Sometimes it’s just not your day.
SKOB have gone down in the Grand Final in both the Seniors and Under 19s in a disappointing day out at Elsternwick. Collegians were simply too good for SKOB. They have been the best side all season and they were clearly the best on Sunday as they ran out big winners in the main game. Earlier SKOB were beaten in somewhat of an upset by Old Xavs who played the big ground better and for longer to take out the Under 19 trophy.
In conditions that were a mile away from last year’s wintry blast, it was shorts and thongs at ten paces as the sun - and crowds - came out in droves. Great support for both teams was on hand and the expectation was for a terrific contest. SKOB were missing Phil Edgar (injured) and Tom Jok (late withdrawal last week) but were able to call in Cal Matheson and Sam Cameron who both missed the Prelim through injury. SKOB were close to full strength and hoped their experience in Grand Finals (this being their 5th in succession) would help them out as their opponents had enjoyed a week’s break and were bound to be fresh.
One thing you can always count on at Elsternwick Park at this time of year is a steady breeze to the scoreboard end, and Collegians were given first go with it. The other thing you can count on is that quarters generally go well past the 30 minute mark - so it’s a long time to defend. Up against it, SKOB held out valiantly for 20 odd minutes, keeping Collegians to just two goals up to this point, but the constant flow of inside 50s for the men in Purple meant the opportunities were going to keep presenting. They took them in the last ten minutes - booting four goals - and despite SKOB getting one back through Cam Hodges, the lead at quarter time was 37 points - where maybe 25 was more manageable.
Having said that, SKOB now had their chance with the wind and they enjoyed their best period of the game early in the second quarter. A fast start saw Sam Tucker goal in the opening minute and after a near miss to Mitch Wallis, Pat Kerr kicked a long bomb and SKOB were inching back into it. Collegians went forward and kicked a valuable goal into the breeze but then Pat Kerr volleyed a shot from a boundary throw in and the fans behind the sticks started to believe. It was a closer tussle over the next few minutes as Collegians scored again to the Glenhuntly Rd end but Ben Mansfield converted a magnificent shot from the boundary and SKOB were back within 3 goals with about ten minutes left on the clock. If they could repeat the efforts of Collegians in the first quarter and kick some late ones they could have restored parity by the main break. As it transpired, Collegians dropped a number of players back who were able to take intercept marks and foil the SKOB entries into 50. Then against the run of play Collegians mounted a fast counter attack and kicked a late goal. This strike was like a dagger to SKOB who were clearly feeling the heat and the effects of having to take the long road to the Grand Final.
SKOB certainly needed to be a lot closer at half time and would have hoped to at least have matched Collegians 6 goals from the first term. As it was, they scored 4 but conceded 3 - staring down a 28 point deficit with the favourites about to enjoy the aid of the breeze. It was looking ominous for the defending premiers. With the temperature now well into the 20’s and SKOB looking at a mountain to climb just to stay in the game they threw one last effort, but alas after defending grimly for half the quarter the dam walls broke and Collegians piled on the score, such that by the final change it was all but done. SKOB were cooked and not even the hardiest optimist could see a way back from here. It was a pretty drab final 30 with only a late consolation goal from Shaun Kennedy on the boundary giving the supporters any joy. The final margin was pretty painful, but congratulations to Collegians - they were worthy winners and clearly the best team in 2023.
Best for SKOB was Cam Hodges who tried hard all day - kicking the first goal for his team and setting up a few others in the second quarter. He never stopped running and making contest after contest. Captain Sam Critchley was a tower of strength across half back, standing up to a flurry of attacks from the Lions mids. Sam Tucker with 2 goals was handy for SKOB and Al Richards again played well in a Grand Final.
For SKOB it was a sour end to a pretty decent season. One which saw them make the grand final for a fifth time in a row - a feat achieved only twice before by teams in the history of the VAFA - so it’s something that all the players, coaches and staff, volunteers and supporters should be rightly proud of. There is plenty of appetite to continue the streak and hopefully again go one better in 2024.
Collegians 6.7-43 9.8-62 16.13-109 19.16-130
St Kevins 1.0-6 5.4-34 5.6-36 6.9-45
Our Under 19s had a heartbreaking end to their season when they were defeated by Old Xavs in the morning game at Elsternwick Park. The wind didn’t pick up until the second half and conditions were superb for the footy which was played at a hectic pace all day. Scoring was at a premium with Xavs booting 2 to 1 in the first term before SKOB registered the only major - a smart snap from Jasper Conquest to bring the scores just about even at the main break. Xavs broke away in the third with a couple heading to the end where the breeze was now favouring. SKOB hit back with a goal to Oli Gill and probably should have had another shortly after. Right before the bell Xavs kicked a long goal to stretch out the lead to 16 points at the last break. Not an insurmountable lead, but given the low scoring there was little margin for error. Harry Kirkwood took a strong mark and converted to bring SKOB closer, but Xavs upped the ante and kicked back to back goals to just about close out the contest. Some late strikes to Palmer and Gunson were all too late for SKOB as Xavs controlled the football and chewed up the clock.
Best for SKOB was Cooper Chaffey who was a giant across half back, also Aidan Leiner, Nick Tonge, Sam Jones, Liam Gunson and Will Pfeiffer.
Like the Seniors, our Under 19s should take great satisfaction from their efforts across the entire season. They finished clearly on top and won through to the Grand Final in the first week, earning rightful favouritism coming in to the decider. It’s a bitter pill for the young lads to swallow and hopefully they will take that motivation into long and fulfilling playing careers with SKOB in the years to come.
St Kevins 1.0-6 2.1-13 3.4-22 7.5-47
Old Xavs 2.2-14 2.3-15 5.8-38 9.8-62