After a not so ideal start to the 2021 Season down at Corio, game 1 was a forced forfeit by the Royals due to Covid reasons. Upon my arrival to the ground, I felt a sense of relief when I saw the Rangers and Warriors warming up. It was FINALLY happening. Football had returned to Victoria for the first time in 770 days...and I was damn late to set up for filming.

The Rangers and Warriors are the 2 oldest clubs that remain in GV. So, it was fitting that they kicked off the Season. Both teams had a different look to them. The Rangers had a new QB and the Warriors had a new face under centre. Strangely, QB #12 James Avia, who most would have thought would have been Dearman’s replacement, was on the bench. It was also odd to see RB #2 Luke Jackson on the bench with RB #1 Ben Curley getting the starting role.

The first half wasn’t exactly a game you’d be rushing to see again in full. A ton of mistakes by both clubs early on. Both QB’s struggled to get anything completed, unless it was to the opposition, just like QB #14 for the Rangers did early on. Luckily for him the Warriors couldn’t capitalise on the turnover. Both running games were ok but definitely didn’t set the world on fire. Ben Curley set up the Warriors close to the goal line before the QB fumbled on a QB sneak at about the 4 yd line.

The first score was by the Rangers in the 2nd quarter after the Warriors accidentally touched a Punt by Croydon and it was recovered by Rangers #17 Christian Toy. The Rangers ran RB #22 Josh Rice a couple of times before a 20yd strike to WR #13 and run in for the much-needed score (needed for the spectators). The half came to a close with no further scoring.

The Warriors made a change at QB which saw James Avia take the field. He immediately made them look more dangerous with his ability to run and his sheer size. However, it was the Rangers who managed to score again with a 10yd run by Josh Rice. The failed 2pt conversion attempt saw Ranger QB #14 taken from the field with a suspected broken arm. Putting him in doubt for the rest of the season. New Ranger Joshua Long took the role of QB over from that point. He too making himself the better option going forward. The next score was a short run to the right by Curley, putting the Warriors back in touch. The 2 points were successful with a pass from Avia to WR #91. That ended the scoring for the quarter at 12-8 in favour of the Rangers.

The 4th quarter started with Long taking control and running for a bruising 30yards. adjusting his helmet as he laid a hit then getting taken out of bounds. This set up a short run by long up the middle. Again, the conversion was unsuccessful but gave Croydon some breathing room. Possession changed hands then a Warrior Punt was fumbled by Rangers return man #2, who had signalled for a fair catch. Curley recovered the fumble for the Warriors. After a 27yd TD run by Curley was called back due to a holding penalty, the yards were quickly recovered with a 33yd bomb from Avia to WR #10 Taylor Berrington. Luke Jackson tried pushing through the middle of the Rangers Defensive Line and smartly pitched it back to Avia who reached into the end zone for the score. With a failed conversion the score was now 18-14 in favour of the Rangers.

Rangers and Warriors getting ready to do battle. Photo by Mozzed Photography.

Despite getting themselves close to the goal line through big runs from Rice and Long, the Rangers were unable to score, handing the ball back to the Warriors with 1 minute and 10 seconds remaining, but starting on their own 14yd line. Rangers RB Rice also left the field with what looked to be a shoulder injury. Avia was able to get his team to mid field but a Sack by #9 and #4 Mark Doyle ended the game.

Both teams will look at that game as a cobweb blower offerer (Yes, it’s now a word) and will hope they can improve in the coming weeks. The Rangers have a tough task as they take on the Crusaders at Melton on Sunday (Game moved), while the Warriors head to Endeavour Hills to take on the Predators.

As promised. This is an official apology to the Geelong Buccaneers and their players, committee, children, grandchildren and their pets. I was completely wrong in my prediction for the season and for round 1. Actually, I wasn’t completely wrong as I had just gotten the Rangers score right as predicted and I did get the Preds score correct in this one. Results went the other way though.

Photo by Mozzed Photography

The Buccaneers and Predators were getting ready to take each other on, as the wind seemed to die down a little bit and the sun was still well hidden behind the overcast sky. The one thing I did notice about the Bucs compared to the previous teams and the Predators, was their physical size. Just about everyone was big but also athletic (a select few weren’t) bringing back memories of the days they would dominate during the season but ultimately fail in the Vic Bowl.

The Predators received first with newly recruited WR #14 Prince Coleman returning the kickoff. Not long after that, QB #17 Brad Ferguson was stripped of the ball and the Bucs recovered at the Predators 24yd line. The Bucs eventually ran it in from the 2yd line with RB #37 Barnett. The Predators did their best to try and air it out, stretching the Bucs Defense. Despite a couple of good runs and a catch or two, they were unable to get into the end zone. After a nice catch by WR #1 Tyler Powell on the sideline, the Bucs let loose their not so young FB #45 Tinitali for a 55yd scamper and score. The Barnett and Tinitali show was back in town. The bucs were bringing the pressure to Ferguson which forced him into errors, which included an INT to #3 Suan. The Bucs weren’t done with the scoring when a 40yd bomb was launched by QB #26, caught by WR #8 Cleaver. The 2 point conversion was good to #99. The Predators were now in a deep hole, trailing 20-0 and it wasn’t even quarter time.

In the 2nd quarter we saw the Preds air it out more and move away from the stagnant running game. A couple of long passes saw the Preds inside the 10. The drive was successful with a 10yd throw to Coleman in the endzone. The Predators were on the board for the first time in 2021 (Season) but trailed 20-6. The ensuing kickoff saw Cleaver make a huge return for a Bucs TD, 78yds to be exact. Suddenly the lead was extended 26-6. The Preds struggled to get anything going on their next possession and gave it back to Geelong. After getting themselves into good field position, an exchange by the QB and RB ended in a fumble and recovery by the Predators LB #33. By the end of the half, it looked like this game was going to get away from the Predators if they didn’t improve fast.

The 3rd quarter saw the Predators open the scoring with a short pass and catch to WR #32 Halliwell, who then ran it 45yds. Was the comeback on here? After a nice run by Barnett, it set up the big run for little man RB #39 Yohan, another 33yds and the score was 32-12 and the comeback was extinguished. Both teams were able to air it out but it was the Bucs who’s running game made them more balanced and a final and probably fitting result was another Rushing TD to Tinitali, putting the game out of reach of the Predators. Final score 38-28

The Bucs go 1-0 and travel out to Melton on Saturday to take on the Melbourne Uni Royals, while the Predators stay closer to home and take on their arch rivals the Warriors in Endeavour Hills.

You can catch all the highlights on the YouTube link below.

You can view the Livestream in full on the Gridiron Victoria Facebook page here for game 1 and here for game 2.

Gridiron Victoria Round 1 Review (2021 Season)

Scott Ditcham

Football lover since 1990. Massive Denver Broncos fan and father of 1 future football player. Retired GREAT of the Melton Wolves. Writer for Gridiron Downunder Gridiron Victoria. Onside Kick Productions founder. 2016 season stats - 1 INT, 15 missed tackles, 3 tackles and 1 Minor Concussion.

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