Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
The inaugural season of VAFA Wilson Women’s was a success of the highest order with more than 1900 registered women representing 40 teams from 35 clubs across five sections. William Buck Premier and Development Divisions 1 and 2 fielded eight teams each, while Development Division 4 had 10. Development Division 3 was made up of six teams and played all of their matches on Sundays.
William Buck Premier
Marcellin created history when they became the first-ever William Buck Premier champions in VAFA Wilson Women’s, defeating SKOB Saints by seven points at Sportscover Arena. After claiming one of the two pre-season Lightning Premiership victories, the Sheagles were promoted to the highest women’s section alongside established teams the ilk of SKOB, Fitzroy-ACU and Brunswick Renegades. Even more remarkable was the fact the Sheagles came from third on the ladder, defeating Old Trinity and the Roy Girls on their way to the decider. Laura Robertson was named best on ground in the grand final, while Tessa Zagontinos kicked two clutch goals. While the memories of the grand final will forever remain in the minds of all those at Marcellin, it was a disappointing end to what had been an otherwise successful year for SKOB. Led by Rising Star winner, Sarah Cameron, and leading goal kicker, Georgie Lupson, the Saints were firm favourites after coming from the disbanded VWFL, and after losing just one game throughout the season. The Roy Girls also came from the VWFL but were unable to emulate their home and away form of 12 wins from 14 games as they were bundled out in straight sets to SKOB and the Sheagles. However, ruck Tash Ross-Harris was unstoppable as she polled 27 votes en route to the competition best & fairest award. Old Trinity rounded out the top four in their first year of existence as Big V skipper and former Hockeyroo, Claire Messent, starred through the midfield. After winning four of their first six post-grading round games, Caulfield were defeated in four of their last five with two heavy losses to SKOB and Marcellin making a finals berth a difficult task given their percentage of 66.31%. Brunswick Renegades and Old Xaverians claimed five wins each, while Melbourne University did not win a game after grading, giving up 46ppg while averaging just eight themselves.
Best on Ground Medal: Laura Robertson (Marcellin)
Best & Fairest Award: Tash Ross-Harris (Fitzroy-ACU)
Leading Goal Kicker: Georgie Lupson (SKOB Saints) – 29
Development Division 1
The two strongest sides in Development Division 1 faced off in the grand final on the back of 11-win seasons, with St Mary’s Salesian claiming a thrilling one-point victory at Sportcover Arena. No more than one point separated the two sides at every break throughout the day as best-on-ground recipient Tash Rappos and forward Lisa Davie helped the Saints over the line at final siren’s sound. Just one point separated the two sides when they met in the second semi-final two weeks prior, so it was a fitting result for two talented units. Beaumaris, who were well-known for their legions of support at Banksia, finished third following a hard-fought preliminary final loss to the Saints, while Old Haileybury settled in fourth. The Hearts were on track for a grand final berth earlier in the year but lost star midfielder, Sarah Casey, to a season-ending injury in Round 8 and subsequently lost four of their last six. Casey, who missed those last six games, had already polled 14 votes from the opening eight rounds and still finished second in the best and fairest count. Old Geelong and Old Brighton both fielded strong squads but inconsistency and unavailability’s at crucial periods of the year caused them to finish just outside the four in fifth and sixth, while Monash Blues and Ormond brought up the tail with four and three wins, respectively. Despite finishing last, Ormond and Big V star forward, Kate Macqueen, edged out Casey as the best and fairest player in Division 1.
Premier: St Mary’s Salesian
Best on Ground Medal: Tash Rappos (St Mary’s Salesian)
Best & Fairest Award: Kate Macqueen (Ormond)
Leading Goal Kicker: Laura Jago (West Brunswick) – 27
Development Division 2
Old Camberwell proved far too strong for all comers in Development Division 2, claiming the premiership with a 21-point victory over Old Carey at Trevor Barker Oval. Leading by 14 points at the half, the Wellers booted three unanswered in the third to seal the outcome. In her first year of competitive Aussie Rules, midfielder Rhiannon Green claimed the triple crown by winning the premiership, best on ground medallion and competition best and fairest. Such was her brilliance, one of Green’s sublime grand final goals was also named SPT Play of the Year. Sitting second-last on the ladder after Round 6, it was a remarkable effort from Old Carey to earn a spot on grand final day. They won four of the last five heading into finals and won through to the decider via a strong 34-point victory against Ivanhoe and a one-point thriller over Collegians. Collegians posted the third-best points for and second-best points against totals for the season, but fell in straight sets by a combined seven points, while Ivanhoe rounded out the four. UHS-VU’s season was derailed when captain and Big V star, Mara McSweeney, tore her ACL, losing five of their last six games. Oakleigh and SBMT/St Peter’s claimed five wins apiece, while Yarra Old Grammarians found the going tough, triumphing just twice.
Premier: Old Camberwell
Best on Ground Medal: Rhiannon Green (Old Camberwell)
Best & Fairest Award: Rhiannon Green (Old Camberwell)
Leading Goal Kicker: Eloise Defina (Old Camberwell) – 36
Development Division 3
Development Division 3 was the VAFA’s six-team Sunday competition and it was Mazenod who held the premiership cup aloft following a stunning two-point victory over Old Mentonians. Trailing by seven points at half time, the Nodders kicked two goals to one, including the winner with less than five minutes remaining on the clock. Jennifer Vissenjoux starred in a best-on-ground performance, while Julia Bortoli will never forget kicking the winning goal. The Nodders had a series of stars in their midst, none more dominant than Big V representative, Bek Watson, who polled nine times for 19 votes and was runner-up in the competition best and fairest count. The Panthers will be disappointed after coming so close to an inaugural flag, but did an outstanding job to come from third spot on the ladder with finals wins over Hampton Rovers and ladder leaders, Ajax. The Jackettes were the one remaining club who made the move following the disbandment of the VWFL and were the dominant force throughout the home and away season with nine wins placing them atop the ladder. Despite having competition medallist, Chelsea Fisher, in their midfield, the Jackettes were knocked out in straight sets by just two points each time. Melbourne Uni’s second team missed finals by just one game and Therry Penola managed just two wins for the season.
Best on Ground Medal: Jennifer Vissenjoux (Mazenod)
Best & Fairest Award: Chelsea Fisher (Ajax) – 23
Leading Goal Kicker: Belinda Griffiths (Old Mentonians) – 16
Development Division 4
With 10 teams competing, Development Division 4 was the largest in VAFA Wilson Women’s and was home to four ‘reserves’ sides, SKOB Saints, St Mary’s Salesian, Fitzroy-ACU and Brunswick Renegades. However, it was Hawthorn AFC who came away with the premiership after they defeated SKOB by 17 points. Penny Brown was unstoppable and added a best-on-ground medallion to her haul of premiership and Division 4 best and fairest. The Saints came from third to give themselves a chance at an unlikely flag, while South Melbourne Districts suffered two successive finals losses to the eventual grand finalists after finishing the home and away season in second. Swinburne University held off De La Salle’s run for a finals berth with a Round 18 victory to claim fourth, with percentage separating the two sides. Three of the bottom five sides were the ‘reserves’ teams while Canterbury and Bulleen Templestowe rarely threatened the top four.
Premier: Hawthorn AFC
Best on Ground Medal: Penny Brown (Hawthorn AFC)
Best & Fairest Award: Penny Brown (Hawthorn AFC)
Leading Goal Kicker: Hayley Wurfel (Swinburne University) – 26