Old Xaverians ventured to Bulleen yesterday for a four game set to begin the schedule of 2018 practice matches.
With a forecast of 32 degrees and strong northerlies, the sunscreen came out early. So did the Women, with Francine Moodie taking charge of the WOX in a battle with the Kew Bears, coached by old friend Theo Vlahos.
Enthusiasm for the contest was evident from the first bounce, and the Xavs rediscovered their skills immediately. Down a few star players courtesy of VFL raids and other inconveniences, the Red and Blacks performed well against a more seasoned team.
Coach Moodie was delighted with the performance and has identified some minor shortcomings that will be ironed out on the training track.
Sam Shaw's premiership U19s took the field against a rather depleted Northcote Park. The result was never in doubt, but of course, the scoreboard is usually surplus to requirements before April. Nonetheless, Sam and his panel would have been delighted at the efforts of his players returning plus a talented new group of inductees.
"It's good to see some of these new fellas in action," Shaw said. "We've seen them on the track, but one never knows until we see them in a contested situation. We know more now, and we'll know more in the next few weeks."
Seasoned observers had plenty to smile about, with last year's finals heroes Dalbosco, Socchi and Stanley again looking sharp, but they had plenty of mates.
James Woods and Nick Pepperell had their first time with the clipboard as the Reserves were too strong for their NFL counterparts. The further the game went, the better the Xavs were, as evident with their start to the final term, in which they scored 4.1 before the Parks touched the ball and then added another goals after just two possessions from the northerners.
James McDonald had a good first look at some of his 2018 squad. Merlo, Trigar, Milhuisen and Holmes all contributed to a solid team win. But for a brief period in the second term, Xavs controlled the game and played it on their own terms. They held Northcote Park to just three goals on the afternoon. One of the stars in defence was Milky Forrest, who kicked plenty of goals in Murray Browne's team last season, but took to the backline like a duck to water. Paddy Phillips also impressed up forward.
It was a strong showing, but no-one is underestimating the challenge of breaking through a very tough top four clubs, all of which promise to be stronger this season. Two more strong pre-season performances should have see them on their way.
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