Round 7 Players Wrap

Tuesday 30 May 2023

All teams were back at home for Round 8 with the Seniors / Reserves on the Main in their traditional time slots against a strong Xavier contingent. The Seniors were quietly confident of achieving a huge upset whilst the Reserves were looking to build on a strong performance against Old Melbournians. Meanwhile, the red-hot U/19s were looking to continue their positive start and consolidate a top 4 spot, whilst the Phoenix were also up against Xavier; a club that boasts depth across all grades. 

Seniors - Baxter Aurisch

The Blacks were back at home, with all four teams taking the field across Crawford and Uni Main, with the Saturday coming to a close against Old Xaverians. Following the heartbreak in Round 6, this match-up was a must win for the Blacks, as they aimed to prove to themselves and the VAFA that they are more than just some pretty faces. 

The pregame atmosphere was visible, with the reserves building the hype with their tunnel, which roared at the sight of one of their skippers, Henry Robertson, making his senior debut for the year, following his impressive return from injury the week before. As the Seniors got into their huddle, there was nervous energies floating around University Main. These energies quickly washed away with the sound of the first siren, where it was clear that the boys came to play.

The first quarter saw a fast start from the experienced Xavierians side. An unfortunate quick 2 goals in 2 minutes to the opposition left the Blacks in a position to let this game get to their heads early. However, quite the opposite occurred, as all this did was poke the bear that was Matthew Grocott, who quickly figured out if he shot for goal, he couldn’t miss. His efforts were backed up by the rebounding of the reliable Henry “Chicken” Bennett and Xavier Chalkley, who was injected back into the team for this very reason. The individual brilliance of a few experienced Blacks saw the game draw closer to even, with the blacks taking a 3 point deficit into the quarter.

Coming from the quarter time huddle, there was a sense that the boys would have to grit their teeth and continue this arm wrestle. Understanding the significance of the situation, co-captain Josh Steadman willed himself into the game, showing the opposition ruckman that it would be a long day. Dominant from the ruck, the Blacks were able to sway the momentum of the game into their favour, with huge running efforts from Henry Robertson to shut down goals, and Gus Mckinna to set them up. Off the back of a pinpoint inside 50 from Xavier Chalkley, Louis “Ron” Vescio was able to convert from a tough angle and distance, while Nick Hey was able to do the same from the other side of the ground, with these accurate Blacks nailing it from 45 out to take a 2 point edge into halftime.

At halftime, the lingering thoughts of last weeks failure to get reward for effort on the scoreboard were present. There was a real sense that the Blacks were in a position to take control of this game, they just had to execute.And with the start of the quarter, execute they did. The third quater was a midfield and forwards game, which started with a huge tackle and smother from Max Dow to set the tone, followed with the crafty work from Austin Steere to set up a goal, and some massive midfield moments from Jack Cassidy which didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd. Lachlan Knight, Ben Oliver and Hugh Curnow converted from the midfield, which further gave the Blacks the scoreboard reward they were after. In saying this, this quarter was pioneered by the craft and efforts from Josh Steadman, assisting two goals from forward 50 stoppages, a goal himself, and finishing the quarter with a diving ground ball effort which saw the blacks take a 34 point lead into the final term. This 7 goal quarter from our seniors was the reward the blacks were after, and was the result of great coaching, extreme skill, and that ‘never die’ blacks attitude that their supporters hold so dear.

Whilst the third term was a game for midfielders and forwards, the fourth was for the defenders, and when they were asked to stand tall, stand tall they did. With the tension in the crowd building from behind the goals, a massive intercept mark from Campbell Moorfield was just the reliever needed, with huge intercept possessions to follow from former forward Ayui Makieng, Joel “Jets” Ernest and Samuel “Snags” Mckenzie. Finally, a clutch ground ball and inside 50 by Henry Robertson to set up Gus Mckinna for the Blacks final goal proved to everyone that it was the back six that won the chips.

A massive on field effort from the Seniors was followed by a massive vocal effort in the change rooms, with what was an all time rendition of the club song. A smile was even spotted of coach Murray “Muzz” Schnieder’s face. This smile quickly turned into hunger, which was replicated from coach Dale Bower’s words which reminded the boys the blacks are not done yet, as the team sets their eyes on next weeks match up against Old Scotch. After this rounds heroics from the Seniors, it will not be one to miss.Best on ground efforts were award to Josh Steadman, which was clear to every man and his dog. Joining him was the massive games from Campbell Moorfield, Louis Vescio, Matthew Grocott, Jack Cassidy and Samuel Mckenzie. Besides these talented players, a best on ground effort should have been awarded to the club as a whole, as once again the University Blacks proved to the VAFA that they are coming, and there is not much anyone can do about it.


Reserves - Max Gray

Coming off an impressive performance the previous week against top-4 side Melburnians, the Reserves were primed to deliver another scare to a competition front runner and reigning premiers Old Xavier.

 Prior to the bounce, the boys discussed our rising levels of confidence, chemistry and consistency, vowing to take the day's challenge on with dare, in an effort to make Xavier's trip to the main more arduous than anticipated. Furthermore, Alexander 'Loveshack' Lovel would be donning a two's jumper the first time.

 The Blacks wrestled back a quick start from Xavier with strong pressure led by Tom Cousins in the middle limiting the damage of a prominent easterly. Composed ball movement provided Jack Kennedy with a slim chance to give Blacks their first, though doubters were silenced as the 50 metre set shot sailed through with ease. A gravity defying specky from Tom 'Chompers' St Clair also yielded a roar from everyone inside and outside the picket fence.

 Down by a manageable 20 points at quarter time, the Blacks delivered a rousing performance towards the end of the second quarter, with accuracy and smart ball movement contributing to some of the best footy the team has played all year. Star recruit Lachie Pereira was a stand out performer all day providing blistering speed and effort after effort up against his alma mater, bagging a banana goal after escorting the ball past three outpaced Xaverians. Jimmy Carpenter and Jackson Sleep were both strong with hands throughout the game, each providing majors in the second term. Blacks came within an arm's reach of Xavier in the second quarter, with an eventual margin of 32 points at half time.

 Xavier's class shone through in the second half, with the Blacks not troubling the scorers in the third quarter. Ross Porter continued his excellent form in the ruck and as the go-to target across the ground, while Jack Kennedy seemed to be everywhere offensively and defensively.

 In the last quarter, Lachie Pereira solidified a convincing best on ground performance with a less convincing floating goal after carrying the ball from the wing. Credit must be given to a cohesive Old Xavs outfit who showed they are the team to beat in Premier Reserves comp, taking almost every chance they were granted despite patches of Blacks brilliance. Final scores Blacks 5.4-34 to Old Xaverians 19.14-128Best players were Lachlan Pereira, James Carpenter, Jack Kennedy, Tom Cousins, Ross Porter and Jackson Sleep. The Reserves will rise to another challenge next week against Old Scotch before a step down in quality against the bye.

Phoenix - Liam Bell

Clear skies and a surprisingly forgiving surface set the scene at the Crawf as the Phoenix took on top of the table Old Xavs in what was going to be a hard-fought game as always, but Coach Rob Borg had the boys fit and firing to take it right up to the opposition.

After a good start in the middle featuring crafty ruckwork from Oscar Gale and great follow ups from Jojo Howard-Shibuya and Patty Milner, the Blacks were able to get repeat inside 50 entries early, with Josh Leviston and Sam McDougall combining in the forward 50 to look very dangerous but were unable to convert as wayward goal kicking seemed to spread across the team like an epidemic. The boys continued to fight hard and had most of the play in the first quarter but were unable to capitalise until skipper Josh Leviston took a mark 30m out directly in front and kicked truly to ignite the boys. The scoreboard read 1.7- 13 Blacks to 4.2 – 26 Xavs at quarter time.

The second quarter began as a bit of a slog fest between the arcs as neither team was able to gain much ascendency on the other, but good passages of play were aplenty, as Jordan Pfeffer was able to help clear the ball from stoppage and combine with Will Combridge and give the big boys up forward a chance. Nick Powell was able to get his hands on the footy but once again wayward kicking plagued the whole team as the Old Xavs boys were able to take their chances as the scoreboard read 1.10.16 Blacks to 8.5.53 Xavs at half time.

The boys knew they had opportunities and if they could capitalise on them at half time who knows what might happen.

The third quarter started with a bang as quick kick into the 50 from Jojo Howard-Shibuya led to a marking contest and crumb where Sam McDougall was able to soccer one off the ground to ignite the team and get a bit of buzz happening amongst the boys. Nick Powell was then next to capitalise as he slotted a very nice set shot goal and celebrated accordingly, as the boys were quick to get around and a feeling of excitement started to bubble around the might Crawf. Hamish McManus inspired the boys with his constant assault on the footy and the opposition as Sam McDougall yet again showed his class and took a fantastic one-handed grab and went back and kicked his second for the day. Unfortunately, this is where the excitement ended this quarter as the Xavs boys were able to get on top and kick 6 goals in the quarter. The scoreboard read 4.11.35 Blacks to 14.9.93 Xavs at the final change.

The message at the final change was to go out there and take the game on and show that Blacks spirit to win the last quarter, which was exemplified by a great tackle from Hugh Higgins that led to a holding the ball and shot on goal that went awry. Josh Leviston continued to battle and provide excellent service to his forwards and was rewarded as he kicked his second goal of the day halfway through the last quarter. The boys continued to battle to the final siren and the day was capped off by a long torpedo from 50m out by Nick Powell to give him his second goal of the day. The final score didn’t quite go our way this week, but good passages and great quarters are leading to an eventual breakthrough that will come very soon. Best players for the day were Josh Leviston, Patty Milner, Jordan Pfeffer, JoJo Howard-Shibuya, Cam McNeil and Oscar Gale.

Under 19s - Jack Floyd

Another week and the Unders were once again across the road at Crawford looking to build on the success of the previous round and cement a spot inside the top four. St Bede/Mentone we’re the targets and after they knocked off the top side last week with a rapid finish we knew that if we weren’t on our a game the game could be lost in the blink of an eye. With our own performance in round six proving that we could put a winning score on the board having had 31 scoring shots; it was going to depend on the polish up forward as to whether the day finished with a win, or a heartbreaker. After Muz sent a scout to watch the Tigers game last week and some key areas of their game were broken down the Unders were raring to get stuck into them and show the competition how good our best really was.

The first quarter couldn’t have started any better and within two minutes the Blacks were a goal up thanks to a Kyle Reynolds crumb. It wasn’t long after and it was the blacks again who struck gold and were up by 12 in the blink of an eye, shutting a few mouths on the other side of the line. As the first continued the blacks the seemed to be on their A game, the shape around the ball and composure under pressure was the best displayed all season. The backline managed to hold up against the ever increasing attempts of a St Bedes side who had found their mojo again after the early rush from the blacks. The usual suspects such as Conheady, Little and Gillam were strong as always, attacking the ball and rebounding through half back with intent allowing for a greater team spread further up the ground. By the first break the Blacks had kicked another two and were up by 12 and unlike last week there was more goals than behinds on the board, a welcome sight. 

Quarter number two was much of the same from the Blacks, managing to grow their lead a little as the game began to open up. It was the midfield of Sam ‘Uncle’ Henning, Tom Harris, Ben Donnellan and Hugh Knights who were the instigators; attacking the ball with gusto and providing first use to the outside runners. The shape around the ball was the best produced for the year and managed to defy the defensive pressure of St Bedes and allow for a more controlled spread of the football from the back of the contest, a skill that had been severely lacking until this point of the season. Four goal to one for the quarter and the Blacks were finally beginning to put up a score that accurately reflected the flow of the game and with a lead of 30 heading into the half it was promising signs for the Unders.

After a much more relaxed half time discussion from Muz it was on again with the Blacks looking to stick the final nails in the coffin. Heading back down the hill it didn’t take long for the Unders to strike once again through Reynolds who kicked his fourth of five for the day. Another stand out for the Blacks up forward was Jonah Wentzel, who after a tough first half really came into his own and used his body to much greater effect and began to get his hand on anything that came his way. With a stronger forward presence the Unders managed to pull away again with another four goal to one quarter thanks in part to Unc who’s apparently pretty difficult to stop when he runs at you; as the Tigers demonstrated by not stopping him all game, allowing Unc to set up the game with intricate switches and inside kicks opening the ground up for the forwards.

 As the game drew to a close the goal for the last was simple, keep going. A couple of free kicks going our way at the end of the third gave the Unders a couple goals and with the lead at 42 and St Bedes beginning to lose their cool it was getting easier and easier to move the ball through the middle. The last quarter also brought fatigue to the Blacks and the quality of ball movement reduced as the quarter dragged on and even though forward entries were still being accumulated the ball was not moving with the same intensity as previously. Regardless of this the Blacks still managed to kick two goals to nil for the last and finished the game strong with a classy snap from Ben Mithen to finished off a strong performance that will put the competition on watch.

Round seven was always going to be a critical match; either the Blacks lost and fell out of the top four or a strong win would cement our position within the top four sides and put a gap between the rest of the competition. The latter was a welcome sight to the sizeable crowd as the final siren sounded. Another sight welcomed by all was the presence of senior coaches Dale Bower and Cam Wood as well as Club football operations head Jeremy Hua who all stuck around until the end before the reserves and seniors games across the road. It feels as if the club has really gotten behind the success of the Unders this year and looking out of the huddle to see the senior coach is a real morale booster. Round eight sees the Unders back on the Crawf once again to take on Glen Eira who look to be one of the top teams in the competition and our biggest challenge of the year to date. A one point loss the Old Carey last Friday proved that they are among the best this year and although they are coming to the Crawftress and the Blacks are in red hot form the game cannot be taken lightly and it may very well be one of the closest 19’s games of the year. Best players for the day were Gus Conheady, Ben Donnellan, Sam Henning, Hugh Knights, Ben Little and Kyle Reynolds.

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