2016 played host to numerous highlights throughout the VAFA and we’ve endeavoured to find the 40 most memorable. From Al Armstrong’s game-tying goal to Michael Di Natale’s dream season, there was no shortage of thrilling moments and we will bring you each one over the next week.
20. VAFA Tragics named Best TV Show
In its second year of production, VAFA Tragics was named Best TV Show at the AFL Victoria Community Media Awards at Ikon Park. The three-person, three-camera, VAFA-specific panel show had fierce competition in its category, including Crocmedia’s Off the Bench TV. Due to the size of the VAFA (seven senior sections and six junior), a number of new segments were introduced to help cover as much of the Association as possible. These included 4Q’s, Headlines and the Division Report. 4Q’s proved popular as each panel member gave their personal opinion on the hot topics, while Nick incorporated HQ News by delivering the important information via Headlines.
19. Warriors are Champions
Westbourne Grammarians were without doubt the most dominant side of any one section in 2016 as they went through the season undefeated en route to their first senior flag since 2007 (Division 3). Boasting five of the top 14 goal kickers in Division 4, the Warriors were attacking juggernauts and averaged 155.75 points per game; 40 more than their closest rivals. The toughest test came in the grand final at St Bernard’s College as the Warriors trailed Point Cook at every break before piling on four unanswered goals in the last quarter. Holding the premiership cup aloft was a fitting end for the VAFA’s sole champion team this year.
18. Goss makes case for Finals MVP
Brendan Goss returned to the Old Xaverians’ fold in 2016 and did not disappoint as one of the most exciting forwards in William Buck Premier. Alongside leading goal-kicker, Matt Handley, Goss was one half of the Xavs’ one-two punch which played a significant role in their successful season. However, it was Goss’ performance post-regular season which showcased his big game prowess as he ran riot for 13 goals from three matches, including bags of six in each elimination final against the two University sides. His incredible performances were highlighted by his semi-final screamer against the Blacks when he flew, rolled and pulled down one of the marks of the year.
17. Clutch Dowler secures prelim for Trobers
La Trobe University and South Melbourne played out a thrilling semi-final at Westbourne Grammar, with the Trobers coming from 23 points down at the first break to clinch a three-point victory and advance to the preliminary. The final few minutes were as hectic as you’re likely to see with the Swans holding a slender lead as both sides fought for control of the football. Enter Bryce Dowler. He’s not the number one goal kicker at La Trobe but he is clearly as clutch as they come, completing the simple chest mark and booting a boundary line stunner to secure the comeback victory with just moments remaining on the clock. And boy does he celebrate accordingly.
16. Bullants, Marcon triple-double
Preston Bullants continued their fairy-tale storyline in the VAFA as they secured their third flag in the four years since joining the senior competition. The Bullants finished third at the end of the home and away season this year but hit their straps in September with victories against Yarra Valley, West Brunswick and then St John’s in the Division 2 decider. If that wasn’t enough, star midfielder, Damon Marcon, received his second best-on-ground medallion from his third grand final appearance, while George Wakim was named VAFA Divisional Coach of the Year. The Bullants now enter Division 1 and simply cannot be underestimated.
15. Steve Wintle elevates and detonates
Steve Wintle is a genuine highlight reel at Hawthorn but few could argue he’s pulled off better than his match-winning screamer against Swinburne University in Round 12. The Hawks were trailing all day at St James Park before a five-goal to three fourth term helped them edge over the line in the dying minutes. Well, this screamer and subsequent conversion certainly helped too….
14. Emmaus raise how much for charity?
Emmaus St Leo’s held their inaugural Ladies’ High Tea earlier this year, raising funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. In honour of the late Cathy Davis, the club raised an incredible $14,000 for the Foundation with more than 150 people in attendance. The Emmaus playing group also did their bit to support the cause as they wore pink guernseys instead of the usual blue number.
13. Payze notches game #350
Shaun Payze etched his name into the record books when he notched up his 350th game for Peninsula in Round 16. Arguably the Pirates greatest player, Payze kicked three goals in his milestone match but was unable to help secure victory as the Pirates went down to Caulfield Grammarians by six points. He has played out an extraordinary VAFA career; including, six best and fairest awards, 11 club goal-kicking awards, nine years as club captain, a Big V representative guernsey (2000) and a competition best and fairest award in 2005. Payze is a genuine stalwart of the Association and 350 games is testament to his durability and passion for the game.
12. Coach Jess makes VAFA history
Old Melburnians Football Club created history by appointing the first-ever female head coach in the VAFA earlier this year. Former Melbourne Grammar School (MGS) 1st XVIII assistant coach, Jessica Rottura, took the reins alongside David Elam as co-coach of the U19s and helped lead her chargers to a preliminary final in Section 2. They were bundled out by eventual premiers, Caulfield Grammarians, but the success of the appointment bodes excellently for female coaches into the future.
11. Riley McDonald’s goal in Premier B Thirds Grand Final
Old Trinity Premier B Thirds captain, Riley McDonald, lived out every footballer’s dream in the Premier B Thirds Grand Final against De La Salle, kicking the go-ahead goal with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. In what were arguably the most unbelievable scenes of the VAFA finals series, McDonald received the free kick in front of the T’s faithful, converted and gave his side the lead for the first time in the match. If that wasn’t special enough, McDonald was playing his last-ever game of football and the T’s had only just reached the grand final after winning six home and away games and scraping into the final four. Scenes.