The VAFA is a close competition at every grade and at the end of the season you can usually judge where you stand with out much doubt. This week we found the seniors were 6 points behind the third last team in Premier B despite playing at home. Given we lost twice to the last team then we cant complain – we were just not good enough and we will have to earn our way back to Premier B next year. The reserves have had a mixed year but are well behind the better teams in this division. However the good news is that the Under 19s are performing well in their division and will go on to play finals. The reunion lunch was an outstanding success and demonstrated what the club is capable of if we get our ducks in a row.
The dream of Old Haileybury re-establishing a foothold in Premier B is over following an agonising 6 point loss to AJAX at Princes Park last Saturday. On a day when the club hosted a well-attended reunion function to acknowledge the 2001 Reserves and 2006 Premiership teams, the Bloods were unable to seal a win despite giving their all.
The conditions weren’t as dire as they could have been. Sunny breaks were plentiful between the thick cloud and a stiff breeze blew across the ground but didn’t appear to favour either end. The centre square has been rolled in recent weeks and was relatively flat and firm compared to a month or so ago.
Old Haileybury’s line-up saw the welcome return from injury of Shane Valenti and Ed Limon who came in for Connor Riley and Lachie Treverton. The Bloods kicked to the northern end in the first term and made a slow, scrappy start. The play of the quarter involved a mark to Josh Dawson, a handpass to Jimmy Paul and a further handpass to Nathan Waite who then kicked truly to record his first and the side’s second goal. The Bloods struggled to clear their backline effectively against a determined AJAX but battled extremely hard to stay in touch. At quarter time Haileybury was seven points in arrears after registering 3.1.
As in the first quarter, the Jackas booted the first goal of the second. The Bloods were left wanting at times in terms of structure, skill and decision making. Turnovers proved costly. Nathan Waite was the obvious target up forward but often had two opponents on him. He worked extremely hard in the circumstances. Jarrod Plymin eventually broke the goal drought. By half time AJAX had extended its lead to 20 points.
If the Bloods were to be any chance of winning they had to make their move in the third term. The Haileyburians sprang to life and generated momentum to register 7.2. The quarter featured some well-constructed goals to Peter Shakallis and Waitey. The Bloods hit the front and raised the expectations of all the home supporters but the Jackas were not going to be denied and regained their focus by booting the last two goals of the quarter to open up a seven point lead.
It was clear that the Bloods needed to regain the initiative by slotting the first goal of the final quarter. AJAX had other ideas and put one through the big sticks within 30 seconds of play commencing. Both sides ended up kicking three goals for the quarter. The Bloods never stopped trying throughout but AJAX persisted and did just enough to get over the line by six points.
Old Haileybury faces off against Old Brighton at the Brighton Beach Oval next Saturday in the final round of the season.
Goal Kickers: N. Waite 4, A. Weekes 3, P. Shakallis 2, J. Nicolopoulos 2, J. Toy, S. Valenti, J. Plymin, N. Gooda
Best Players: N. Waite, J. Paul, J. Arthur, N. Gooda, J. Plymin, S. Valenti
No joy once again for the Twos who managed only three goals for the match in its 85 point loss to AJAX.
Goal Kickers: B. Scammell, S. Hall, B. Langford-Jones
Best Players: S. Hall, N. Carey, N. Hunter, J. Pickford, C. Schneider, B. Scammell
Under 19s (Round 18 review)
The U19s have had a solid home and away season. A finals campaign is the reward. The Young Bloods take on AJAX in the second semi final at Princes Park this Saturday. The match starts at 2:00pm. Coach Mick Constable was well-pleased with the focused effort of the team that was evident from the first bounce. His report follows.
The Under 19s took on second place AJAX at home on the weekend. We were one win each for the season and both teams were keen to do well as a warm-up for the finals.
AJAX have a style of play which involves handballing and short kicking generally down the line to generate a wave of players who outnumber opposition players around the ball. Manning up, pressuring and tackling the ball carrier are keys to shutting down their style of play. Captain Jack won the toss and elected to kick with the breeze. In recent weeks we have started poorly which has meant we have had to play catch up footy. However, it was a different story on Saturday with the boys hitting proper match intensity from the first contest which was great to see.
Within minutes Brodie, Will Paul and Jack Moncrieff had laid fantastic tackles that dispossessed AJAX and allowed us to fire the ball quickly into our forward line where targets Durras Seccull and Ben Oakes were salivating whilst waiting for the ball. Within minutes we were 3 goals up with Durras kicking a beautiful set shot from near the boundary 40 metres out. At quarter time we raced to a 6.5-41 to 0.1-1 scoreline. More importantly the style of play from the boys was spot on. Oli and Shea in the ruck were working hard and generally hitting the ball to our advantage. The midfield combination of Chuck, Brodie, Ari, Joel, Captain Jack and Will Paul were giving us drive and pressure. In addition our backline worked beautifully as a team to repel forward thrusts then re-direct play to the opposite flanks and wing to initiate our next scoring opportunity.
Our play into the breeze in the next quarter was very good. AJAX were kept under massive pressure when they had the ball which meant they fumbled and missed targets and kicked poorly around the ground. The pressure applied, I think, also translated into some poor set shots on goal from AJAX. They missed a few opportunities they would probably normally make.
Whilst defensively we made a couple of errors, it was great to see the boys trying to switch and initiate attack from defence. We are at our best when we do this but of course it doesn’t always work. The test is always that after an error the boys are positive enough to have a crack at the next one rather than going into their shell. Pleasingly, the boys reloaded and kept trying it to take it on with positive play which shows some mental toughness and support from team mates. AJAX were getting quite frustrated in the second quarter when things weren’t working out for them and at one stage, as I think Eden pointed out, it sounded like a cricket match with one team continually appealing the decisions. You know you just about have them when they start doing that.
At half time we were 31 points up and our boys didn’t get side tracked with some niggle from the opposition. Good work from the skipper to remove one of our players at the right time from a skirmish meant we had stayed focused and avoided one of the traps that trailing teams will often deploy to get back into the match.
The first half of the third quarter was a bit of an arm wrestle with AJAX trying to use the defensive side of the ground to shut things down. The second half of the quarter saw some really good fast ball movement which allowed our forwards space to work in. Ben and Durras alternated between playing high and low in the forward line and our resting on-ballers gave some added spice in front of the big sticks. A 5 goal to nothing third quarter blew the score out to about 10 goals and AJAX couldn’t get their system going at due to the pressure exerted across the whole ground.
Rather than our boys switching off in the last quarter which may have allowed AJAX to get some confidence and system of play occurring, it was good to see the boys keeping working hard at all aspects of their game. A 5 goal to nothing last quarter into the wind effort capitalised beautifully on the hard work they had put in all match and to beat the second place team by 93 points was quite enjoyable to watch.
Charlie Constable’s mid-field contested possessions were enormous as were his clearance numbers. Durras kicked 7, missed a couple, gave off another couple and had another really good match. Will Paul was his usual hard nut self but was also able to impact when “resting” down forward by kicking 3 goals and Oakesy competed hard, kicked 3 himself and had a hand in a few others. These guys had really good games but the reality was that all we had really strong contributions from just about all players. Our backline functioned incredibly well with Hamish, Liam, Rayner, Torsten, Joel, Declan, Jack Moncrieff and Kirky being very hard to play against and being a great little team within a team. The shut-down work of Oli and Liam down back late in the match were great examples of competitors not wanting to give away anything even when the team is 15 goals up.
That win took the boys to a 15 – 3 win loss record at the end of the home and away season which put them on top by 3 games and about 100%. It was a nice turn around after being 2 and 2 after 4 rounds.
However as we know, history is full of teams getting carried away with the outcomes from the past and not concentrating properly on the inputs to a match going forward. We play AJAX again in the semi-final next week and need to be switched on with our tackling, manning up and pressure if we are to succeed.
Hope to see you at the match.
Goal Kickers: D. Seccull 7, W. Paul 3, B. Oakes 3, J. Munro 2, A. Ventouras, J. Cain
Best Players: C. Constable, D. Seccull, W. Paul, J. Munro, B. Oakes, J. Constable