Blackers boys came out with an intensity that we sorely missed in the second quarter. Tom Cousins was immense in orchestrating this lift. He was dancing around the Collegians midfielders, getting it forward at any cost. Ross Porter also held his own in the ruck against a bloke who would’ve been pushing 200cm and ensuring our midfielders had the footy on a silver platter. Hugo ‘Kingy’ King was constantly working hard to provide an option for the switch, and often going and winning his the footy on his own with second and third efforts. A highlight of the third quarter was Xavier ‘Xavi’ Robertson scoring his first goal of the year.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Blacks had confidence to stem the Collegians’ scoring and even get some of their own scores on the board. It was always going to be tough however, again going into a headwind for the final term. Lachie Miller, in his first game for the year, was immense. He ran up and down the wind all day, even managing to grab himself a lovely snap goal on the run. Even after a tough day, the Blackers Reserves were able to finish the match with their heads held high after a big second half effort that pushed them to their limits.
Extremely windy conditions and heavy track especially at the Royal parade end greeted the Phoenix for a must win game for the second clash of the season against Collegians at Crawford oval. With Collegians having only won two games for the season, sitting one spot ahead of the Phoenix on the ladder and with the Phoenix playing real good footy over the last month the Phoenix felt quietly confident that this game was their for the taking. Noting the last time, the two teams met defeated the Phoenix were defeated by 9 goals earlier in the season the Phoenix knew this was the time to settle the score. Going into the game, training had been quite good throughout the week and fielding our most competitive team for the year with James Maiden, Sam Black, Dolen Vogel, Will Hayward, Rob Caruso all back from injury and exams, Tom Hogan making his debut for the club and Will Goyder who brings plenty of experience also playing for the Phoenix.
With Collegians kicking with a 5-goal breeze and having 11 forward entries in the first quarter the Phoenix backline led by David “Deez” Drentin and Will Goyder set up well defensively constantly rebounding the footy out of defence and seeing our midfielders led by Jotaro Howard Shubiya and Jordan Pfeffer, Will Combridge consistently drive the ball into the Phoenix forward line where opportunities unfortunately became missed chances. Considering the Phoenix remained scoreless for the first quarter Collegians only managed three goals themselves well below what was expected with such a heavy breeze. At quarter time the score board read Phoenix 0.0.0 to 3.4.22 The message by coach Rob Borg at the quarter time break was pretty simple “we have done really well considering Collegians had most of the play and a five to seven goal breeze, to only be three goals behind is a credit to everyone our in particular our defenders. Now it’s our turn with the wind and we have the chance to hit the scoreboard hard – so long kicks – let’s get the ball in quickly into our forward fifty and give our forwards every chance to score.
As the second quarter got on the way, Oscar Gale was starting to take control of centre bounce hit outs, giving the Phoenix midfielders constant first use of the footy. However easy rebounds from our forward line, and loose checking from the Phoenix boys saw Collegians easily move the ball from their backline to their forward line and convert into scoring options. Kicking 4 goals against the breeze to one the Phoenix were starting to get deflated as they knew they just made it harder for themselves to win the game. Six goals down at halftime was hardly the result the Phoenix wanted to see, it was like living our worst nightmare, our most competitive team for the year saw Collegians score easy goals against the wind and it was where to from here? At half time the score read Phoenix 1.4.10 to Collegians 7.4.46
During the halftime break the boys knew that they were much better than the way they were playing. Maybe it was all the new additions into the team and they just needed a little time to gel! The mood in the rooms even though trailing by six goals was still upbeat and led by our captain Josh Leviston and core leaders of the team the boys knew they had to dig deeper and do more, a lot more if they wanted to salvage any respect let alone win the game. So, the message was pretty simple – They beat us in quarter one, they killed us in quarter two, who wins the game, “We decide”!
The Phoenix came out firing after the half time break with renewed energy and a plan to take the game on right from the start of the quarter, attack, chase hard, tackle and led by a Will Hayward dash out of from defensive 50 started the comeback, with clearing kicks that would constantly find their way inside our forward 50, starving the opposition of opportunities and if not for some missed opportunities where easy gettable goals went begging the Phoenix could have been in front at three quarter time. Goals from Milnar and Powell had the Phoenix within 26 points, whilst only ten points gained from where we were at half time with a five to seven goal breeze favouring us in the last quarter, things looked promising. Some might have questioned where were the Phoenix in the first half, as they outscored Collegians against the wind 2.5 to 1.1 in the third. Patty Milner by far the Phoenix best player for the quarter and well supported by Will Goyder, Oscar Gale, Jotaro Howard Shibuya, Jordy Pfeffer, Will Combridge along with our backline who once again stood tall and did an amazing job down back to restrict Collegians to just 7 points with the wind. The 3rd quarter score read 3.9.27 to 8.5.53 in favour of Collegians
The message was pretty simple at three quarter time, kick long and get it inside fifty fast! With momentum on our side and our midfield dominating the boys responded, continuing their good work from the third quarter, creating opportunities from contested footy to our advantage with clean handballs and long kicking, Patty Milner a stand out quickly snagging two goals and Josh Leviston kick one to bring the score to within seven points with two minutes to play Whilst the Phoenix easily controlled the second half unfortunately a number of easy missed opportunities for goal saw Collegians hold on for their second win against the Phoenix this year. The final score reading 6.13.49 to 8.7 55
It was a great team effort by the Phoenix in the second half total opposite to what we saw in the first half, which saw us out score the opposition 3.4 to 0.2 in the last quarter and 5.9 to 1.3 to dominate the second half but not enough to bring home a win. Pretty sure the boys will be keen to pick up where they left off, make it a goal against Willy to start well and bring home a win! Best players for the day were; Will Goyder, Patty Milner, Oscar Gale, Marco Paulic, Jotaro Howard-Shibuya, Jordan Pfeffer Special mentions to David Drentin, Will Combridge Josh Leviston and Will Hayward who were solid all day.
Fresh off a bye and 3 wins in a row the Blacks unders were out to get revenge against Skobs who got the best of us when we last met in the opening round of the season.
The first quarter started with high paced and intensity with goals flowing freely from both sides, with Kyle Reynolds responding quickly to skobs opening goal, later in the quarter Finn McMahon produced some magic keeping the ball in play before Kyle Reynolds finishing off his work with a smart finish at goals. After a very seesawing quarter the blacks boys went into the first break down 19-26
The second quarter started and the blacks were keen to make the most of the very strong wind, especially after keeping skobs at bay in the first. After some strong work in the midfield from Blyth, Harris, Edney, Knights and most importantly Somerville who barely lost a tap all day allowing the midfield to get first use of it all day, the blacks boys were surging to start the quarter, however with a lack of end product. After getting caught out on a quick counter and rebound from skobs the blacks realised the wind wasn’t going to do it for them, this change in mentality led to a much stronger second half of the quarter with two late goals to end the quarter from Daffy and Smith putting the unders up 34-32
After the standard Muz rev up (as well as some talk about his statue that is still to be built at the uni main) the boys were ready to go out and play skobs out of the game, which to no one’s surprise, Daffy putting away the first goal of the quarter with a instinctual left foot snap, however that was nearly the only positive of the quarter as skobs started to get the upper hand with 3 goals in a row to end the quarter which ended with the blacks facing a 9 point deficit of 51-42
Many of the players were clearly disappointed in their efforts in the last quarter and so was the coaching staff, so after a much needed spray from Muz the boys knew what was needed, although the wind was going the way of the blacks this quarter it was made very clear that “the wind doesn’t kick the ball for you” some wise words from an even wiser man - I’ll let u guess who that is. And after total possession domination in the quarter the skobs defense was holding strong, however were only getting it as far as the blacks wall around 50 with Conheady, Gillam and Blyth consistently intercepting and drilling the ball back in. It was only a matter of time before the blacks got reward, this time from Edney who steadied himself before slotting a composed finish to cut the margin to two points, with 8 minutes left there was some serious belief that there was still another goal left in the game, once again the midfield were dominating it giving the forwards a chance to do something special, however skobs flooded the backline making space a very hard thing to come by, after almost the whole 8 minutes remaining of the game wasted to inside 50 stoppages, Hugh knights put his head over the ball drawing a free kick 20 metres out directly in front, however the skobs players were clearly disappointed leading to some backchat and a dissent 50 metre penalty being awarded, taking the nerve out of kick. Of course it was converted and all the blacks needed was to win one more centre clearance to ice it, Blyth won it out of the middle and it was over ending 55-51 to the blacks.
The blacks had pulled off a very ugly win, however it’s 4 points nonetheless and it further cemented themselves in the top 4, best players on the day were Blyth, Somerville, Daffy, Harris, Phillipson and Knights.
Next week the blacks go against top of the ladder Old Carey which will be another major test in what is shaping up to be an exciting season for the blacks under 19.