The 2020 AGM is now in the rear-view mirror and it's on to 2021.
Finals are an important part of any season and happily, Old Xaverians can look back on fondness at many successful conclusions. Every team likes to win the minor premiership, win the second semi, then come back two weeks later to win the flag. That’s the ‘easy’ route, though in reality, it’s never easy. The ‘hard’ way is taking advantage of the double chance and pulling an upset.
The ‘hardest’ way, of course, is to win three finals in a row from third or fourth position. This century, only one club has done that in Premier Section and it might come as no surprise to learn that club is Old Xaverians. The Xavs did it a second time in 2016, just to prove it was no fluke.
But the first time . . . what a ride it was. Let’s recall season 2005 in some glorious detail.
In 2005, Old Xaverians were looking to restore some order to the VAFA world.
The Red ‘n’ Blacks had followed their 2003 premiership with an 8-8 season in 2004, missing the finals for the first time since 1992.
There was change at the top, with Simon Hunt assuming the presidency and Barry Richardson was back at the coaching helm after a decade away, replacing Michael Sholly, who had joined the VAFA.
The season began with a loss but by the half-way mark, Xavs at 7-2 held first spot on percentage from Uni Blues. Old Haileybury and Marcellin, each 6-3, made up the top four.
The Red ‘n’ Blacks stalled in July. After three narrow victories, the wheels fell off. As the finals approached, things seemed grim and two home losses to close the home and away underlined this.
Xavs went down by a goal when Old Trinity made a desperate late lunge for A Section in R17, then were on the wrong end of a 13-goal smashing at the hands of Uni Blues.
One win from the last five. Double chance gone. Welcome to 12-6 and fourth spot.
Both semi-finals were played on the same day.
Uni Blues walloped Old Haileybury at Elsternwick in the second semi-final.
Jonathan Horn wrote in the Amateur Footballer
Umm, yeah, not a bad team the Blues hey? I'd be interested to know how people rate that performance on Sunday against other amateur teams in history because I've certainly never seen a VAFA side play better. Just like last year's finals games against St Bernard's, Uni's ability to utilise the wide spaces of Sportscover Arena was unprecedented; every forward thrust seemed to emanate from a chain of half a dozen handballs, some relentless running and pinpoint disposal. Jim Scambler calmly dobbing four goals from outside 60 as if they were kicks at training was the standout while their defenders North, McKinnon and Hayter (who was belted early but came back in style) didn't give Haileybury a sniff.
OLD HAILEYBURY 3.1 3.3 6.7 12.8 (80)
UNIVERSITY BLUES 5.3 10.9 16 .11 23.13 (151)
Goals: Bourke 3 Ford 3 Walden 2 Siapantis Barker Jones Seccull.
Best: Seccull Walden Trollope Armstrong O'Donnell Ford
Goals: Scambler 5 de Crespigney 3 Clark 2 Lowcock 2 McKinnon 2 Gleeson Ryan Torney Wilcox Muhlebach Paterson Rankin Wilkie Heinz.
Best: North Lowcock Scambler Gleeson Wilkie Solly
4 Sep 05
Consider if you will, the hand-stitched kangaroo hide wallet of one Peter Rhoden (left). On any day, this esteemed Old Xavs Life Member will happily produce it, withdraw some hard-earned and buy you a beverage.
And on nights like this, he will tell you about something else that also lives in his pocketbook. It is a small piece of paper, brown at the edges, and rather fragile. It never comes out, but I am assured that safely tucked away there is a newspaper clip from long ago.
It is the box score of a game that occurred in September 1959, when Old Scotch defeated the Xavs in a final. It hasn't happened since. Rhoden’s clip reminds him that it actually happened, despite eight subsequent reversals and a hoodoo that has lasted 46 years. But Rhoden believes it might somehow happen again.
Not this year, it won't . . .
For today at Box Hill the hitherto-out-of-form and non-rated Red 'n' Blacks have prevailed, again finishing the Cardinals' season. It was stunning performance from the Xavs, not without similarity to the 2003 preliminary victory over the same opponent.
Rain and cloud stayed away but the crowds didn't, drawn to these unfamiliar but pleasant environs with the promise of an Old Firm doubleheader. The curtain-raiser promised much for the top-ranked Xavs but delivered little other than a comprehensive spanking.
The chirpiness wafting in the light breeze from the terraces to the mound indicated that the scions of Kooyong expected same in the main event, but a tight opening where both teams shadow-boxed and defence reigned supreme put paid to that confidence. The game ticked into time-on in the first without a major on the board, but the Cardinals broke the duck with two late ones at the Doncaster end.
So often, too often, these past months have the Xavs surrendered the early ascendancy and struggled thereafter. But this thirteen-point quarter-time deficit was cause for no concern as the Red 'n' Blacks would be zipping with the zephyr in the second.
The half-time assessment was not as rosy. Despite possession almost equally shared, the Presbyters used the ball better and marginally increased their lead and strode off at the half with reason to be confident.
In the rooms, Barry Richardson again stated his confidence in his charges. He asked the Xavs to take it to another level. But the first fifteen minutes of the third quarter saw Scotch glide out to a lead in excess of four goals. They were staring a Preliminary Final in the face, but minutes later, they appeared rather to be looking a gift horse in the mouth.
For the final ten or so minutes of the third, the Red 'n' Blacks played the better football and inched closer. The lemon-time siren staunched the Xavs momentum and they trailed by 20 points with a quarter to play.
The huddles formed sixty metres from each other but the vibe from the two was galaxies apart. Richardson asked for the relentless gut-busting run and attack on body and ball that has characterised the great Xavs' team of the last decade.
Scotch mentor Dale Tapping, ten years ago a Xavs' premiership player under Richardson, told his players they had to put the past behind them, they had to move forward as a club, and there had never been a better opportunity to do so.
The final stanza began. Someone woke up the echoes. And shook down the thunder from the sky. That someone was the ever-brave veteran Scott Mollard, who went from defence to attack and provided an immediate spark.
There was a flurry of activity and suddenly the Xavs put it together perfectly like a mathematician discovering the secret to Rubik's Cube. The Xavs erased the deficit and went ahead. The Magi of the Mound looked at each other and wondered aloud about possibilities. Just what could be expected from a team that hadn't won by more than a goal since Round 10?
Simon Lethlean gave them a clue with a Jarman special, a frozen rope that split the centre from fifty. Scotch responded with a miss from point-blank range and hung their heads.
Then the deluge!
Seventeen scores to one for the term tells the story of the domination, as Scotch were put in the stocks for all to see - then hung, drawn and quartered - butchered to make another Xaverian holiday.
The Xavs found form in the nick of time and had some outstanding players wearing the famed jumper. Purss and Sapuppo dominated the ruck, Oswald and Bingham were outstanding defenders, while McDonald, Beetham, Lethlean, Arnold and Beardsley were in it all day. But individual honours have never much interested the Red 'n' Blacks, who play for each other and for premierships. Old Haileybury awaits, no doubt stung by today's defeat at the hands of the Blues.
The Cardinals can certainly take heart from their fine effort in the 2s and may have discovered some players with big futures. Of course, this is of little consolation to its current senior coach and eighteen, who again have the chance to get out the golf clubs well in advance of Footy's Big Day Out.
OLD SCOTCH 2.3 5.4 7.6 7.7 (49)
OLD XAVERIANS 0.2 2.4 4.8 13.16 (94)
Goals: Lynch 2 Pasceri 2 Agius 2 Lethlean McDonald Bowen Mollard Chatfield Ockleshaw Beetham.
Best: McDonald Oswald Lethlean Arnold Beetham Chatfield.
Old Haileybury had twice been defeated by the Red ‘n’ Blacks in the home and away season and while their loss to Uni Blues was no shock given the quality of the reigning premier, the margin was a reminder that John Kanis’ team were firm favourites to repeat.
Still, the Bloods were the minor premier and boasted a strong and experienced lineup too.
It proved to be a brilliant contest.
11 Sep 05
Haileybury hero Matt Armstrong trudged from the field, 300 games and a career in the bag. How he would have loved one more crack at it. And but for thirteen seconds that changed his life and gutted his team-mates, the decorated veteran would have been lining up to hear Julie Anthony next Sunday.
But football can be cruel and the little battler joined a long list of toilers whose dreams have been snuffed out over the years by the Red 'n' Blacks.
The formal grab goes like this. Xaverians beat Haileybury by 2 points at Elsternwick Park this afternoon, advancing to their ninth Grand Final in eleven tries.
The expanded version features stories of an even game in tough conditions, with the quarter time advantage to the Bloods being the biggest of the afternoon. Then a topsy-turvy final stanza dominated by the Xavs that featured some amazing goal kicking from the Bloods that gave them the game . . . until one Timothy Ockleshaw unloaded a ten-metre handball through traffic to Andy Bowen fifty out, who looked up to see Damian Lynch retreating to the square. Bowen has fine disposal and this one sliced into the wind. The big man grabbed the mark just a few yards out. The Xavs trailed by four points.
The clock stopped and Haileybury's world fell in. Lynch went back behind his mark to take his first kick of the afternoon. Runner Dan Richardson wiped the water from the pigskin. The time clock atop the Sportscover Arena scoreboard read 31.48.
Then, all at once, the Sherrin was suspended in mid-air, sailing between the uprights. and heading for the roof of the Elsternwick Hotel. The final siren seconds later sounded as sweet as the Halleluiah Chorus, as pandemonium gripped the faithful.
And so it is that the Xavs are off to the dance again, weeks after being written off by most pundits covering the greatest competition on earth. The Red 'n' Blacks have discovered their mojo and they are playing with relish.
One more game to go and it's the one the Xavs really want - a chance to meet, and to beat, the reigning premier. And the forecaster says Sunday will be cool to cold, with rain, but would you rather be indoors on Sundays in September? No way, Jose!
OLD HAILEYBURY 3.4 4.5 7.9 10.10 (70)
OLD XAVERIANS 0.2 4.6 6.10 10.12 (72)
Goals: Pasceri 3, Bowen 2, Colbert 2, Arnold, Beardsley, Lynch
Best: McDonald, Bowen, Ruyg, Colbert, Arnold, Beardsley
Unless you're affiliated with the Old Xaverians, the name Kevin O'Shaughnessy probably doesn't mean that much to you. the guy who guided the Xavier College school side to consecutive premierships dating back to the invention of the wheel.
Later, he moved on to an executive role at the Old Xaverians and helped oversee their reign of flags in A Section. As the boys in Red & Black face their stiffest test to date, it's worth considering just what O'Shaughnessy and Old Xavs players in general are capable of.
You only have to look at last week's extraordinary win over Haileybury to realise that this is a side you write off at your peril. The majority of their players played under what the Xavs website calls the "sage-like guidance of the Yoda of the APS"(O'Shaughnessy) at Xavier and know what it takes to rack up premierships.
Ford, Ockleshaw, Woodruff, Lynch, Purss, Beetham and many others went to Xavier and play that brand of football which characterises their school sides, their Old Boys sides and even the blokes who kick on to AFL. Set your game around a dominant ruckman. Flick the ball out to your key runner out the back of the pack. Chuck a couple of guns on a back flank and give them a license to run. Make sure your players get in the gym and are physically bigger than the opposition. Protect your gun on-ballers with blocks. And discipline. Xavier sides are always disciplined. One up one down, punch from behind, don't get sucked in, don't lairise. Simple stuff, but it makes a difference. More than anything, they know how to win finals and prove everyone wrong.
In 1996, I played against them when they had won just two from eleven and were staring relegation square in the face. Dom Berry swaggered onto the field looking like Marlon Brando. We thought they were a complete and utter joke. Two months later, they were premiers.
In at least three of their Grand Final wins, they went in as underdogs while many of their key finals victories have been upsets.
Of course. several of the stars of this side didn't go to the school at all. They have picked up three absolute gems from Ballarat: Tim Clarke, Travis Ruyg and Mike Beardsley. Anthony McDonald, who is probably the in-form player in the competition at the moment, is himself from the famous breeding ground of St Pat’s Ballarat and returned to the Xavs after a successful career at Melbourne. Adam Chatfield came via Geelong and Pennant Hills in NSW. Justin Arnold crossed over from the Diamond Vallev. Simon Lethlean from Camberwell Grammar. But they all play that familiar brand of football.
But Xavs, we have a problem... Could I talk up the Xavs any more?!
Well, it's time to execute a Crazy Ivan, shift course and introduce the team in the Blue corner. Everyone I've spoken to this week, many of whom have been watching Amateur football for decades, say Uni Blues are the best VAFA side they have ever seen.
You certainly wouldn't know it by looking at them. Most of their players look like the sort of guys you'd sit next to in a Uni lecture hall, en route to Naughton 's for a couple of Aamir Sohails.
And they are pretty much unknown outside amateur circles; while Xavs have almost a dozen players who have been on AFL or VFL lists, the Blues are decidedly more low key. Ross Young, their star of 2004, crossed over from playing social footy for the Uni colleges. Mark Paterson, their star of 2005, was coaxed into joining the club by a mate who used to pump weights with him at the Melbourne Uni gym. They have a deliberate policy of not playing ex AFL players. They barely have a player over 6foot. Their coach sits in the box cracking gags.
Only when they run the length of the field with a chain of a dozen handballs does it hit home just how good this team is.
Only rain can save the Xavs.
Mike Larkam from Channel 10 (in a chicken suit I believe) and Dermott Brereton from the Today program (words fail me, Derm) have both been down to Sportscover Arena during the week and forecast rain for Sunday. If it pelts down and the ground turns into a quagmire, Uni's runners will be bogged down and Xavs will turn it into a war of attrition. If it's dry, write your own ticket.
Any other year, against any other team, I would go for the Xaverians.
14 Sep 05
U B – Uni Blues, un-backable, and, if you believe the noisier fans of Amateur football, un-beatable.
But to ascend the dais again, the Blues must not only carry an expectation heavier than the 10 stone 10 pounds carried by Phar Lap when he tried to go back-to-back in the 1931 Melbourne Cup, but they must best again the club that has owned Elsternwick Park for a decade.
It’s no secret that the Xavs play road games with the zeal of a weekend parolee on a conjugal visit, while their performance in home games this season resembled cracking rocks in the prison yard.
And what better road venue than Elsternwick Park, where the VAFA administration has ordered at least red and black premiership pennant for more years than they can remember, where they keep a supply of trophies already engraved with the letters OXFC, and where ‘Wick Burgers have been renamed after the Xavs, recognising their relish for glory as well as their predilection for the big warm bun and huge hunk of meat.
Cold, windswept Elsternwick – but for those who suit up on the penultimate Saturday in September, the Field of Dreams.
In the blue corner, last year’s premiership coach John Kanis and a team with more guns than Dirty Harry movie. His team finished second in the home and away season with a 13-5 record. They dropped both games to Scotch (once at HQ), and lost to Xavs, Marcellin and Haileybury at home.
In the red corner, 1995 premiership coach Barry Richardson, and a team of never-say-dies. Their 12-6 regular season contained an inordinate number of close games. They lost to Scotch at Camberwell, and to St Bernard’s, OMs, Marcellin, Trinity and Uni Blues at home.
The Blues smashed Haileybury in the 2nd Semi and have had the week off. The Xavs melted Scotch in the 1st semi, and somehow clawed their way over the Bloods last week in the Prelim.
The Preliminary Final is the circuitous route, but the Red ‘n’ Blacks have won it from there on three occasions in the past decade. Few but the faithful believe they can do it again.
However, in the four years where both Blues and Xavs have been in the A Section finals, the Red ‘n’ Blacks have finished higher than the Students. Most famously, these two met a decade ago in the Grand Final, with the Xavs crunching their way to their first of a record six consecutive flags.
And the Xavs won their first-ever senior premiership when it took out the Blues in the C Section GF in 1938.
True football fans should forgo the sterility of footy’s professional circuit, with its over-bearing administrators with big opinions and bigger mouths, its chatty over-paid arbiters in coloured clothes who don’t know the rules, and media egos that have somehow become larger than the game itself.
Get along this Sunday at the ‘Wick, where playing for the love of the game, for love of club, for love of winning, will all be self-evident to all who watch this real football, this ludus populi, played in the best spirit by two of the VAFA’s elite clubs.
Xavs won the marbles in 2003, and the Varsity got the chocolates last season.
Sunday’s story is yet to be written, but it will be another exciting chapter of the greatest football league in the world.
The selectors made two changes, albeit with heavy hearts, with the returning Scott Mollard and Tim Clarke squeezing out the well-performed and in-form Josh Agius and John Pasceri.
B: Simon Lethlean, Andrew Oswald, Nathan Bingham
HB: Sam Johnston, Sam Freer, Lachlan Ford (c)
C: Adam Chatfield, Anthony McDonald, James Scanlan
HF: Travis Ruyg, Andrew Bowen, Tim Ockleshaw
F: Tim Clarke, Damian Lynch, Ryan Colbert
Foll: Cameron Purss, Caydn Beetham, Justin Arnold
Int: Scott Mollard, Nick Serafini, Mike Beardsley, David Sapuppo
19 Sep 05
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden - Bob Dylan
The Xaverians are once again champions and it is for others to read and weep. This mighty club has been no stranger to silverware this past decade, but with each passing year they lift the bar and achieve something no-one else has - or could.
Try this on for size. It's 4:45 pm on Saturday 27 August and the Red 'n' Blacks have been smashed at Toorak by University Blues to the tune of 79 points. The Xavs throw away the double chance and Varsity crawls into second spot courtesy of a Scotch brain-fade against OMs.
It is then, in the Toorak Park cone of silence that Barry Richardson scratches his head, his chin, looks at his charges and gives them one of the great all-time verbal serves. But instead of shamed silence, one speaks up to reassure the coach that all the misery is behind him.
So a week later, the Xavs truck out to Box Hill to meet the Cardinals, having not won a game by more than a goal since Round 10. They take their time about it, but smash Scotch to smithereens with a pulsating final quarter that yields 17 shots at goal.
Next up, the minor premier Haileybury. Again they take their time, but at the last moment, the cavalry arrives. Ockleshaw, Bowen and Lynch combine brilliantly and the Xavs are in the Grand Final, to meet, as some were opining, the greatest team ever to play Amateur football, University Blues.
Say what? The pen may be mightier than the sword, but no football column ever written has ever affected the outcome of a game. The Amateur Footballer GF preview was hardly the Latham Diaries, though it did demonstrate a flippancy and an ignorance unbecoming in any scribe.
To write off the Xavs to the tune of 12 goals was ludicrous and diminished only the author and the size of the crowd.
It is true that Amateur football fans were keen to see the Blues repeat, as evidenced by the noise on the blog Big Footy.
A Mr Han Solo wrote last Tuesday – (ED: spelling corrected) "I was there on Sunday and Haileybury should be bleeding big time that they don't get a second chance at Uni Blues. OH are a far superior football team to OX and I can't understand how they have beaten them at all this year let alone 3-0, I still don't believe that OX got home in the end. It was just a matter of September experience getting into the OH heads and the Catholics bluffed their way through again with their BS carry on. At least OH would have given the Blues a test next week. I think OX may as well drop their pants now and prepare to receive the absolute spanking that Uni will deliver them.
Benny MOF responded "Everybody in Melbourne is hoping so."
But of course, it is not the pen that guides the destiny of VAFA finalists. Once inside the Gates of Eden, on the Elsternwick plain, the will-to-win is even more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
19 Sep 05
So Barry Richardson, the gunslinger, has another notch on his pearl-handled peacemaker. His Xaverian posse won an extraordinary contest in perfect conditions at headquarters yesterday and Bones, as he is known to all, is two-from-two, a decade apart.
It will come as no surprise that he had great belief in this team, in this squad, that at times seemed to others a little too short, a little too slow, and a little too old. In the end, it wasn't.
There is no gimmickry with this coach, no "Theme from Rocky" or "Eye of the Tiger" at the push of a button to inspire - though last week, Mike McColl Jones did give him a Kamahl CD should he need some musical props.
His team meeting during the third quarter of the Reserves game was pitched perfectly. He spoke from the heart, and at the very first, thanked his charges for their accomplishments this season. He reminded them all that the campaign had taken its toll - Ted Woodruff, out injured, and John Pasceri and Josh Agius, certainly good enough and deserving of places, but squeezed out by players returning from injury.
He spoke of the commitment required to win out there, on the big stage and asked for that commitment, a pledge to team-mates that they would be relentless and give their opponents the toughest final they would ever play.
A scan of the room revealed a calm team, but one full of resolve. The great man finished and left the room. Outside, one who had witnessed it told him his men were ready. But he knew that already.
19 Sep 05
This fabulous grand final will no doubt be confined to a few lines in the major Melbourne dailies and there will be those who will read same and grumble that another Xavs' victory is bad for football. Not so.
Any premiership victory by any team that was this hard-fought is worthy of high praise. Of course, the fact remains that no club but the Red 'n' Blacks could have done the business quite like this.
Blues won the toss and kicked to the Brighton end, favoured by a zephyr worth perhaps two goals. But by the fifteen-minute mark, the reigning premier had already kicked three and threatened a lot more.
Clearly, the Varsity had retained a lot of confidence from its Round 18 shellacking of Xavs, and it looked as if the Red 'n' Blacks remembered too. But nine shots with the breeze yielded just 5.4, while late goals to Andy Bowen and Adam Chatfield made the scoreboard more generous than the contest.
But unbeknown to many, hairline cracks had already begun to appear in the Blues game and the Xavs quarter time huddle vowed to apply the full-court press.
What followed was a football masterpiece. From pressure come diamonds, and the second stanza was a true gem. The Blues were held to a solitary behind in one of the most brutal displays of suffocation seen on a playing field. Every Varsity possession drew a tackle, every fumble another contest, and the reigning premier was wobbly. The Xavs weren't. They piled on five goals and in the process took the lead. And then another, a set shot from 50 by Tim Clarke after the half-time siren, and Uni hands were on Uni hips, and their hearts hanging out of ripped breast.
The third quarter saw the Blues hit back with 3 goals, but the Xavs defied the breeze and went one better, having seized the initiative early with another Clarke major. The huge Xavs fandom that ventured to the huddle at lemon-time was an expectant bunch. They heard little of the coach's instruction, but let out a roar of encouragement as the group broke.
Lady Luck did not smile on the Red 'n' Blacks in the final term, and a few certain sealers went by the wayside. Blues looked hot for the middle part of the quarter, risking all, running ahead of the ball, but the Xavs closed them down with cool, calculating football in the final minutes.
The plain at Elsternwick is a cruel master and on true spring days such as this, demands unfair sacrifice. It rewards only those who are prepared to pay the price. The Xavs had plenty who were, none more so than the clever speedster Adam Chatfield, who left a track on the John Bowen Wing so many times did he run back and forth. His reward, the Jock Nelson, and his second Xavs premiership.
It is perhaps unwise to single out players because this was truly a team effort. The Xavs did not have a bad player. All 22 contributed throughout.
But Simon Lethlean is worthy of special mention here. He has not had the happiest time of it since he began the avalanche in the final quarter of the 2000 Grand Final, but this year he has been superb. His bullet that split the centre against Scotch two weeks ago might have been the tipping point of the whole campaign, the moment that Xavier Nation realised that the boys were back in town.
Andrew Bowen was a highly prized yearling, an erratic two-year-old colt and now at three is ready to win the Derby. His last half-season has been excellent, his finals' series superb.
Justin Arnold finished the season as he started it - with a bang. He was stylish and displayed sangfroid throughout. His mosquito mate Mike Beardsley kicked another vital goal to go with his stunner last week, but was in and under many packs, yapping like the junkyard dog and always offering the option. And what is to be said of Anthony McDonald, who today must be looking back and wondering how it all happened, that he retired hurt, was cajoled back after a year off, and found electric form as the finals approached. Macca now celebrates with Scotty Mollard and Tim Ockleshaw, team-mates from a premiership ten years ago.
Let's not forget Andrew Oswald, a great finals' player and Nathan Bingham, so cruelly cut down with injury before the 03 GF, who put in a gutsy effort on a good player and Travis Ruyg, the running man, who finally ascended the mountain to grab the Holy Grail.
And Colby and Lachie and Scanners and Goona and Sup and... Honest Abe was right, what they all did out there was a lot more important than anything we can say about it.
UNIVERSITY BLUES 5.4 5.5 8.9 11.10 (76)
OLD XAVERIANS 2.0 8.4 12.6 13.7 (85)
Goals: Bowen 3 Clarke 2 Chatfield McDonald Lynch Beardsley Ruyg Arnold Colbert Sapuppo.
Best: Chatfield Arnold Beardsley Bowen Lethlean McDonald.
Jock Nelson Medallist: Adam Chatfield
19 Sep 05
In early 2001, the late Mick Rush was quizzed about recruits for the upcoming season. "We've picked up a guy by the name of Travis Ruyg," he said. "I don't know what sort of player he is, but I've got a feeling that he's exactly the sort of bloke we want at our club."
Rushy's judgment was always sound, and he was on the money about Travis Ruyg, who finally won a flag - in his eleventh grand final.
Travis had a feeling that things were about to break his way when the Xavs got the Peter Nicholson monkey off his back. Prickly Pete had followed Ruygy around various clubs and leagues and Trav had never beaten him in a final. Last week he did.
One hex buried and only the Granny Curse left.
Now that's gone too.
Somewhere up there, Michael Rush is smiling again at Trav's contribution and his belated reward.
19 Sep 05
For the eighth time in 11 seasons, Old Xaverians are again the undisputed champions of the VAFA, and Ray McLean (left) has indulged in his traditional bout of premiership generosity by letting the players keep their jumpers (so they wear them to training.)
Simon Hunt dusts the shelf for more silverware and Chris Callinan is wondering where he'll put those new flags.
Tim Ockleshaw and Lachie Ford (right) are now the fifth and sixth members of the Six Pack - they join Andrew Dillon, Michael Blood, David Landrigan and Dan Richardson - John Bowen still lords it over them all with seven sparklers.
The Xavs celebrated well last night, but it was well that the bar closed early, as the planning for next year, already well-advanced, swings into top gear this morning.
OLD Xaverians stamped themselves the best club in the Victorian Amateur Football Association winning an unprecedented eighth A Section flag in 11 seasons.
Xavs held out the favoured University Blues at Sportscover Arena in Elsternwick last week by 11 points to improve by one year on Old Scotch's record of eight flags in 12 seasons between 1923 and 1934.
The record for the most flags in a row by an A-grade team is held jointly by University Blacks, who won six in as many seasons between 1938 and 1949 with a six-season break for World War II, and Old Xavs between 1995 and 2000.
The remarkable twist to the 2005 victory is Xavs' coach Barry Richardson, the Richmond premiership player, has coached the red-and-black for two seasons, for two cups, both against Uni Blues. Yet they were a decade apart!
An adjunct is former Melbourne utility Anthony McDonald played in the 1995 flag and after two years out of footy came back too and he was one of Xavs' best.
The two sides have played in three grand finals and the other, the C Section 1938 finale which Xavs also won by nine points.“Uni Blues must hate me by now,'' Richardson said after reflecting on the season where his team went from ladder leaders to launching their finals campaign from fourth in the final four after suffering a 79-point thrashing in the last home-and-away game at Toorak Park against the Students.
Richardson revealed he rested his stars during this match once they couldn't win it and with it secure the double chance. After the match he remained calm and even praised his team.“I told them well done on making the finals. If at the start of the year we'd been told we'd make fourth we'd have taken it. It was all a positive platform to launch into the finals,'' Richardson said.
OX won eight of 12 matches which were decided by less than a goal, with most coming in the second half of the season after the representative match against the VCFL.
“(Travis) Ruyg, (Justin) Arnold, (Adam) Chatfield (midfielders) and (Damian) Lynch (full-forward) lost form after the state game. It takes a fair bit out of them,'' said Richardson, who will coach the club next season.
But the midfielders were strong in the grand final and they were boosted by the improving veteran midfielder Tim Ockleshaw who came into the finals after missing six weeks with a knee injury.
Fellow seasoned finals campaigners captain Lachie Ford and Simon Lethlean were super in defence. It's believed retired Old Xav winger John Bowen holds the record of playing in the most A Section premierships with seven trips to the dais.
His record though might be challenged with Ockleshaw and Ford, who have moved to six.
Danny Corcoran played in Xavs' first A-grade flag in 1981 and coached it between 1987-90. The former Melbourne and Essendon football manager and now the CEO of Athletics Australia, said there was one no reason why OX were so successful, but he listed these as factors:
“There's an extraordinary relationship between the school and club. The football program in the life of Xavier (College) education. The expectation of winning that's in place. Xavs are a good place to be, great functions,'' Corcoran said.
Collegians have won the most flags with 15 to their credit including the competition's inaugural in 1892 and at Xavs they've already got plans to enter into double figures shortly.
Hands up if you remember 1938.
Not too many of you do, I'm sure, and I'm struggling a bit myself. It was a watershed year. Germany annexed Austria and dark days lay ahead. But it was in 1938 that the Xavs won their first ever premiership.
After joining the competition in 1923, the Red 'n' Blacks were up and down for quite some time, and even the great Jock McHale couldn't get the team to a flag.
But in '38, it finally happened. And wouldn't you know it, their opponent that day was University Blues. Yes, the C Section GF saw Old Xavs 13.10 (88) defeated Uni Blues 11.13 (79) - with scores eerily similar to last Sunday's clash and the margin exactly the same at 9 points.
We had a pretty good team that year too. Frank Higginbotham won the Amateurs medal in '37 and again in '39 as well as five B+Fs for the Xavs. But he went unrewarded in that year, except for the premiership.
At 25 years of age, he stood 168cm and weighed just 67 kilos.
Jimmy Goonan coached the club to its first flag. Goonan had been a professional athlete of some note and played 24 games with Carlton over six years. He also captain-coached Carlton 2nds to three consecutive premierships from 1926 to 1928. He then went to Preston and after two seasons of modest success there, he returned to Carlton, before coming to Xavs.
Both Xavs and Blues were promoted to B Section. VAFA football was suspended in early 1940 and did not resume until 1946. Xavs won a flag in '48 to go to A Section and Blues finished the bridesmaids a year later to go to the top tier.
The Xavs and Blues did not meet again in a Grand Final until 1995. And ten years later, they met again. Xavs have won three from three and also won finished higher in the finals in the only other years they met - in 1964 (when the Xavs lost a heart-breaker in the GF, Blues were third) and in 1996, when they won the second of the straight six flags (and Blues finished fourth).
Though my olfactory senses are not now what they once were, it smells like a hoodoo to me, and it's lived through six finals' series and is nigh on 70 years old.
It took Haileybury just twelve months to win their first and only LA Adamson Cup, defeating Old Xavs for the fourth time in the 2006 season. That one stung hard. In 2007, Xavs returned to the dais, while the Bloods fell over and were relegated.
Uni Blues continued to drop finals to the Old Xavs. It wasn’t until 2019, when the Blues edged the X Men in the second semi on their way to the premiership, that Xavs dropped a final to the Varsity.
Old Scotch next played a final against Old Xaverians in 2008. The Cardinals led by nearly six goals early in the last term, but the Red ‘n’ Blacks torched them late, and so that hoodoo still alive and well.