TIPS FROM CHIPS

It seems that a few people are reading my column for the lowdown on amateur football, but I fear that most of them belong to other clubs. Interesting they don't have their own pundits! I would have thought they could find their own 140 year old former Latin master to teach today's young pups a thing or two.

Surprisingly, neither of the University clubs has some wise and learned Professor-Emeritus to call on for real advice, so the bigwigs at the Varsity apparently choose to read me instead. I know this because some have already been in touch.

Just last week I received a note from a former University player and coach. Let's call him the Greying Mantis. He had noted my thoughts on arrangements for statisticians at Uni Oval and explained that the particular space had always been reserved for the Blues President. A Royal Box, if you will, with only the Prez, his kids and his dogs able to use it for the year.

And to think that I used to believe that the U of M was, what some would call, an egalitarian institution (though others sharing my old-fashioned values might call it quasi-Marxist.)

Well, enough of Blues. They are travelling along nicely and their ground is still playable. This week, the Xavs get a visit from Blacks. I'm not sure they have the same presidential traditions, but it does have an enviable record of winning premierships.

I've heard some stalwarts from Uni Blacks boast "We are the greatest name in amateur football". Well, nearly. Melbourne University Blacks does have more letters than St Bart's Mentone Tigers, but not as many as University High School/Victoria University. So let's forget that line, shall we?  

Everyone knows that Blacks tumbled down the sections once I convinced graduating students at Xavier that they should indeed attend the university, but continue to play their football in red and black. In the early days, especially, there were so many Barkers Road alumni who played for the Blacks that their change-rooms looked like a Xavier reunion. Not so much these days. The OXFC can thank me (and seventy one premierships since 1938) for that change.

That Blacks pulled themselves back into A Section and won a flag in 2014 was a remarkable feat. The man in the black hat, Ray Wilson, worked tirelessly to bring them back. There were a few former Xavs around the place to help and we'll no doubt see the Battens and Costellos this week, cheering on the Blacks' team. We wish them well. Their place in Xavier football is secure and if they choose to explore other interests, well, good for them. 

How will Blacks fare this week? The rumour is that have won just once this campaign and given we are now nearly half-way, this doesn't augur too well for them. However, since their return to A Section a few years back, games between Blacks and Xavs have been interesting, to say the least. 

Last year at the Uni, Xavs looked like winning by twenty goals when someone flicked the "off" switch. Blacks romped home. Then at Toorak Park, Xavs were too good. The third contest was in the semi-final at the old Trots Track, and wasn't decided until the death when Mr Goss launched his own airline.

Given this week's match is at Toorak Park, the greatest name in afternoon tea, I believe that the Red 'n' Blacks will get the points and push the Blacks further into the mire. But it might be close. I am sure the Xaverian boys have been a little down over the past month, so it would be a fine time to lift eyes and hearts and have a big win before the Queen gives us all a weekend off.

Elsewhere around Melbourne, other clubs will clash and continue to shape the ladder. The Beaumarists have an interesting tussle with St Bart's, and the winner will be filled with confidence about extending their stay in the top flight. How does one pick a winner? The Tiges have been up and down, while the Sharks have been swimming in deep waters. Last week, they surfaced, attacked the Claret and Stout, but couldn't finish the job. I'm tempted to pick them at home, but their neighbours might just exploit a few weaknesses in their defence. Bart's by a whisker. Perhaps.

St Kevin's are seemingly back to their best after a big win last week, but their clashes with Old Melburnians in recent years have been very gritty affairs. The Dark Blues will give them a shake, but it's hard to see them winning under the wires.

Collegians had their big comedown last week, but face a very real challenge against Blues under the spires. At least the Lions have been warned not to set up their stats people in the Royal Box. So there's a start. The Purples arrive a better performer by about three goals a game, but Uni Oval has seen them fall from grace before, even in their strongest years. I'm also wary of the winning streak that is followed by a loss. Too often, that loss turns to two in a row. All things considered, I know this will be close, but I expect Collegians to edge their way to victory, despite the hard work of top defenders Tommy Girdwood and David Brady.

The Horned Frogs are on the big ground again, though it did them no favours at all last week. In march De La Salle, with coach Bernie Sheehy's team in ripping form. Well, they did win against the top team last week, despite losing the previous week against St Bart's, who are near the bottom. This really is a super-critical game for the Grasshoppers. I know many have written them off, called them stale, said that their window is closed, but I believe there's some flame in the old Hedgeburners yet. Until the Bellers start stringing wins together, I just can't trust them. Maybe this is the one they need. But maybe they won't get it. I suspect they will fall short.

Finally, I'm still very much cheering for the mighty WOX in their first season. They play the University on Sunday and we're hoping for a win. No doubt there I will bump in to the Greying Mantis, the newly appointed Women's Representative Coach. There are quite a number of our girls who would look very much at home in the Big V in July.