CHIPS GETS A GRIP

It is the 125th anniversary of what we now know as the VAFA, and happy birthday to them. Celebrations abound and we are even seeing some column inches in our local daily, the Sun News Pictorial.

Just this week, I opened up the small paper to find that Jon Anderson had picked his best VAFA team from the past 51 seasons. Yes, 51, though the piece was headed THE GREATEST VAFA TEAM OF THE PAST 50 YEARS (1967-2017).

I humbly suggest Mr Murdoch reinstate some editors at his publications, though I am sure the budgets are tight with all the money he is shelling out for ghost writers to cover for semi-literate "journalists" and current and former AFL stars with bylines. 

But to the matter at hand. Mr Anderson is a football fan and has written before of his love for the amateur game. However, I am not sure how much he has watched. I admit, I came late to the game and never saw an amateur match until 1923, when I was the timekeeper for Alan Keane's first ever Old Xaverians team.

By the 1960s, I had the hang of the game, as they say, and my dedicated application to corporal punishment at Xavier was challenged with so many boys needing strong hands to play football. 

But I digress, as is my habit . . . I am sure Mr Anderson had discussions with plenty of stars and stalwarts in arriving at his team, and I presume Mr Murdoch's expense account took a beating in the process.  His twenty-two plus two coaches contains a number of Old Xaverians, but nowhere enough.

His last line is devoid of Red and Blacks, though in naming Nick Wynne at CHB means that #26 can dominate the entire back half and maybe chalk up another 3 votes from the umpires to take his career tally to seven. Yes, he's an umpire's favourite, that pet Nick Wynne! They don't give votes in grand finals, just Jock Nelson medals, and Nick was clearly BOG in both the 2009 and 2016 GFs. Somehow, the umpires missed those.

Simon "Harry" Costello gets a guernsey alongside Wynne. He is an honorary Xav, though he played at Uni Blacks. As i said a couple of weeks back, the greatness of the Blacks (when they were great) was built on boys to whom I had once taught Latin at Barkers Road.

Anderson's centre-line is missing one John Bowen. Rumour has it that young John is still out there on the far wing at the Old Trots Track and is still taking marks from the kick-ins. Seven A Section premiership medals. Absolutely must be picked in any "best of" lineup.

Tim Ockleshaw rates a mention on the half-forward flank. That's right. Play him out wide, freeze him out of the picture. Yep, that's what you want from the great man - if you are the opposition! Play him in the middle, on the ball, and rest him in the pocket where Anderson has named Andrew Ramsden. Now Rambo was a great player for a long time, but this team hardly needs him. Michael Blood will take every single tap (and win most of them) and take marks all over the park. And you won't need Rambo forward, because big Matthew Handley has that covered after a 200 game, 600 goal career that is still just developing.

Nick Burne, named at full-forward in Mr Anderson's team, switches to full back in my lineup. Simon Wood is the other Old Xav named, and he would start and finish on the ball. A great player indeed.

I can't argue with Ian "Cuddles" Cordner (Blacks/OMs) at CHF, Phil Mehrten (Ormond), Mick Yeo (Blues) and Mick Deveson, but I'd be looking for a few more Red and Blacks to put the pressure on the others.

Luckily, the coaching panel that I have chosen - Simon Lethlean (senior coach), backed by assistants Tim O'Shaughnessy, Nick Bourke and Peter Rhoden (Bones Richardson coached at league level, so not eligible under Mr Anderson's rules) - will be able to identify those.

Peter Rhoden coached at the Old Xavs for many years and he tells me he will pick his team next week. He was all set to do it yesterday, but he's sunning himself in tropical Queensland and informs me he needs his research papers to write with any sense. (I feel similarly, but I have no research papers!)

So instead, let's look at this week's round of Premier football.

Blue and gold Beaumaris will entertain blue and gold De La Salle. Both lost last week, with the Baysiders kicking 20.8 and still falling short. My long experience tells me they are in all sorts of trouble, though they might have a chance this week. They are at home again, which is good for them and will meet a team that is not as consistent as their fans would like. Bernie Sheehy's team had their chances against Uni Blues, but the Uni team kicked home the stronger. I suspect they will reverse their trend again and topple the Sharks, though it could be close.

Old Trinity host Uni Blacks. Perhaps the Varsity began its rise last week, booting enough to shake the Sharks. But can it win on that big Ponderosa at Trinity? It's doubtful. while the Grasshoppers seem to be a long way off their 2015-16 form, they could yet again set the competition alight. But we are already on the run home, so they will need to do it quickly. Yes, I think they will win this week, but the days when they go into every Saturday as red hot favourites appear over, at least for now.

St Bart's travel to the Trott and it's almost impossible to imagine them winning against Collegians, who will be stirred if not shaken after the Red and Blacks outplayed them on their home patch last week. 

Are Old Melburnians the real deal, or are they just a vastly improved team? We might find out when they face the might of Uni Blues on the Main this week. Tommy Girdwood and his charges have hit a vein of form and only a top performance from the OMs will get them home.

It will be a pleasure to venture out to the old stomping ground to see the Red and Blacks and I already have my old parking spot on reserve. I'm not sure of the merits of inviting seven St Kevin's teams in for a Saturday scuffle, but that is the offer. At least i will get to watch my beloved WOX, although the early start predicates an early cessation to my Friday session with a bottle or two of Bordeaux' finest. The main game between Xavs and SKOB will ignite passions and the result should be close. I'm believing that the home team will pull out all stops to turn away the invaders and get the points. Here's to that!

PS: And the very best to that young Xavs' fellow Skene, who was so badly injured last week. Keep the faith!