Round 1 2024

Friday 03 May 2024

After much anticipation and many nights on the training track, Round 1 (or Round 2 for the phoenix and 19s) was finally upon us as the Blacks were split evenly across the familiar sights of the Crawford and Uni Main. A crisp April day awaited the Blacks as all four teams looked to kick-start their season with their first win of 2024. Read on to catch up on how the teams fared last weekend (with more detailed Phoenix and 19s reports to come in future weeks)!

Seniors – Jack Cassidy

Finally, the day we had all been waiting for: Round 1. And boy, was it a blockbuster clash. First up, the young Uni Blacks team took on Scotch College. An impressive outfit last year, the Blacks boys knew they were in for a battle if they were to secure the 4 points. There was certainly a buzz going around Uni Main, and the energy levels were raised even more with the excitement surrounding a number of fresh recruits set to don the Blacks' guernsey for the first time. It was undeniably a diverse group of newcomers, with the likes of Ballarat wonderkid James Clark, Adelaide big man Gus Rana, Sydney Sweetheart Matt McVey, and cross-town rival turned cult hero Liam O’Neill. But when these boys fronted up for the first bounce, they didn't look out of place in a Blacks jersey.

The start of the game was a heated battle, with both teams having shots on goal but failing to convert. After 15 minutes had gone without a goal, Ronny Vescio had enough, kicking a sizzler down the middle of the ground to a leading Growcott, who sent a 60m bomb to the top of the goal square for Gus McKinna to run onto, and the boys were away. Another goal followed thanks to a trademark tackle from Ron Vescio, which led to Growcott slotting one on his majestical left peg, putting us up by 12. Gus Rana lived up to the hype, taking an intercept mark and kicking it long to Ayui, who took yet another hanger and slotted it to put us 3 goals up into quarter time.

The boys came out firing in the 2nd quarter, thanks to a Benny Oliver smother and a genius kick from Growcott, which gave Vescio the easiest of chances to put yet another one on the board for the Blacks. With the Blacks in complete control, a head knock to Growcott was sure to have an impact on the team… and it did. Scotch fired back, kicking a goal before some great defensive work in the dying moments of the term, including a holding the ball tackle from yet another young gun, Finn Raymond, kept the boys 4.4 28 leading Scotch 1.3 9. It was a very physical first half, and the boys had earned a hard-earned halftime break.

Ben Oliver monopolized the far-side wing all day, and this dominance helped the Blacks strike first through the high-flying Ayui Makieng, who was taking marks for fun, dominating the Scotch backline. This put the boys up by 4 goals. Scotch quickly answered back, and there was a bit of a lapse amongst the group, with Scotch banging on 3 in a row, diminishing the Blacks' first-half dominance to only a two-point lead. Angus Rana was the man to stand up, slotting a big set shot, showing some really good signs early in the season. Blacks went into the final quarter with an 8-point lead, and it was going to be a slog.

The final quarter was an arm wrestle at the beginning. After a massive pre-season, Tom St Clair looked right at home in the senior grade, throwing himself at everything and creating many chances down forward. Unfortunately, we just couldn't convert, and Scotch were kicking goals from anywhere down the other side of the ground. The backline was under siege, and after completely dominating all day and proving why they are one if not the best 6 in the VAFA for season 2024, a few impressive goals from the boundary line saw Scotch up by 10 points. A genius move by Coach Bower to send Chalkley forward paid off, with the defender turned forward taking a great contested mark and going back and slotting a clutch set shot to bring the game back to 4 points. However, Scotch had the answer, kicking yet another second-half goal to secure the win.

Overall, a disappointing result for the boys who cracked in all day. As a young side, we can take away plenty of learnings from the day, in particular, working around the ground as well as getting first in for the footy. In the end, it came down to Scotch converting while we struggled in front of goal. We were the better side for 3 quarters of the game, but in the end, our inability to convert is what cost us. Our Back 6 was brilliant all day, led by the usual Cam Moorfield, but don’t sleep on “Snags” McKenzie for season 2024 with a brilliant pre-season backed up with a best on ground performance in Round 1. The new wing Trio of Clark, Oliver, and Gray were dominant, owning either side of the ground all day. New recruits Rana and O’Neill showed great signs boosting the teams midfield stocks. A young side with plenty of upside, this is only the beginning of the 2024 campaign. We take on Brighton away from home next week, expecting yet another cracker of a game.

Reserves - John Perks

The reserves came out to the Uni main on Saturday full of energy and excitement. With seven players making their competitive debut with the Blacks, the boys were eager to kick off their season in a positive manner and crack right in with the host of new team-mates. Coming up against Old Scotch, who have ventured to the grand final in the previous two seasons, the Blacks knew they had to come out strong. 

It didn't take long for the new blood to get stuck in, with Oli "Ronda" Rouse kicking his and the Blacks first for the year with a well executed snap. The first quarter continued with strong efforts around the ground helping the Blacks maintain the pressure, with Sam Ackland-Evans and Jack Kennedy continuing their fine form from last year and leading the charge. Quarter time came and only three points separated the two teams. 

Momentum started to shift away from the Blacks at the start of the second quarter, with Scotch's ability to transition and their clean ball use helping them sway the game. Lachie Miller provided some much needed speed of his own through the midfield for the Blacks and looked dangerous whenever near the ball. Returning player Nick Caris arguably already taken mark of the year in the second quarter, climbing on multiple sets of shoulders to bring the football in. The Blacks missed some opportunities towards the end of the half, allowing Scotch to have a 19 point lead heading into half time.

The half time message for the Blacks was about playing to our strengths and maintaining the effort that would keep us in this game. Despite the unrelenting effort shown across the board for the Blacks, Scotch began to flex their muscles in the third quarter. A five goal to one quarter, with the Blacks goal provided by Kyle Reynolds, had largely put the game out of reach for the Blacks heading into three quarter time, with hitting the scoreboard a challenge throughout the game.

The Blacks fought hard all the way throughout the final quarter, never letting their heads drop against a strong opponent. The final margin of 10 goals, not representative of the valiant effort the Blacks put up, with promising signs all around, from debutants and returning players alike. The best players for the day included Ackland-Evans, Kennedy, Connelly, Miller, Sleep and Rouse. The team head to Brighton next week ready to build on the positives from Round 1.

Round 1 2024

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