I've had a very busy week after seeing St Kevin's knock over my beloved Xavs last Saturday. All sorts of phone calls from all sorts of supporters. Way too much laughing and gloating about me falling down the stairs at TH King after the lunch, but I can assure you it had nothing to do with the wine, more to do with my failing sight (and maybe a slight nudge from an unknown person).
I am looking forward to sharing some war stories this evening at the President's Dinner. I am sure Bill Denton has everything well-organised and that guest speaker John Silvester will come up with a long list of Old Xaverians who have raised the ire of the lawmen. Rest assured, truancy will likely be the most serious crime ever committed by an alumnus of Barkers Road, and rest even more assured that most of these (none of them footballers) were punished with the leather beforehand.
Things have changed at Old Xaverian functions. I remember well in 1937 that Archbishop Mannix embarked on a campaign of wowserism and banned alcohol from Catholic functions. The Xavier Rector at the time, Father William Hackett SJ, banned all strong refreshment from the Xavier Ball, which naturally incensed the boys of the OXFC, the OXA, parents and friends.
The result was startling. Numbers were down, and the toast to the new King and the celebration of XC's Head of the River title won that day were toasted with lemonade. and soda water Well, officially, anyway. There had been record sales of hip flasks in Melbourne the day before, and many of my old pupils stretched their formal socks a little to accomodate a welcome guest.
Fr Hackett, of course, distinguished himself that year when he tossed the Old Xavs from the XC ovals. Happily, things have changed, with the neck oil restored (as we'll discover tonight) and the football club, which won the 1938 premiership in C Section, returning to Barkers Road when competition resumed after WWII.
But to matters current and what a round awaits followers of the amateurs tomorrow.
In the past three weeks, those Hedgeburners have put the torch to little except their own shot at the double chance. It must be said that they have played the teams occupying the top three slots, but does this mean they are off the pace? Well, they are certainly not at their finest, but perhaps will be when they visit Beaumaris tomorrow. They will need to be, as the Sharks are going to be desperate, chasing their first win. I'm not sure who will win down there, as I have never ventured south of Old Brighton's ground. However, the team that loses faces a hard road ahead - the Ts to make the four and the Beaumarists to survive in the section.
St Bart's are at home to DLS and I wonder whether Bernie Sheehy's boys won't be too slick. He apparently has his team back in form after a slow start and while the Tigers will appreciate being back Seaside, in front of their raucous crowd. But they will have their hands full. The blue and gold mosquito fleet will run hard and kick a winning score in quick time if allowed to go un-pressured. It is a big game for both clubs. The Mentone team will want to edge up the ladder and DLS is keen to cement its place in the four. I believe the latter will achieve its ambitions tomorrow.
Old Melburnians are again at Elsternwick, ready to battle Uni Blacks, who finally saluted last week. Another toss-up. OMs tossed Blues last Saturday, but can they complete the Uni double? St Bart's could not. Consistency seems to be an issue with there clubs, with the Dark Blues promising, but not always delivering. OMs won here last year and I suspect they will win again, but who knows if Blacks form in R5 was a blip or a turnaround. A loss here will make it difficult to think September.
Well we saw a mighty St Kevin's team last week come back from almost certain defeat and I've never seen more people looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. They finished strongly, but there's no rest as they head to the Trott for a night game against Collegians. The Lions are purring along under Lex Hibbins and will be a tough proposition. They had a massive summer recruiting, I'm told, and they are going to give 2017 a real shake. Kevs have not been idle, it seems, with big Jamjars, Gavin Brown, and John Schultz (all with big league experience) strengthening the spine. Again, a real toss-up, but under lights, I can't see the Kevs getting up. Then again, under lights, I can't see much at all.
For the Xavs, it's a trip to the University. From all reports, the surface is in fine condition, which means the Red 'n' Blacks will be able to move the ball quickly. But Blues, with Tommy Girdwood leading the way, will be tough to toss. For some reason, they always are under the spires, and I can see a squeaker, with the outcome evident only late in the piece. While the Xaverian charge halted all too early last Saturday, the team seems ready to do the business tomorrow with a sustained performance.
It will be nice to see the Xavs in their red jackets tomorrow. It reminds me how just much red we have lost since Old Scotch were dismissed to B Section after all that time wishing and hoping for a premiership that never came. Still, as the Beatles (or was it the Turtles?) reminded us, "you can't always get what you want".