1s: MATTS SHARE NINE AS D TAMES LIONS
It's September, it's Spring, and the finals for the Reserves, Thirds and U23s begin next weekend. The Seniors are assigned a support role for the next three weeks, but some brilliant form at Toorak Park this afternoon gladdened Xaverian hearts. April is just around the corner . . .
THE JOY RETURNS
Old Xaverians farewelled the 2017 season with 57 point crushing of Collegians, robbing the wounded Lions of second seed for next week's semi-finals. For the third time in four years, the Red 'n' Blacks will not participate in the Premier play-offs, finishing in fifth position with nine and a half wins.
Their early departure from September action had looked likely for most of the season's second half and was sealed last week. The disappointment was barely evident yesterday, as the Claret and Stout rediscovered the joy of football, and looked a better team than they had since the first three terms of the Round 5 contest at TH King.
That's what happens when the midfield performs, the defence stays tight and the forward line converts its opportunities. But it is easier said than done. Old Xaverians remain a target for all teams and as happy as the game can be, there are hard times too. This team saw plenty of those: the premature retirement of Tim Dynon, the late pounding at St Kevin's, the nasty injuries to Skene, Marc Johnston and Noonan, and the two drubbings at Uni Oval. Many will remember the year without affection, though they will surely note in future years that it yielded some generous legacies. Those assessments can wait a while.
Round 18 performances by also-rans can raise questions about what might have been, and this was certainly one of those. Xavs were out of the blocks early, untroubled by the breeze and unfazed by the contest. The bright start faded mid first-term and one could almost hear the Xavs faithful thinking "Not again". Rightfully so. Too often this season, the Red 'n' Blacks have looked dangerous until the other team pushed back. But yesterday, though Collegians worked their way through an early mess and took the lead by quarter time, the reigning premier, now stripped of its ability to defend its title, responded with grit and excitement. An eight goal second term virtually sealed the deal.
It was a total team performance, and while offensive output dropped a little after the epic second quarter blast, the defensive unit tightened their grip and took over completely. There was run, quick ball movement and exciting team play, as several players returned to their best. Matt Margin, mercurial as he is, proved a strong target, while Denis Symeopoulos, Hayden Troiani and Clay Johnston were very effective in the front half. When challenged, Dan Noonan Nick Wynne and Loius Tiernan were more than up to to their tasks.
Matthew Handley was again outstanding, completing a season of which he can be very proud. In truth, that is nothing new. In twelve seasons of senior football, the Colossus has had some tough afternoons, but his spirit and love of the contest has never waned. His forty-four goals for the year was a splendid return when one considers he spent significant game time away from the goalfront, rucking and even defending. His effort yesterday underlined his value, though none of us really needed reminding.
His six goals was enough for him to grab a share of the VAFA Goalkicking Award. Post -game, he was asked about next season and his response was short and unequivocal: "What else am I going to do with my life?".
The once-blond bombshell is the perfect exemplar of the Teddy Roosevelt creed: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." And next season's opponents can surely expect some more canings.
Not continuing next year at senior level, according to their post-game announcements, are the defensive duo Murphy Ambrose and Nick Serafini.
The former cited that work responsibilities will bring the curtain down on his football life. He came late to the Red 'n' Blacks, was plagued by injuries and then went elsewhere.
Murph returned this year to play 17 games, taking his career tally to just 44. He was a premiership player in 2013 and was a Big V representative that year.
His toughness and skills were never in question, and the fans, as well as teammates, will be sorry to see him go.
Serafini had an early stint at Port Melbourne, arrived at Old Xavs and promptly badly injured a knee. Sadly, it wasn't the last time he was visited by injury. He played a season elsewhere and then went overseas for four years.
He returned last year with impact, Beginning his season in the Menages, he was briefly in the Reserves before returning to the seniors mid last year, when he gave an immediate lift to a team that was struggling. After doing so much to get the team to the finals, he was again injured and cruelly missed the finals.
That the 2007 Jock Nelson Medallist and multiple premiership player managed just over a hundred games over fifteen years will surprise many. From his earliest days, he was a fan favourite. His ability to glide over even the wettest and muddy surfaces like a hovercraft, dashing here, darting there, turning defence into attack, still amazes.
If Serafini thinks he's done, there are plenty who don't share his view. Still, Premier football is a hard grind. So if this the end, we will remember him with affection reserved for just a few. The Toorak Park faithful have seen plenty of brilliant players, but surely only Tim Ockleshaw was as pretty to watch.
Others will surely depart this summer, if the whispers are correct. Incoming Football Director Murray Browne will know there is plenty of work to do on retention as well as recruiting. Without finals to contemplate, many eyes are already fixed on 2018.
Old Xaverians 3.1-19 11.4-70 13.6-84 16.8-104
Collegians 3.4-22 5.7-37 5.8-38 6.11-47
Goal Kickers: M. Handley 6, M. Margin 3, D. Symeopoulos 2, J. Barrack, C. Johnston, T. Gilbert, H. Troiani, T. Johnston
Best Players: M. Handley, D. Noonan, N. Wynne, T. Williams, M. Ambrose, N. Serafini
2s: BROWNIES POUND PURPLES
Colls fought back in the second term, but the resistance didn't last. The Milkman delivered again as the accurate Xavs warmed up for next week's second semi-final against Uni Blues, who kicked a ridiculous 31 goals with 15 players drawing twin calicos.
Old Xaverians 6.1-37 8.2-50 12.2-74 20.3-123
Collegians 0.1-1 5.4-34 7.4-46 8.6-54
Goal Kickers: J. Forrest 7, L. Keith 3, E. Lachal 2, H. Nidam 2, H. Morris, M. Smith, S. Knox, J. Samartzis, L. Denton, J. Kelliher
Best Players: L. Keith, H. Morris, J. Kelliher, B. Plant, J. Forrest, L. Denton
3s: MENAGES EDGE SKOB
A scoring attempt after the bell did not come off and top-ranked SKOB fell to the Menages. The Xavs faced a lemon time deficit, but took back the lead in the final term, and survived some anxious moments in the last term to the points.
Old Xaverians Black 3.4-22 3.5-23 4.7-31 8.10-58
St Kevins OB Gold 0.2-2 3.5-23 7.5-47 8.9-57
Best Players: A. Sorrenti, H. Sleeman, F. Lane, J. Sleeman, M. Skene, M. Galbraith
U23: HEALY'S HEROES STUN SHARKS
Big Beaver Cleeve dominated as the U23s sent Beaumaris home empty handed.
Coach Healy reports:
Due to highly unusual fixturing, the OX Reds played Beaumaris twice in succession to complete the home and away season.
In R17, we made the long trip south and fronted up for an early game against a team that had shown improved form in recent weeks !!
As I discussed with their coach later, quite a number of their reserves players have been part of the thirds team in recent weeks and the team that we fronted up to at Beauy was capable and aggressive.
They snagged four goals in the opening quarter and remained formidable over the entire four quarters though the longer the game went, the more dominance in possession we had.
Having missed some very easy goals in the first half, we proceeded to kick eleven behinds straight after half-time, some were the worst misses you’d ever see though the cross-breeze was somewhat tricky.
Even our most accurate kicks got the disease as the game wore on, and it was good to emerge with a win and sew up a top-two spot for the upcoming finals.
Silk and Cookesley were the stars of the show while Kelly was prolific though unusually, not even he had his kicking boots on !
So a week passed and we were back at it at Straddie for R18 – this time Beaumaris had beefed up its reserves and we struck the Beauy team that has struggled to compete for much of the season.
Richards and Kennedy beefed up the line-up for us with our regular leaders rested and Beaton, D.Prowse, Silk and Samartzis in the 2’s.
Van derKley and Curtis were good in the ruck and both know that it’s a cut-throat battle for that spot in the finals.
Charlie Wilson hit some 2016 Grand Final form while Teddy Watkin and Lucas O’Sullivan continued their pleasing improvement.
Sam Cleeve played a blinder deep forward and on-ball (not about time!) while Boots and Bueno were good up back and Coffey and Keramitsis dangerous up forward !
Super-Coach Weapon said he was pleased with the effort and hoped it would be a solid pathway into the finals starting next Saturday at Sandringham.
A big three weeks ahead with two OX teams and two St Kevin’s teams.
Hopefully OX can prevail this weekend with the Reds playing on Saturday in the 2nd semi against SK Gold and the Menages meeting the younger SK Green in a cut-throat 1st semi on Sunday. Good luck to Paddy’s boys !
Old Xaverians Red 5.3-33 8.9-57 13.11-89 17.17-119
Beaumaris 1.0-6 1.1-7 1.3-9 1.5-11
Goal Kickers: S. Cleeve 4, M. Coffey 4, C. Kennedy 2, F. Keramitsis 2, B. Vaughan 2, P. Nunan, E. Watkin, S. Vanderkley
Best Players: S. Cleeve, C. Wilson, M. Coffey, F. Keramitsis, T. Boots, B. Steedman