SEASONED CHIPS

I don't know about you, but I am becoming very confused with all these byes. There are plenty of reasons to play football, but this year it seems there are just as many NOT to play.

One bloke who won't be pulling on the boots this week is my old mate Ken Petrucco, who took a tumble on his way into the VAFA pre-game lunch at Frankston last week. (Yes, on the way in. Plenty took the same fall on the way out!).

I know young Kenny was busy planning the celebrations for his upcoming 500th game and has had to put those ideas on hold. A bit like those VAFA teams who organise tents, t-shirts and Weg posters before the GF and don't quite measure up on the day.

Anyway, Ken has had the snapped hip replaced and is currently in the hospital at Frankston. I spoke to him yesterday and he is in fine form. I'd begun to wonder whether the "hard man of the microphone" had mellowed, but I am sure now he hasn't. At all!

For those not named Ken or perhaps Dan Noonan, this week it is back to business to resume the normal hostilities and rivalries that have made the amateur game great.

The Old Xavs might be stinging from a late defeat at DLS, but I am still singing after a very delicious lunch in the Sallies' club house before the game. I have never seen so many heavily marked form guides (and empty wallets) in my life.

This week, for the Xavs, it's a matchup with Uni Blues, a team that has become one the Red 'n' Blacks great rivals, and the games between these two clubs are always loaded with spice.

I am sure Bill Denton will welcome the Blues hierarchy to Toorak Park. Unlike at the University ground, there is no presidential box, and people can sit anywhere. First come, first served is the rule of thumb at Orrong Road.

Now my memory tells me that Xavs have a fair record against these Blues at Toorak Park. Notwithstanding the loss last season, the Red and Blacks have beaten them regularly there in recent years. 

However, I do recall a Round 18 debacle in 2005, when the Uni team smashed the Xavs to smithereens. The scribe in the Amateur Footballer then famously wrote off Barry Richardson's team, which fell into fourth place. Blues, the reigning premier, disposed of Old Haileybury at the Old Trots Track in the second semi, while Xavs went out to Box Hill and were looking in all sorts of trouble against Old Scotch. Until ... well, the third term fightback was pleasant, but the nine goal final quarter was a thing to behold. Two weeks later, the Claret and Stout knocked over Blues in the big one. Apart from all the other rumblings over this occurrence, the said scribe went into hiding and drifted away from the Ammo scene.

But all that is history. This week sees the Blues in fine fettle, while Xavs have dropped two on the trot and the injuries continue to pile up. Those that aren't nursing broken bones and bruises are all likely overseas. This means the element of surprise will be working for Xavs. After Blues beat the Red and Blacks by twelve goals at the Uni earlier this year, they must go in favourites. Their recent form, with Tommy Girdwood, David Brady and Bernie Angel firing, has many teams worried. However, I have unbridled confidence that all will be right on the day. And if not, we may see them play again at the OTT in September. We will see, won't we.

Other games this week will sort out who's hot and who is not. My great friends at Old Trinity enjoyed two magnificent seasons, but without a flag, and now watch the Grasshoppers struggle most weeks. Personnel-wise, I am told they are still strong. This week, they greet St Kevin's, who have taken all before them. Yes, they were walloped by Collegians, but paid them back last round in convincing style. Kevs will just bang another nail in the Horned Frogs coffin.

Collegians are back home and meet Beaumaris. This would appear a cut and dried win to the Purples, unless some very strange things happen. The Baysiders have been in reasonable form without reaping any rewards and no-one expects them to be carrying any points on the trip home down the highway.

Uni Blacks are at home to Old Melburnians in a game that is important for both clubs. Blacks are still perilously close to the bottom, but somehow their form suggests they are on the incline. Melburnians have enjoyed another good season so far, including an unlucky loss to St Kevin's. The OMs should win, but I expect this to be decided late, and maybe even in favour of the Blacks. A real toss-up.

St Bart's travel to De La Salle, having beaten the Blue and Golds earlier this campaign. Don't bet on a repeat. There was something very professional about De La's performance against Xavs, doing enough at the right time, that suggests they might be headed for a strong run home. Bernie Sheehy certainly knows how to get it done.