Teams on the hunt for National Junior Classic place
By Jarrod Potter, Basketball Victoria
THE Classic… do we need to say any more?
Do we need to say any more? It’s that magical weekend where Australia’s best throw down to see who will be crowned the champion.
Half the battle is earning your spot though as qualification for the Classic can be as gruelling as the long weekend itself.
There are still plenty of teams in the mix waiting to know if they make the cut for the Classic. We pick the sides based on the ladders as of MUVJBL VC Round 9 – this year falling on 1 June just before the long weekend itself!
It’s an elite achievement just to put your side through to the Classic, let alone being in the running to take out the Queen’s Birthday long weekend tournament title.
With 28 associations still in the running through VC qualifying for the Classic, there’s plenty to play for over the next few weeks as our best and brightest juniors push hard to jump up the ladder.
There is plenty to play for across Victoria as a wide variety of country associations – Bendigo, Ballarat, Pakenham, Geelong and Southern Peninsula – also remain in the mix.
So who remains in the mix heading into this week’s Round 7 clashes as we look towards the fateful 1 June Round 9 showdowns… let’s take a closer look.
UNDER-18 VC BOYS
The top dogs have asserted themselves throughout VC under-18 boys to date. It will be hard to unseat the top five overall ranked sides – Melbourne, Hawthorn, Kilsyth, Keilor and Sandringham. Records like those and the firepower needed to earn them will likely rocket these sides into the Classic on their wins to date.
Talk about a flashback to see Giddey and Gaze dominating again for the Tigers at Albert Park but this side is stoked to the brim as U18 Victoria Metropolitan players Wil Tattersall, Paul Tsapatolis and Lucas Rocci are set to lead from the front.
There are state representatives all throughout the top seeds in VC though as the best of the best aim for another tilt at the Classic. There’s plenty left in the tank down the pecking order as Nunawading, McKinnon, Ringwood, Dandenong, Knox and Casey all remain in the hunt. Knox and Casey square off Friday to knock someone out of the running in Watson while Nunawading vs McKinnon will establish one and force the other to scrap it out for the remaining two rounds.
UNDER-18 VC GIRLS
Bulleen, Knox, Diamond Valley, Dandenong. The top flight sides to hunt down at the moment as Eltham, Ballarat, Hawthorn, Keilor, Dandenong and Pakenham sit just off the pace. With state representatives in abundance – the Boomers roster is a cavalcade that will be hard to beat. This is a pool of many mathematical chances though… so stranger things have happened than seeing a 2-4 team rise up this time of year to eke out a place in the Classic.
UNDER-16 VC BOYS
Nunawading and Bulleen have shone in U16 VC Boys with unbeaten runs in the Ashe pool. From there it is a bit of a logjam as Bendigo and Ballarat pump up country Victoria’s chances in league with Diamond Valley, Pakenham and Kilsyth. Similarly Dandenong, Melbourne and Eltham have jumped up in the world across the other side in the Watson pool. Eltham’s tough early season draw has opened up as the Wildcats face Waverley, Collingwood and Keilor on the run home. It makes life tough for Hawthorn, Knox and Sandringham but chances still remain if the sides can unearth some strong form starting Friday night as they face Melbourne, Dandenong and Frankston respectively.
UNDER-16 VC GIRLS
Southern Peninsula has rocked its way through every clash this year. The Sharks are flying – having won the BVC Country Championships earlier in 2018 before smashing through to an unbeaten record in Ashe pool. Chasing them strongly are Knox and Bendigo with both sides vying for second seed. Knox and Southern Peninsula will chart a course for each other in the last round of qualifying in what will likely be a Classic preview of things to come. Across in Watson, Melbourne and Bulleen remain deadlocked atop the pool as the Boomers look to return to the Classic and defend their title. Dandenong, Diamond Valley, Sandringham and Nunawading 2 remain chances to make it through but that will change after Friday night with the Sabres and Spectres battling it out at Sandringham.
UNDER-14 VC BOYS
Could this be the year for Pakenham? From MUVBJL obscurity to one of the rising stars of the league, the Warriors as a whole continue to push the boundaries and put their name on the map. The U14 boys sit undefeated in Watson with a win in the next three weeks all but assuring them a ticket to the big show. Bulleen and Eltham also sit undefeated with Werribee and Nunawading maintain 5-1 records. From there it will be a scramble; Sandringham’s third in the Ashe pool is only a game clear of seventh ranked Geelong. There is truly nothing in it. Across the other side of the ledger, Kilsyth and Dandenong are three wins apiece. Dandenong’s Round 3 win over Kilsyth might come into effect, but with the Rangers’ harder fixture – battling Pakenham, Werribee and Nunawading 2 – it could be the Cobras for the taking.
UNDER-14 VC GIRLS
In yet another even pool, Ash Under-14 girls is wide open as Frankston, McKinnon, Eltham, Keilor and Waverley will need to keep the wins up to stay in the hunt, while Altona, Melbourne and Diamond Valley sit a little bit more comfortably with wins and matches in hand. Knox remains the only undefeated side in Under-14 VC Girls, dominating the Watson pool, while Sandringham and Dandenong also possess impressive form lines. It will come down to the race between Hawthorn, reigning champions Bulleen, Southern Peninsula and Nunawading to find out what will happen in this pool.
UNDER-12 VC BOYS
Bulleen and Knox have been the sides to beat this season so far in the Under-12 VC Boys, as Boomers (Ashe) and Raiders (Watson) alike have flown up the ladder to remain undefeated. Hawthorn, Kilsyth, Nunawading, Diamond Valley Frankston and Keilor all sit with four wins apiece to keep their chances up heading into the last three rounds of qualification.
Mornington, McKinnon, Werribee, Dandenong and Blackburn remain mathematical chances to fly up the ladder but will require some good fortune along the way to move up.
Friday night’s fixtures are set to challenge our sides even further heading towards the cut-off.
In the Ashe pool, Hawthorn and Frankston are set to lock horns in a second-vs-third clash that could set one up and knock the other down as well as a must-win clash between fourth ranked Keilor and sixth placed Blackburn. While in Watson, Knox will vie to stay atop against Diamond Valley while Nunawading squares off against McKinnon in a must win for the Cougars to stay in the hunt.
UNDER-12 VC GIRLS
Talk about an open field in the Watson pool… pretty much everyone is still alive in VC U12G for a chance at the crown. Ashe is a little bit closer, but with powerhouses Eltham, Keilor and Casey carving up the competition it might be hard for anyone else to budge them. Fourth in the pool remains an interesting proposition as Bulleen, Nunawading and Knox all have fairly hard fixtures ahead. Nunawading in particular will battle Bulleen (fourth), Casey (third) and Collingwood (seventh) while it’s not much better for Bulleen to battle Nunawading and first seed Eltham in the run towards the qualifying cut-off.
Watson will come down to the race to catch Hawthorn though with the Magic well on track to defend their hard-fought title from 2017. Melbourne, Frankston, McKinnon, Dandenong, Craigieburn, Camberwell, Kilsyth and Sandringham are in the mix, in what is arguably the most even VC pool in the entire MUVJBL. Good luck calling this race as there is just too much in it at the moment. Friday night will reveal a lot in this pool that’s for sure.