And just like that, season done. Finite. Over. An incredible year of which the club justified it's role as an A Grade Club, and showed the competition what it means to be a Blacks player. There's been so many incredible moments throughout; beating last year's premiers St Kevin's at home, avenging last year's Grand Final loss against Old Haileybury to lock in an A-Grade spot for 2024, and finally, hosting one of the most memorable days in recent memory with a Club Luncheon (attended by 150+) before the Uni Derby. There really is too many people to thank for their contributions this year, though a massive shoutout to all coaches and players for their efforts - it is appreciated by so many. Now, onto our final match reports for 2023.
What a season for the young Blackers, after a huge win against Old Brighton, the Blacks sat 8-9 and were looking at one more scalp to finish the season. Against our arch rivals the Blues, the sun finally showed up and the Uni Main glistened on a Springs day. It looked and felt like finals footy, and as dubbed by many this was this young outfits Grand Final. A healthy crowd flowed in for a big occasion. We farewelled two of our finest. Our beloved Captain, spiritual leader and no doubt one of the best to don the jumper Josh Steadman was farewelling his second home. If there was ever a man you wanted to deliver a win for, it was Jerry. Since waltzing in from Thurgoona 10 years ago, Jerry has transformed himself into one of, if not the premier ruckman across the league across the last five years. The VAFA media team is devastated to see their favourite big man put the feet up as well. Another set for a goodbye (for now) is James Sansom. ‘Sanga’ has become an integral and much-loved member of this footy club since he crossed from our rival. Sang has had some terrible luck of late, his record for us speaks for itself- undefeated until this season. We may have missed some of his best, but by God can this bloke play footy. As every season goes, there will be other members of the Blacks community who leave for work and other life opportunities in 2024, so we knew that this week was the last time we would play with many other great young men. Given all that we knew, this Uni Derby was set for a cracker.
From the first bounce set the tone. If the Joker was watching on in the Pavilion he would have exclaimed, “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets and immoveable object!” As Jerry and his counterpart Ayce Cordy went head to head. The wrestling and grunting was an event in itself. The midfield of Lachlan ‘The Vindicator’ Knight, Pat ‘Silk’ Fairlie and ‘Weaponhead’ Mahon set the tone early. The Blues didn’t pull any punches and showed early why they were shooting for a top two chance. Despite weeks on the sidelines James Sansom was using his trademark fitness and ran a few Blues boys ragged, racking up touches at will. The mosquito fleet up forward was looking dangerous with goals from Aussie Steere and Sanger lifting the Blacks early. Despite conceding double the inside 50s, a backline led my the big M’s- McKenzie and Moorfield proved difficult to penetrate. At quarter time the Blacks trailed by 2 and the crowd wanted more.
After a tight first quarter, the Blacks clicked. Steadman gained the upper hand and his band of merry men began to feast. Knight continued his career best season and propelled the Blacks inside 50. The pressure of Max “Dog” Dow, Steere and The Barrell Chested Tom Cousins led to multiple forward stoppages, here John Cassidy and Steere were able to capitalise on multiple opportunities. A bomb from Sam ‘Sticks’ Conway dubbed the heir to Jerry’s throne had the Blacks faithful off their seats. Bede Mahon for the second week in a row found himself questioning why he retired in the first place as he extracted the ball from stoppages and gave his forwards such as the dynamic duo of HeyCott (Hey and Grocott) and Conway multiple chances. The Ben Squared Duo (Stephenson and Oliver) work rate on the wings ensured the Blacks continued to thwart multiple attacks. Everything was rolling. A near perfect quarter had the Blacks leading by 27 points a huge win was well and truly on the cards.
Alas, all good things can come to an end. The Uni Blues big guns flexed their muscles and a few errant turnovers (myself an offender), meant that the margin had disintegrated rapidly. The Blues took control of the breeze and had found themselves in control of the game after a big third quarter. After a poor 15 minutes the Blacks created an arm wrestle. Steadman hit outs to a flying Bede Mahon, a sight for sore eyes, meant that Blacks had a chance. A late goal to Tom ‘The Rock Spider’ Larby gave the Blacks the lead and a glimmer of hope heading into the deciding quarter.
With 30 minutes left of the 2023 season, the Blacks had belief. Unfortunately the cruel Footy Gods decided it was not too be, after an errant bounce that went against Blacks in the third quarter, a questionable touched call and a leg break that would have made the late Shane Warne jealous left the Blacks wondering what could have been. The Blacks fought on, rolling the dice late in desperation. A stint through the midfield by Moorfield looked like an inspired move, but was unable to provide the spark needed to get the win. Despite the absolute bath commissioned by Sam McKenzie on one of the premier forwards of local footy and the midfield battling hard, a tough season caught up to the Blacks and they were unable to hold off the Blues. Sam McKenzie was awarded the James Green Medal, a deserving reward for an outstanding game and an outstanding season. Despite the loss, the Blacks are able to hold their heads high knowing they had a huge first back in A Grade and have set the foundations for improvement in 2024.
In a thrilling showdown at the hallowed grounds of University Oval for the final time of 2023, the Blacks clashed with arch-rivals the Blues. In a highly anticipated match for all, it was one where Lewis Steere would make his final goodbye to his second home of 8 years. With this, all the Blacks men were eager to prove a point to this weak Blues team.
The first quarter commenced, and centre clearance dominance was highlighted by the Blacks mids, with Jack Kennedy & Sam Robertson getting to work. Strong contested ball work by the likes of Sam Henning & Lachie Miller had spirits high. In a seesawing first quarter, Charlie ‘chuck’ Francis channeled his inner Toby Green by boot fending off his opponent, ultimately leading to time on the pine. With the blues taking an early advantage, goals in quick succession to Angus Conheady, Sam Robertson & Angus McKinna had the Blacks in front by the first break.
Unfortunately for the Blacks, it was a tale of the season where a poor second quarter caused a flurry of Blues’ goals. Holding the Blacks to just 2-points for the quarter, the Blues’ strong defense prevented powerful bursts of promise by Miller & the raging bull of Henry Lamb. Heading into the main break, the Blues took a 29-point lead. A frustrated coach, Pato ensured with effort like the first quarter, this lead could be overcome.
With Pato’s spray of wisdom, Henry Lamb continued to fight the fight for the Blacks leaving his team reinvigorated for the second half. Successful forward 50 entries for the Blacks saw a 5 goal to nothing third term. Angus Conheady & Jack Kennedy showed their forward craft by kicking 2 majors. The Blacks encouraged by instructions from Zach Harris took centre clearance dominance once again to excite gathered fans. With the Blues leading by a kick at the final break, a thrilling conclusion was moments away.
A strong start to the fourth lead by tapping prowess of John Perks, the Blacks’ midfield resumed proceeding with a burst into the forward 50. However, the Blues had answers for the rampant Blacks’ offence kicking the final 3 majors of the game to prevail by 24-points. Perks one victim of the umpiring shamble post-game, a very nervous look to the seething red of one central umpire.
A gallant effort by the men in Black, backed up by the remarkable season and journey from skipper Lewis Steere. A season of such promise and excitement of what 2024 could hold for Pato’s Blacks’ side. Will Tom Cousins ever make his reserves return? All questions to be answered in due course. For all who made 2023 what it was, thankyou from the Blacks reserve side.
With the last and final game of the 2023 season, the Uni Blacks were eager to finish off a hard and well fought year with a bang. All players made the trek out to Alphington to play Parkside in their second meeting of the year on a Friday night under lights. The temperature felt as though it had dropped to sub zero, however this did not impact the performance of the Blackers whatsoever.
After a short siren and a blow of the whistle from the umpire, the match was well underway. The centre scrimmages were dominated by the regular midfielders of Tom Harris, Ben Donnellan and Rory Edwards, with Sam Shattock acting as a converted ruckman after having a few outs from our big men due to an unfortunately timed college ball. Nonetheless, this didn’t halt our mids from having a field day, with Harris playing his Bontempelli-esque footy style to slam the ball into the forward fifty, helping the team cop 3 early goals to get the game started. Even being undersized and underexperienced against the opposition’s giant of a ruck, Shattock fought hard and true, assisting the on-ballers with a couple of beautiful in front taps. With the help of Micheal Daffey’s right boot, blacks led 12-24 in the first quarter.
After a short huddle at quarter time, the second quarter commenced in front of a riled up and jittery home crowd. With the help of Toby “Brick wall” Gillam, our very scary Everett O'Donnell, Cez “truck” Carmichael, our backline held true and stable, with the flying fist of Vaughan spoiling and marking any football flying his way, and Linus providing that run and carry from our defensive half. Henry Baker was crucial in keeping his player scoreless, helping Blacks maintain their lead heading into halftime.
Walking back to the rooms, Blacks were up and about. After a strong and motivational (also slightly emotional) speech from Muz, our player ran onto the field up and about, excited to get the quarter underway. Fu had a go in the midfield, linking up with Edwards and Donellan to pump the ball forward into the regular hands of key forwards Felix Smith and Ed Phillipson. Wonderous roving from forwards McMahon and Hynes alleviated our goal kicking ability, helping Blacks kick 3 on the trot and providing us with a handy lead. The game had officially turned on its head.
The fourth quarter was a blast, momentum stayed with the Blacks and everyone was prepared to put everything out onto the field to finish off a hard worked season. Maurice Nind fended off 2 defenders with a stiff arm, Bryce McManus and Will Edney worked their tails off in the forward line, and Tom Yorke and Ben Mithen provided their speed to brute force the ball forward.
The final siren sounded, and the Blacks had won by 17 points, sealing an emphatic and well deserved win. Although finals are beyond the team, the win displayed the level of quality that the Blacks can play with, even being undermanned. Beers and soft drinks were on offer post game, as the boys headed to the Clyde to celebrate the big win. Special thanks were provided to Chris and Muz for their services this year, as we hope they remain involved with the club in years to come.