SHAW THINGS, PAT's PUPS CHALICE AT BOX HILL.
Pups put down SKOB challenge and then Shaw Things steam home to snatch it from under Scotch noses.
The 10 year reunion is only a decade away.
SHAW THINGS SURGE LATE AND SHATTER SCOTCH HEARTS
There is a tide in the affairs of men, Shakespeare reminded us, and the big wave rolled in for the Red 'n' Blacks, right on cue.
Old Xaverians are again the top dogs in the VAFA U19 competition after they belatedly rediscovered their true selves and clambered all over Old Scotch in a gripping finish at Box Hill this afternoon.
For much of the afternoon, the Cardinals seemed assured of their first-ever title at this level. It was their sixth time at the U19 Premier big dance since their maiden appearance in 1954. Their minor premiership, their home and away dominance over the Claret and Stout, and their strong performance in the second semi-final must all have raised Caledonian hopes of silverware. Their first half today certainly did nothing to douse that flame. But as the bard warned "we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures". And the Red Men did not.
The proceedings began under cloudy skies, with the light breeze blowing across the expanse. There was conjecture among the amateur meteorologists on the mound as to which was the preferred end, but in the early going, it didn't seem to matter. From the opening bounce, both sides tested the will of their opponents. Tom Simmons and Ed Ralph kicked truly, but the Xavs' avenues to goal dried up as adjustments were made and the favourites worked their way back, taking a two point lead to the first change.
A Ben Scala goal put the X-Men back in front, but that advantage disappeared as Old Scotch took control. Lucas Agnoletto added another late in the term, but the Red Men went to the long break leading by nine points. It should have been more.
Those who were in the Box Hill locker at half-time in the corresponding fixture last year might recall coach Sam Shaw's simple message. "I don't want you to play any harder, I want you to play smarter," he told his 2017 vintage. Today's half-time rev was indeed less succinct and quite a deal less laudatory. He blew a few poisoned darts at individuals and then shotgunned a spray at the team.
Xavs lifted their intensity in the third term, but the rain began to fall, making conditions slippery. The Red Men went forward and missed a couple, but then in the seventh minute, they punched through their sixth goal. They led by seventeen points. What followed was attack and counter-attack, but both defences held tight. There was plenty of work for the boundary umpires, but none for the flag wavers.
At eighteen minutes, Scotch broke clear, but could add just a minor score to their tally. We often hear watchers speak of a "handy point" and this wayward shot reset the margin at an even three goals. But this was the moment that turned the game. Xavs strung together a series of footpasses that sent the Sherrin scurrying along the grandstand wing. It stopped only momentarily in the arms of Jordan Troiani, long enough for 'Arzani' to wheel onto his favoured left and kick high to the hotspot. Agnoletto had one to beat and he applied the physical pressure at exactly the right moment. He marked and kicked truly. Coast to coast, the best passage of play all afternoon. Back to two goals. The surf was up, though the right wave was yet to present.
If Coach Shaw's half-time address had displayed more muscle than measure, the faithful sensed his calmer lemon-time address laid out the clear path ahead. "Shackles off, take risks and damn the consequences". Those meteorologists who had failed to find consensus earlier suddenly all agreed that the wind was blowing stronger and from the south, meaning Scotch had any assistance on offer. That, and an eleven point lead. With the immortal words of former Crocodiles mentor Scott "Scooter" Denison "Now is not the time to panic" ringing in the minds of many seasoned observers, the men they had come to support calmly prepared their final assault.
One of these was Lucas Soccio. A year ago, he stunned Beaumaris in both the second semi and grand final with his marking, kicking and impersonations of a wrecking ball. Since then, he has played senior football with great relish, and returned to the U19s in time to help save the first semi-final and torture De La Salle in the preliminary. Today, however, had not been his day. The coach had taken a piece out of him at the half, and as the three quarter time huddle broke, his mother hopped in for her own admonishment. Pointing a finger (with some intent) into his chest, she urged him several times to "get in there".
He did just that, snapping a goal at five minutes to bring the crowd to life. The wave was beginning to build. Seven minutes later, Socchio put the X-Men in front. His desperate lunge at the ball in the goalsquare might have brought another, but an opponent's swan dive into his back went unpunished. Then he barged through a pack, copped several high tackles, only for the man in lime to ping him for holding the ball. "You ducked," claimed the arbiter, offering a Serena-class justification. But the Sotch was getting in there, alright! Apparently, he always does as his mother tells him.
But the first wave was a dumper, as Scotch raced forward and scored a goal on the a crucial defensive error. As it transpired, that was about it for the Red Men as far as purposeful forward forays went. The Red and Black defence slammed shut again, but the Cards' back six was holding firm too. Scotch scavenged a couple of minors, and Xavs matched the output. Surely it had become "next goal wins", though there was a good chance the game might end without another. Inl the 24th minute, deep into time-on, Ed Ralph put the Claret and Stout back in front, by a mere two points. Three minutes later, Angus Sheedy slid through the Xaverians' ninth as the Shaw Things rode that breaker all the way to the shore.
Nine points was the margin and the Old Xaverians, now back-to-back winners for the first time since 1998-99, secured their eleventh U19 Premier title. In the locker-room, Coach Shaw, again with a smile on his face, observed that the atmosphere had changed a bit since half-time. It surely had in the other locker room too.
Old Scotch 2.2-14 5.5-35 6.9-45 7.11-53
Old Xaverians 2.0-12 4.2-26 5.4-34 9.8-62
Goal Kickers: L. Agnoletto 2, L. Soccio 2, E. Ralph 2, T. Simmons, A. Sheedy, B. Scala
Best Players: J. Dalbosco, L. Soccio, T. Hart, A. Sheedy, L. Agnoletto, J. Hess
And these from Sarah Hess . . .
U19 PREMIER RESERVES
HUNGRY PAT'S PUPS LICK SKOB DISH DRY
Since its move to TH King a few years back, St Kevin’s has emerged as a latter day power. Their strength is matched by their depth, and from seniors through to juniors, and in the women’s competitions as well, they are proving capable and dangerous opponents.
Their preliminary final win at Box Hill last week had been emphatic. A thirty-two to twelve shot domination of Old Scotch cemented their flag favouritism.
Old Xaverians, badly beaten twice by the Kevins under the wires during the last half of the home and away season, was a solid underdog.
Not that it mattered. Bookmakers’ markets change quickly once battle is joined and the Claret and Stout don’t want for confidence once the calendar rolls to September.
The Pups were on the board first through Dan Amicucci and then Adam MacIsaac slipped through the Xavs’ second. SKOB’s first quarter response was a mere three points, and with the Red ‘n’ Blacks controlling tempo, they went to the first break with a two-goal lead.
SKOB was gifted a goal in the second, but it was the only time they split the sticks. Pat’s Pups got another two from MacIsaac and one from Jono Catania. In the rooms at half-time, there was a renewed commitment to the task at hand.
The third term saw the Kevins swing into their work. While MacIsaac again struck twice and Catania booted his second, SKOB slotted four, with two of them coming in time-on. Momentum had not perhaps swung, but it had shifted and they went to the lemons with the margin just 17 points.
The Blood and Tars, however, weren’t about to bypass the opportunity at a premiership. Catania kicked an early one in the last and then MacIsaac snagged his sixth. The defence stayed tight, conceding just one goal, and Catania answered immediately with his fourth. Ten minutes later, the siren sounded and the flag was theirs.
The season's conclusion was a triumph for Pat Allan and his team. Relied upon heavily to provide back-up for the Shaw Things throughout the season, the Pups somehow found new players and new ways to win the games they needed to stay in the finals’ race. Other clubs faltered and forfeited through the winter, but with a few exceptions, this team kept winning. And when things finally settled, they disposed of their finals’ opponents in style.
It was the Xavs’ second premiership at this level, its first since 2011. These young men are perhaps not yet fully versed in Old Xaverians history, but they nonetheless secured the club’s 75th overall title. Few of them have elicited more pride from the long-time Titans of the Terraces. That the Pups toppled SKOB detracted none from their achievement.
Old Xaverians 2.3-15 5.7-37 8.9-57 11.9-75
St Kevins 0.3-3 1.6-12 5.10-40 6.11-47
Goal Kickers: A. MacIsaac 6, J. Catania 4, D. Amicucci
Best Players: D. Amicucci, A. MacIsaac, H. Willems, J. Catania, C. Connors