Round 6 beckoned last Saturday and the Blacks were split evenly across the Crawford and Elsternwick Park. The skies were mostly clear and the new deck for 2023 at Elsternwick certainly played like it, whilst the Crawford on the other hand has well and truly begun it's annual descent into lovable cow paddock. The Seniors were a huge chance to double their win tally for the year, and a tight see-sawing contest ensued. Read on to catch up on how the Seniors, and the rest of the Blacks fared, last weekend! As has been the trend lately, our match reports are being compiled by our talented players, doing the best to bring all our members along for the ride in 2023; whether you can attend in person or not! Good work fellas!
After an impressive performance last week, the senior boys were hoping to make it 2 in a row when they travelled to Elsternwick Park on Saturday. It was a special build up pre-game, as we remembered the late Jack Batten who sadly passed away during the week. Jack was one of the greatest Blackers to ever wear the Melbourne Uni jumper and prior to the bounce, we were blessed to hear from Jack’s family to reinstate what the blacks meant to him and what it should mean to all of us. Coach Bower also delivered a memorable speech pre-game, imploring the boys to bring the same effort and intensity that served them so well the week before. And in the first quarter, they delivered. Coming out booting 4 goals to 1 in the first term, to hold an 18-point lead at the first break. This was underpinned by dominating ground ball, an elite intensity at the contest and some polish moving inside 50.
Unfortunately, this was not replicated in the 2nd quarter as Melbournians fought back, dominating in all facets that the Blacks did so well in the first. With a greater intensity around the ball and willingness at the contest, a 20-minute lapse meant the ledger was almost square going into half time with the Blacks leading by only 3 points.
Coming out after Half time, it was clear that the rest of the game would be a tight contest as momentum swung throughout the quarter. The Blacks defended hard as OM’s continued to show intensity around the Ball, paired with brave, corridor-centric ball movement. Despite this, we remained in the fight kicking 3 goals to Melbournians 4 in the quarter, making the most of our limited opportunities in the forward half. At the final break, we remained up by a point.
At 3 quarter time the messaging was much the same, bring that intensity and pressure and do it for all those who continue to support us-especially Jack and his family. Unfortunately, it was OM’s who got the fast start, kicking 2 early goals to get out to a 13-point lead. The blacks regained momentum but were unable to convert, ruing a couple of missed opportunities after a poor first 5 minutes. As the quarter went on, it was clear that conditions had begun to change with dark clouds and breeze beginning to play a factor. When the rain came 10 minutes into the last, Melbournian’s led by 13 as ball movement slowed and it was evident that it was going to be difficult to score if we did not get ascendancy at the coalface. Unfortunately, Melbournian’s were able to shut down the game with an ability to force stoppage and slow the game down. An amazing late goal from Nick Hey giving the Blacks a glimmer of hope but it was too late as the final siren sounded to come away with a heart-breaking 5-point loss.
Campbell Moorfield was named best on ground as he and defensive teammate Joel Ernest performed incredibly down back, showing poise and intercept marking abilities we have come to associate with these two. Josh Steadman was massive in the ruck, never giving less than 100% at each contest. Up forward, Austin Steere and Nick Hey were again dominant as they continue to build upon their impressive starts to the season whilst new recruit Max Dow rounded out the best players.
It was a sombre feeling in the rooms post-match with everyone who was present acknowledging the importance of getting wins on the board in A-grade. Despite being disappointed, the players stuck together understanding that it wasn’t our best performance but looking forward to another week on the track. The emphasis for this young group remains focused towards continued improvement, knowing that our best football is good enough to beat anyone if we can play it for 120 minutes.
The Reserves boys knew that coming into this game it was going to be a tough contest, with Old Melburnians being a strong top 4 team in the Premier Reserve competition.
The first quarter saw the Blacks jump out of the blocks. With no Jordan Tunbridge, Oliver Bouchez assumed responsibilities as our main target up forward, taking two strong marks inside 50 to convert into two goals. James Carpenter was also on fire, showing some aerial prowess which saw him slot his second on the quarter time siren. A great start to the game with the Blacks only being 1 point down at the first change.
The second quarter saw a more competitive Old Melburnians team take the field. Our midfield brigade lead by co-captain Tom Cousins, had to fight tooth and nail to suppress any attacking football from the OM’s. Cousins’ ferocious attack on the ball and work rate was a highlight of the day, demonstrating what it takes to compete with the better teams. Unfortunately, the Blacks were unable to trouble the scorers in the second quarter and went into the main break with a 25-point deficit to make up.
The third quarter was filled with hope for the Blacks, who were still confident they could find a way back. Our backline was influential, with the notable efforts of Henry Robertson clearing any danger with his booming right foot and Sam Ackland-Evans’ intercept marking a highlight of the third quarter. In one of the few times we got it forward, Jackson Sleep was able to convert an opportunity in front of goal to get his first in the Uni Blacks jumper, a feat which was rightly celebrated by the team. The quarter was however played mostly in the front half of OM’s, with some poor kicking in front of goal by them keeping us in the game.
Going into the last quarter, the Blacks had a lot of ground to make up. Coach Rob Paterson made the call to throw some magnets around, which resulted in Lewis Steere being thrown on the ball to add some more experience in this part of the ground and Tom St Clair going forward to give us another target. It became a theme of the day that it was difficult to get some cohesive ball movement going forward, St Clair was able to kick one, but it wasn’t enough to get us over the line.
The final score was Old Melburnians defeating the Uni Blacks by 44 points. Among the best were Oliver Bouchez, Tom Cousins, Jack Kennedy, Lachie O’Hara, Henry Robertson and Sam Ackland-Evans.
Next week the twos will face Old Xavs at home in what is sure to be a good test against another dominant team in the division.
Overcast weather and an extremely heavy track made for tough conditions as the Phoenix took on Old Geelong at the home of footy, the Crawf, at an unfamiliar time of 2pm. With Old Geelong sitting at three wins and two losses on the season the boys were eager to prove that they could mix it up with the best in the competition and get that win that has been so elusive over the most recent period.
Despite the tough conditions and kicking into the extremely boggy royal parade end James Maiden and Josh Leviston were able to get clean entries into the forward line and hit up Nick Powell deep in the forward line for good entries. Unfortunately, the Blacks boys were unable to capitalise on early opportunities but repeat inside entries caused mayhem for the Old Geelong defenders. The majority of the first quarter lived in the Blacks forward half and James Maiden and was able to capitalise and scored the first goal for the Blacks which capped off some of the best forward movement we have seen all season. The second half of the quarter was hard fought mainly in Old Geelong 's forward line, with them being able to score 4 quick goals making it tough going into quarter time being down but certainly not out of the contest as Chris Canny and Fraser Moorfield battled valiantly in defence. Scoreboard read 1.3 – 9 Blacks to 4.3 – 27 Old Geelong at the first change.
The second quarter started off with a bang with Ryan Brown scoring a centre clearance goal, his first for the club, And tearing off in celebration by doing a whole lap of Princes park ensuring that anyone within a 5km radius would have heard him kick the goal. However, after this goal it was all Geelong’s way, with them piling on six goals to one in the second quarter, but this didn't stop the constant pressure up forward from Matt Keogh when he was given the opportunity. Another opportunity for Old Geelong was stopped abruptly as a streaming player going through the centre of the ground met Hamish McManus (the Phoenix local brick wall) and was administered one of the most bone-crunching tackles you'll see. You couldn't fault the boy’s efforts in this quarter, but the scoreboard read 2.5 – 17 Blacks, 10.5 – 65 Old Geelong at the main break, with a big effort needed from the boys to bring it back in the second half.
The second half began with a light shower meaning conditions would get even tougher with the ball becoming extremely heavy and slippery however this didn't stop little pocket rocket full forward Nick Powell from kicking an Eddie Betts-like goal to get the boys up and about. Dynamic ruckman Oscar Gale decided to change a few things up in the middle to good effect as he was able to affect contest after contest and allow Patrick Milner and Jojo Howard-Shibuya to go to work in the middle. The boys in the middle battled extremely hard all day getting to contest after contest and applying constant pressure. This quarter, despite the scoreboard, illustrated to all players that they can get on top in the midfield and transition the ball effectively once the showers cleared. At the last change, the scoreboard read 3.8 – 27 Blacks, 11.9 – 75 Old Geelong.
After a quick goal for old Geelong to start the last quarter, Emilio Eugenio was quick to get in and under and hit contests hard to make an impact on this last quarter and see if it could create some chances for the Blacks. Old Geelong we're able to keep it locked into their forward 50 making it hard for our defenders but second gamer Ryan Durell was able to take the mark of the day taking a nice intercept mark overhead. After finally getting it out of Old Geelong’s forward half it was up to James Maiden to continually battle and provide contest after contest up at centre half forward, giving our deep forwards a chance. This eventually paid off with some nice passages of play that resulted in a David Drentin goal, his first in a long time. As the game wore on the boys kept competing and could not fault their effort, with a final goal kicked by Patrick Milner in the last minute to cap off a great day for himself. Unfortunately, the final scoreboard read 5.10 – 40 Blacks, 15.11 – 101 Old Geelong. The best players for the day were David Drentin, Hamish McManus, Pat Milner, Jordan Pfeffer, James Maiden and Emilio Eugenio. The Phoenix will match up against Old Xavs next week in what will prove to be a tough game but certainly, a winnable game if the second-half play continues.
A third of the way through season 2023 and the Unders were home once again to fellow uni side Monash looking to mark off a win in the books for round 6. With both sides coming off back to back losses and each desperate for a win it looked to be a thriller. Touching words from Justin Gray pre game on the late Jack Batten and what he meant to the Blacks and what the Blacks meant to him really put into perspective the culture within the club and what we were really playing for when we pulled on the jumper. A passing shower had ensured that the ground would stay wet early and with a few late outs once again providing a select few the chance to once again don the black and blue with their sights set on victory.
Quarter one and it looked like it was going to be an interesting contest with both teams playing a similar style of football. With a muddy centre the ball stayed almost entirely along the wings, providing for a lot of back and forth between the arcs and neither team could enter forward fifty effectively. It was the Blacks who struck first and with first quarter goals to Kyle Reynolds and Felix Smith it looked like the Blacks were on top early and walking towards a large victory. A little more rain throughout the first made sure that it would be difficult to efficiently move the ball between the arcs without taking risks. The ball movement of the Blacks, a focal point at training through the week, was looking promising and was beginning to open the ground across the middle. The first ended similarly to how it started with a back and forth battle with many sloppy mistakes from both sides ensuring that the score stayed low by the break.
As the second quarter began it looked to be a continuation of the first with the Blacks looking to pull away and make sure the game was done by half time. This would have been the case with constant forward fifty entries giving the Blacks all the tools for success; nearly. Goal kicking accuracy was the only tool left from our belts and with chances going begging it was beginning to look grim. Club debutant Sam Henning was on fire through the midfield, his contested ball wins warranting a tag from Monash with no avail as his distribution to the outside run of Cezary Carmichael, Ben Mithen and Henry Holmes proving to much for Monash to withhold. The end of the half saw for poor reading and even though the Blacks were up the atmosphere was bleak; halftime score read 2.14 Blacks to 0.2 Monash.
The third began with the Blacks looking to kick straighter and Monash looking to capitalise on their forward entries and get back into the game. It was Monash who were able to strike first, a break in focus allowing for an easy entry and easier shot a goal for the Blues. This was Monashs bright moment for the quarter though, as the Blacks were once again on the attack and looking to bite back. As Monash stepped up their attack, the Blacks defence held strong thwarting any and all attacks with a brilliant display of marking and pressure. The run of Gus Conheady was once again on display across halfback and provided the energy needed to propel the ball through the middle. A solitary goal was all the Blacks could manage from the third along with another four behinds, whilst again out scoring Monash it was a case of chances gone begging.
The fourth quarter is where the Blacks finally began to rack up a score fitting of their performance. With conditions at their best or all but made sense that the goals would begin to flow, and flow they did. Three early goals to the Blacks and the effort was beginning to reflect on the scoreboard. With the dryer ball the greater polish of the Blacks was made evident through small forwards like Hugh Knights and Tom Yorke who seemed to be a part of each passage for much of the last. With another ten scoring shots under our names it was hoped that at least a break even was achieved across the scoreboard. Thai was not to be the case; although there was more goals kicked than the last time the Blacks had ten scoring shots in a quarter (the number to beat was zero) goals to Reynolds, Phillipson, Wentzel and Shattock ensured that the score was more respectable than before. The win for the Blacks was never really in doubt but the scoreboard made for poor reading at full time but the goal kicking did improve in the second half, even if only marginally, and it is sure to be a focal point in the coming weeks.
Looking back it seemed at times the win might’ve gone begging and that missed chances may have been the death of us but the result could not have been further from that. It would have been very easy for the Unders to drop their head at each missed opportunity but they stuck at it and in true Blacker spirit pushed even harder to seek victory. At the request of an anonymous source (defiantly not the head coach) it must be mentioned that even going into half time having kicked 2.14 the coaching staff did not blow up and remained confident and completely in control of their emotions throughout the match. The Blacks were in control of the ball around the ground from start to end and it was only their inaccuracies that kept Monash in the hunt. The win gives the Unders much confidence that they can fight through unfortunate circumstances to push for a win, however the inability to really put the foot down on the scoreboard and rack up the big scores is something that hopefully does not come back to bite in the future. Back home again next week against St Bedes/Mentone who have been climbing the ladder after early losses, a game in which a win is crucial to secure our spot within the top three teams and to keep touch with the top of the table