Race to National Junior Classic enters next hurdle
FRIDAY night was alight with sides ready to make their mark on the race to the National Junior Classic.
While a few sides fell by the wayside and slipped out of the reach of qualifying for the National Junior Classic – the rest of the draw decided to make things particularly interesting heading towards these next two important MUVJBL VC clashes.
With selections made following the 1 June round, the stakes are getting higher heading towards the Queen’s Birthday long-weekend. While we can’t confirm nominations through this article, we can in the very least see who are the best eight sides across each competition grade, and begin to see how the Classic teams are shaping up coming into the final round of qualifying.
Let’s see who’s in the mix for their ticket to the Classic, and those who need to scrap it out the hard way to take their shot at the nation’s best.
If you’re with Eltham, Frankston, Hawthorn and Keilor… you’d probably want to block out the long weekend coming up. You’re more than likely going to be busy. This dazzling quartet of under-12 talent are well ahead in their respective pools going into the final fortnight. From there it is an eight-team logjam to find the last spots in the Classic.
Nunawading pulled off a must-win victory over Casey on Friday night to keep its hopes alive in the Classic qualifying race. The back-and-forth clash was a sea of purple as the Cavaliers donned the purple dots to help get them up for the occasion. The Casey girls fought back valiantly from a 10-point margin part-way through the final term but in the end the Spectres ground out the crucial triumph to move into third in the Ashe pool. It leaves Eltham (7-0) and Keilor (6-1) all but certain starters for the Classic while Nunawading (5-2), Casey (5-2) and Bulleen (5-2) will figure out how three goes into two for the remaining vacancies in the tournament. Bulleen battles Eltham in an absolute thriller while Casey hosts Werribee and Nunawading battles Collingwood. A loss for any of the Cavaliers, Spectres or Boomers could knock them out so there’s plenty on the line this Friday night.
Hawthorn (7-0) and Frankston (6-1) have pushed through to take the top two slots in the Watson pool. There is a five-way battle between Dandenong, Melbourne, Craigieburn, McKinnon and Sandringham for the last two places. This will come to a head with the big match-ups between Frankston and Melbourne as well as Dandenong and McKinnon set to reveal a lot by the end of Friday night.
Round 7 will go down as a famous one for the Bulleen, Hawthorn and Knox under-12 boys, with the sides putting in strong performances to all but confirm their place in the National Junior Classic.
Knox (7-0) is well clear in Watson while Kilsyth (6-1), Nunawading (5-2) and a logjam between Diamond Valley (4-3), Mornington (4-3) and Werribee (3-4) is set to determine the remaining slots from the pool. Kilsyth and Diamond Valley have plenty to play for in their clash on Friday while Werribee battles Bulleen 2 and Mornington squares off against the undefeated Raiders in a must-win clash.
There are five in the hunt in the Ashe Pool as Bulleen (7-0), Hawthorn (6-1), Keilor (5-2), Frankston (4-3) and Dandenong (4-3) battle it out. Frankston faces Bulleen on Friday night while Dandenong battles sixth placed Eltham; it’s not the week for a loss in this race so the Blues and Rangers will need to stick to the plan to stay on top in the hunt.
In one of the more open-and-shut competitions in the league, Altona, Dandenong, Knox, Melbourne and Sandringham have raised their hands and put in emphatic performances through U14G VC action this season. Their achievements leave these five sides at the top of the pecking order and seemingly through to the Classic.
Melbourne (7-0) and Altona (6-1) stand atop the Ashe pool with Diamond Valley (5-2), Eltham (4-3), Frankston (4-3) and McKinnon (4-3) barely separated in the race for the other two spots. Diamond Valley faces Altona in a scintillating second vs third clash this week while Eltham has a battle against the undefeated Tigers while Frankston and McKinnon will effectively battle to stay alive in qualifying when they square off this week’s clash.
We mentioned them last week and it’s well worth highlighting them again – the Pakenham Warriors under-14 boys look all but through to the national battle. Their efforts alongside Eltham and Werribee on Friday night have these sides in a virtually unassailable position heading into the final fortnight of NJC-qualifying action. With likely selection on the horizon, they will join rare air as a Classic association which is well worth congratulating.
Eltham (7-0) and Pakenham (7-0) have flown out of the blocks in the U14B VC Watson pool and have Werribee (6-1) nipping at their heels. The efforts of these three sides have left Kilsyth (3-4) and Dandenong (3-4) in a two-man race to determine the final qualifier. Kilsyth has the easier draw on paper, facing Latrobe and Knox while Dandenong heads off to face Werribee and Nunawading 2. This will certainly be a photo finish.
There might only be 10 teams left in the hunt, but those 10 are set for a thrilling finish to this qualifying section of the season. Country tandem Bendigo and Southern Peninsula are well ahead in their bids to gain Classic selection and will be hard to topple heading into the next fortnight. From there however the next eight are a melting pot of who can take their places in the Queen’s Birthday weekend showdown.
Hawthorn (4-3) is hanging on by a thread in U16G Watson pool, as Southern Peninsula (7-0), Bendigo (6-1), Nunawading (5-2) and Knox (5-2) have all set the pace. It could be all over this weekend as Hawthorn faces the undefeated Sharks with their NJC spot on the line. Even a Hawthorn win might not be enough if Knox knock over Eltham and Nunawading best Broadmeadows to keep a one-game margin in the third/fourth slots of the pool. To make matters worse, the Magic faces the 6-1 Braves in an away clash for the last round before the National Junior Classic. If they were to win both these games and have results go their way to qualify then you have to take your hat off to them as it will be one of the great fightbacks of the year.
The Watson pool is a whole different story. The ladder leaves all four spots still up for grabs surprisingly as Melbourne (6-1), Bulleen (6-1), Diamond Valley (5-2), Nunawading 2 (5-2), Dandenong (4-2-1) have yet to cement their spots. This weekend will prove the most impactful on the qualifying equation yet as first v fourth in Melbourne/Nunawading 2 while Bulleen can book its spot with a win over Waverley. The rest as they say is too close to call and makes for a great viewing over the next two Fridays!
Melbourne, Nunawading and Bulleen have showcased their might throughout the VC season to date and their passage towards the Classic seems all but assured following an exceptional Friday evening.
Melbourne (6-1) stands as the only Watson side all but certainly heading through to the Classic while there is a scrap all the way down the order between Dandenong (5-2), Eltham (5-2), Knox (4-3), Keilor (3-3-1), Hawthorn (3-4), Sandringham (3-4) and Collingwood (2-4-1) to sort out the other three slots. Eltham v Keilor, Dandenong v Sandringham and Hawthorn v Collingwood will go a fair way towards sorting this scramble out heading into the final week.
The Ashe pool is far more defined as Nunawading (7-0) and Bulleen (7-0) have sailed through the starting seven weeks to remain undefeated at the top of the pool. The other three remaining sides will vie for the final two sports as Bendigo (5-2) and Ballarat (5-2) are just about there while Diamond Valley (3-4) will need a lot to go their way over the next fortnight. It comes to a head this weekend as Bendigo battles Diamond Valley in a must-win clash for the Eagles. From there it doesn’t get any easier as they’ll need to knock off Camberwell and hope for results to go their way. At this stage, it’s the Miners and Braves spot for the taking but then again… they need to take it.
Bulleen and Dandenong have surged to the top of their respective pools in the Under-18 Girls competition, all but confirming their trip to the Classic…. but the rest of the pools are an absolute free-for-all. Dandenong will face Dandenong 2 in a must win clash for the Rangers 2nd side to stay in the hunt while Pakenham (3-4) needs to win against Diamond Valley (5-2) to maintain its slight chance of making the National Junior Classic. Nunawading (3-4) hosting Keilor (5-2) is the other match with both sides in the mix as the Spectres will need to defend their home court diligently to keep up with the leaders in the Watson pool.
Eltham, Kilsyth, Ballarat and Casey remain in the mix for the Ashe pool with Casey (3-4) vs Bulleen (7-0) the last-ditch opportunity for the Cavaliers to stay in the hunt.
Rounding out the top brass in their pools, Kilsyth, Melbourne and Nunawading have distanced themselves from the chasing pack in the Ashe pool for the National Junior Classic under-18 boys race.
While the dominant work of Melbourne (7-0), Kilsyth (6-1) and Nunawading (5-2) have built an unassailable gap in Ashe pool, the final slot remains up for grabs between a few sides dangling adjacent to .500 for the season. McKinnon (3-3) has the slot currently but Eltham (2-4-1), Ringwood (2-4-1) and Bulleen (2-4-1) are in the hunt due to the number of draws this season. Eltham and McKinnon are on a collision course this Friday which will determine a fair bit within the pool while Ringwood has Broadmeadows and Bulleen faces high-flying Kilsyth. It’s not over yet for the final spot in the pool but there’s a lot left to happen before we can call it.
While there haven’t been any sides stamp their spot to date in the Watson pool, it could be all over this weekend pending the result of Casey (4-3) versus Dandenong (5-2). Their Classic campaign is on the line this week as Casey might be knocked out while the Rangers would be in trouble and need to best one of the 6-1 sides of the pool in Sandringham in the final qualifying round. Atop the pool is a three-way tie between Hawthorn (6-1), Keilor (6-1) and Sandringham (6-1). Depending on this week’s matches the Round 9 clash between the Thunder and Sabres might be particularly interesting and have a lot on the line coming into the qualifying cut-off.