Once again at Blacks HQ our talented players have put pen to paper and done a fantastic job in recapping our 4 away games from the weekend just passed. Whilst the 4 points eluded the Club on the day, plenty of spirit and courage was shown as our young players continue to develop into the season and adjust to life back in Premier. Milestone men Campbell Moorfield and Lewis Steere also will not forget their matches too if not for the results, as the pre and post match celebrations and antics did both the men justice.
Above: Campbell Moorfield is chaired off at the end of the Seniors.
There was a big build up to round four during the week down at the Blackery, driven by an underlying theme – opportunity. The opportunity to celebrate the hundred game milestone of two co-captains Lewis Steere and Campbell Moorfield, the opportunity to atone for a disappointing showing the week prior, the opportunity to take on the reigning premiers and record our maiden victory for season ’23, and the opportunity to venture out of Parkville with round four being our first genuine ‘away’ game of the season. For some of our inter-staters and country kids there was an air of excitement about the prospect of exploring the renowned leafy expanses of Melbourne’s inner south-east; upon arrival, they were particularly enamoured with the power lines crossing directly over TH King.
The start to the game brought a ferocity at the coal-face befitting of the build up; these young Blackers were not to be intimidated or overawed by their decorated opponents, or the powerlines. After a long period between Senior games Jordan “The Voice” Tunbridge set the tone early giving his midfield chargers first use at the stoppage. Jordan and his beautiful fiancé Liv are expecting the birth of their first child any moment and with Liv in attendance, perhaps Jordan carried a little added fire in the belly to demonstrate his skills in front of his number one fan. A flurry of goals late in the quarter from the 23-minute mark saw SKOBs pull away at quarter time, taking a five goal lead into the first change. This was not to deter our young side and the message from Coach Bower was clear – stick to the task and we will reap some reward.
Benny Oliver opened the account for the Blacks in the second minute of the quarter before SKOBs scored the next two. Mid-way through the second quarter SKOBs had increased their lead to 38 points and there were some tangible nerves developing among the loyal onlokers up on the hill. This felt like the critical moment in the match where the Blacks had to hang in there. Our defensive generals lead by 100-gamer Campbell Moorfield and 102-gamer Joel Ernest were keeping us in the contest, but they needed some help. As this team has already demonstrated this season they are never to be discounted and they are never out of the contest. The cavalry would arrive in the form of the midfield finding some momentum and generating better opportunities for our forwards. Goals to Austin Steere and Gus Mckinna gave the Blacks a much needed scoreboard lift reducing the lead to 27 points; an unlucky goal conceded at the death of the quarter saw SKOBs take a 32 point lead into the main break.
The Blacks took some momentum into the main break and the messaging from the coaching staff was simple – keep doing what you are doing and the rewards will come. Nick Hey, always an attentive listener, heeded the Gaffer’s advice and opened the scoring in the second half for the Blacks. A strong contested mark in the goal square followed by a cheeky play on to dribble home his first major of the afternoon. The Blacks had a taste for it now and generated several opportunities to score, only to fall short of either a clinical finish or the final action in the chain. Young first-year forward Ayui Makieng earned the applause of supporters both home and away for his spectacular aerial efforts and is fast becoming a fan favourite at his new club. Austin Steere, determined not to let older brother Lewis be sole benefactor of the family spotlight, also got to work and has carried his impressive form from season ’22 into ’23. The remainder of the third-term was an arm-wrestle, with SKOBs again hitting the scoreboard late in the quarter to stretch the lead to 46 points at the final change.
The final quarter continued the slog of the prior three quarters, characterised by brutal contested football where every possession was hard-earned. The Blacks conceded three goals to nil in the fourth and ultimately went down by 65 points. The scoreboard does not necessarily tell the tale of this contest and the young Blackers genuinely took it up to the very experienced SKOBs side for 120 minutes; taking a step forward in their development.
Lachy Knight was deservedly named best afield for the Blacks and led his young midfield compatriots stoically all day; further vindicating the much-publicised shift from outside to inside in season ‘23. Campbell Moorfeld and Joel Ernest were huge all day down back and the forward brigade of Austin Steere, Ayui Makieng and Nick Hey competed hard and also earned a spot in the best players. Acknowledging natural bias, the scribe thought a few of “Knighter’s” midfield cronies were unlucky not to also feature among the bests as this group did all onlookers proud.
As we packed our duffle bags and piled back on to the Monash to return to our beloved inner-North, the theme of opportunity became once more front of mind. Back at home in front of our supporters for round five in a clash against the Caulfield Grammarians awaiting us, and another opportunity to bring up the maiden season victory and enjoy seeing all new players grapple with the song.
It was the day the Reserves ran out for a legendary Blacker, it was Lewis Steere’s 100th game for the Blacks and it was a start that everyone would be proud of. All we could hope for was that the Reserves boys were able to hold their own and play a game that was deserving of someone who had done so much for the Club.
Above: Captain Steere thanking the supporters for sticking around post game, chaired off by good friends Tom 'Nugget' Cousins and Cam 'Pumpa' Turner.
The first quarter was just that way. We were able to get off to a solid start after conceding the first goal of the game. Steere kicked our first goal from long range, and we were off and running. The entirety of the first quarter was hot in the kitchen and the young midfield group of James Carpenter, Ross Porter, Thomas St Clair and Jack Kennedy were able to hold their own and break even. Unfortunately, we conceded a late goal and went into the quarter time break down seven points, but the game was right there for the taking if we were able to sustain the pressure and momentum.
The second quarter came and went, and sadly for the boys, we were not able to keep up with the bigger bodied midfield and backline that St Kevin’s (SKOB) possessed. The St Kevin’s midfield were able to get on top around stoppage and get the footy forward putting our inexperienced backline under the pump. The backline brigade of Sam Ackland-Evans, Xavier Robertson and Sean Heiner-Hennessy were doing their best to keep us in it, but by the sheer weight of entries in which St Kevin’s were able to kick the ball inside fifty, the wall was bound to break. At the half we were down by twenty-nine points after a zero goal, two behind term to a four goal straight term from SKOB.
In the third term, it was much of the same. We were able to start the quarter very strongly breaking even in the stoppage game and were able to hold our own in the forward end. Hugo King played on the wing all day and was good with his ball use out of the backline but unfortunately when going forward we struggled to have a structure that allowed full-forward Darren Mumford (who had bravely come out of retirement for Lewis’ 100th, along with another fan favourite, Cam Turner) to have the best opportunity at marking the footy. Mumford, the ultimate team player, had to have a few big stints in the ruck to allow Porter to have a break. By the end of the third we were down by forty-nine points after only adding a singular point to the scoreline.
In the final term the play was still in the favour of St Kevin’s and unfortunately we were only able to add ten points. Mumford should have been awarded a free kick in the goal square for a high tackle which would have brought the house down but unfortunately the umpire did not see it the same way. Porter kicked our only goal of the second half, and we went down by a miserly ten goals to a very experienced Premier Reserve’s team in what was a celebration of Lewis Steere more than anything else.
The boys are looking forward to being back at the Main next weekend as we host Caulfield, and will be looking to grab the first W of the season to get the ball rolling!
Saturday presented itself a welcome opportunity for the Phoenix to test themselves against a new opponent in the form of Williamstown CYMS, and while coming off the back of two straight losses, the return of captain Josh Leviston amongst other strong inclusions had the team buoyed to bring home the first win of the season.
An away trip down to the uncharted waters of the western bayside suburb had many unsure of where they actually were, including coach Rob Borg who pointed out that technically it should have been specified that it was in Newport to avoid such confusion. But while the seaside view was lacking, the Phoenix were lucky enough to have new-local Matt Keogh behind the goals to offer advice on what to expect from the local conditions; the rain comes from above. And so it did. Fortunately, as the Phoenix ran out to take the field the skies parted and the game began under crisp Autumn conditions.
A fast starting Williamstown were quick to take advantage of the home ground knowledge and peppered inside 50s against a backline held firm by caretaker Chris Canny, while David Drentin and Sam Black provided with continual attacks on the footy. After only letting through the 1 goal despite sustained pressure from Williamstown, the Phoenix railed in the second half of the quarter, led by strong intercept marking from Oscar Gale and a new look role for Dolen Vogel at CHF. One could be forgiven for thinking that after following his opponents as a defender for his entire Blacks career, Dolen wouldn’t know where to place himself within the forward 50, but those pundits were proven wrong when he slotted the first goal of the game for the Blacks and had scores tied at 10 to 10 going into quarter time.
After a strong first quarter, the infamous Williamstown wind picked up in the second. Sensing the opportunity that the Blacks were gaining momentum, Williamstown attacked hard from the start of the second, kicking 2 quick goals before the rain returned and turned the game into a war of attrition with both sides struggling to capitalize on opportunities. Hamish McManus provided plenty of body in the middle, while Marko Paulic lifted down back, his past soccer experience coming in handy with a ball that spent more time on the ground than in the air. Heading into the final minutes before half time, it looked like neither team was going to advance the score, but another couple late goals to end the quarter put Williamstown ahead with a solid lead going into the main break, with scores of 5.6 – 36 Williamstown to 1.7 – 13 Blacks.
Heading back out with plenty to do, the Phoenix knew they needed a strong showing in the third to bring home the win. Leading by example, Phoenix debutant Lachlan Pereira kicked an early goal to reinvigorate the team. Jotaro Howard-Shibuya continued his strong performance, and consistently appeared with the ball in his hands down one end of the field when only moments ago he had touched it down the other. Keeping the ball locked in their forward 50, the Phoenix missed a handful of set shots but threatened to blow the game open, before the safest hands within the VAFA Men’s Thirds Div 1 in the form of Sam McDougall clunked it right in front and sent it home to put what many thought was within a goal of Williamstown.
While the jury is still out on whether the Williamstown scorekeeper felt so worried about the performance of the Phoenix during the premiership quarter that they purposely added an extra goal to the Blacks total to give them a false sense of security, the three quarter time discussion amongst umpires revealed that some level of trickery was afoot and the Blacks falsely awarded an extra goal. Despite this however, the Blacks looked poised to replicate a Collingwood-esc performance and ended the third on 3.11 – 29 to Williamstown 5.8 – 38.
In the end, the fourth quarter proved to be another tough one for the Blacks. Joe Barclay continued to apply pressure, while vice-captain Cameron McNeill continued to provide plenty of run on the wing. Leading from the front, captain Josh Leviston sent home another goal to try and continue the third quarter effort, but Williamstown proved to be too good, kicking a further 3 goals to seal the match and deal the Phoenix their third straight loss.
Despite a tough day, the Phoenix looked good for patches, and will aim for a more consistent showing of their third quarter form when they take on the Snow Dogs back home at the Crawf in Round 5.
Round 4 and the Unders were away at Old Carey for an early season top of the table clash, the perfect opportunity to see where we stood. With a 2pm game time and Senior coaching duties leaving us high and dry, team manager Simon Phillipson, a former Blacker in his own right, was tasked with steering the ship. Seeing the scores Carey had put on the board across the first few rounds we expected them to be a very free flowing side, with lots of outside run and spread as they moved the ball forward. Although they had put up some large totals, Carey had also conceded heavily and so we knew that opportunities would come and that with enough pressure and intent we could post a winning score.
The first quarter started poorly for the Blacks, a quick opening goal to Carey setting us on the back foot early. A timely equaliser saw us back to square one and the battle ensued, solid tap work around the ground by O’Brien and Wentzel provided first use to the new look midfield tweaked by the promotion of a couple of the Unders to the reserves side. Forward entries were flowing but we were unable to capitalise and went into the break down by 2 goals.
The second term saw much of the same as the Blacks struggled to convert on the scoreboard while playing increasingly strong football. It was the VC in Reynolds who laid a bone crunching bump and classy forward entry to provide the Blacks with their first of the term. The second quarter was where injuries hit and with two through our midfield the second half was set to be a tough slog. In a similar story to last week, accuracy in front of the big sticks really hurt us and the lack of scoreboard pressure gave Carey an out going into the half. Through the first 50 minutes the Blacks had kicked 3.5 with at least a few kicks either short or missing the lot and had left themselves in a similar position to the previous few weeks, down but not out.
The reset at the half had seemed to work wonders for the Blacks as the third quarter began. A few changes in tactics had helped to slow Careys run from the contest and allowed our backs to more easily defend their entries. Strong contests from Roberts, Gillam and Little supported well with run from Conheady spread the middle of the ground and gave the midfield space to work, something that was hard to find previously. With this change repeat entries were on the cards and it was the Blacks who capitalised. Two quick goals had the Blacks right back in the hunt but as the quarter dragged on the tired legs of the depleted midfield began to show as Carey regained some momentum and kicked two of their own to end the third.
The fourth term had many similarities to the third with the tiring legs of the Blacks moving the ball with much more control that the first half, surprisingly. As the rain began to fall the greasy conditions started to trouble both sides around the ground and allowed for the Blacks to revert to their roots, pressure and contested ball. As the ground grew wetter Carey struggled in front of goal and could not capitalise on their many chances, kicking 2.5 for the quarter. The Blacks on the other hand were perfect in front for a change and fought to the final siren, doing nothing to hurt their stocks as the season moves on.
Once again it was a case of the scrap and fight of the Blacks against the control and precision of the opposition. Carey seemed to have their way with the ball when they had it, but as soon as it hit the deck it was the Blacks who shone. The fight shown over the whole four quarters is a real credit to the boys and their willingness to sacrifice for one another. In the end Carey was the better team on the day however the score card flattered them, the Blacks were more than in the contest all day and we’re counting the days until we meet them again.