Though a sizeable gulf separated the front-runners and chasing peloton for Premier B silverware in 2018, the competition was not short of enthralling moments and compelling results to excite this section’s enthusiasts. Irrespective of pre-existing affinities, very few could refute the categorical success that transpired for St Bernard’s; a remarkable year capped off with an 83-point grand final victory at Elsternwick Park.
The Chinese Zodiac foretold 2018 would be the year of the dog, and no truer words could be spoken of St Bernard’s 2018 campaign. A year brimming with success, few feats did not go in the Snow Dogs favour. They were the best offensive and defensive team in the section, minor premiers and premiership winners, and had the most representatives in the Premier B Team of the Year with five. Returning from retirement post St Bernard’s 2015 William Buck Premier flag, key forward, Chad Jones, had a fairy tale season with 105 goals; 101 of which were kicked during the home and away season. Jones skipped away with the GT Moore Medal (29 votes), earnt the Premier B Sharpshooter Award and captained the Premier B Team of the Year. Following St Bernard’s emphatic grand final win, Tom Sullivan was named the Ian Cordner Medallist, courtesy of his three-goal performance. Bolstered by the accolades of their 2018 season and buffeted by a mix of experienced stalwarts and young talent, the Snow Dogs will re-join William Buck Premier with Old Carey in 2019, the same team they were relegated alongside at the end of 2016.
Finishing the home and away rounds with 16 wins and two losses, Old Carey also had a dominant season and, statistically speaking, were the best-placed team to usurp St Bernard’s in the grand final. Though premiership glory was out of the Panthers’ reach, their presence in the final decider and consequential promotion to the VAFA’s top section for 2019 is a testament to their outstanding and consistent season. The remarkable individual efforts of several Panthers were at the forefront in the 2018 GT Moore Medal, with Sam Cust finishing 4th with 16 votes and Kristian Jaksch polling an incredible 20 votes in the opening eight rounds before a major injury setback. Fielding four spots in the Premier B Team of the Year, the Old Carey defensive unit, who were second-best in this section, were specially validated with Cust, Henry Schade and Andrew Sloan each selected.
University Blacks were a mainstay in the top echelon of Premier B flag contenders but fell agonisingly short of a grand final bout after losing to Old Carey in the preliminary final by just four points. Averaging 111 points per game, Cam Robert’s men ranked second offensively in Premier B, with Lochie Dornauf and Lachlan Huntington particularly impactful with 46 and 56 goals, respectively, and corresponding selection in the Premier B Team of the Year. The Team of the Year also featured Hugh Curnow and Joshua Steadman, whose consistent ruckwork was recognised in the GT Moore Medal with 15 votes – the highest of any ruckman or Blacks player.
With Round 13 in the books, Caulfield Grammarians sat three games and 28.17% outside of finals contention. Unperturbed by the challenge, Simon Williams’ chargers successfully swept all aside in the final five rounds, including a four-point scalp over the eventual premiers, to clinch fourth position from Beaumaris. The Fields co-captain, Tim Nixon, had an exceptional year, epitomised by his Team of the Year selection, captaincy of the victorious VAFA B-Div 4 Big V team, and third-place finish in the GT Moore Medal with 19 votes. A horror ankle injury in the first semi-final against University Blacks ended Nixon’s season abruptly, a harbinger for his side’s eventual 19-point loss and season exit. After performing competitively following last year’s Premier C Grand Final loss to Old Haileybury, Williams was recognised as coach in the Premier B Team of the Year.
A Round 18 victory over Old Haileybury simply was not enough to bridge the 17.3% gap which excluded Beaumaris from finals action in Premier B. The Sharks were, at times, a genuine threat to the competition; a fact pertinent during their six-game winning streak from Rounds 9 to 14. Lewis Diggins was rewarded for his work-rate across half-back after being chosen in the Team of the Year. Former Gold Coast Suns coach and West Coast Eagles captain, Guy McKenna, was appointed senior coach prior to the season’s commencement.
Several unavailability’s during the home and away fixture made form continuity a pertinent concern for Parkdale Vultures, and yet their six wins and 12 losses lodged them firmly in the middle of the Premier B pack in sixth by Round 18’s conclusion. The Vultures enjoyed consecutive wins in Rounds 6 and 7 against Monash Blues and Ajax, respectively, where they also produced their two highest scores for the year with 102 and 114 points. In these outings, Big V star Charlie Dillon was at his goalkicking best with a combined nine majors, affirming his acknowledgement in the half forward line of the Premier B Team of the Year.
The thematic trend of injuries and holiday-goers was prevalent in the Old Haileybury camp throughout 2018, but some close contests and inspired wins sealed the club’s fate for another Premer B bout in 2019. In the crux of the season, the Bloods were able to piece three wins in five rounds (R8-12), including a 24-point coup over Caulfield Grammarians, whilst notably limiting St Bernard’s (R11) to the third-lowest score (94) of the home and away fixture. Grill’d Rising Star nominee, Durras Seccull, and James Paul both featured in the Team of the Year, while also representing the Big V in U19’s and B-D4, respectively.
After dwelling in relegation territory for the opening 15 rounds of the season, Monash Blues sensationally avoided the drop as they managed to edge victories in the latter stages of the year to finish in eighth place. Back-to-back wins against Parkdale Vultures and Old Haileybury in Rounds 12 and 13 put the Blues right in contention with their ladder predecessors, before a 17-point Round 16 win over Ajax secured safety. Nick Argento was the Blues’ B&F award recipient and was acknowledged in the Team of the Year for his outstanding season, while Nick Petering represented the Big V B-D4 side.
Having registered three wins in their 2018 campaign, Ajax moved to ninth position following Round 16, where they would remain until the close of the home and away fixture. With a total of 54 players taking to the field throughout the season, 10 of which only played once, the Jackas undoubtedly had difficulties maintaining a consistent playing group throughout the year. Captain Nicholas Lewis had a standout season, stamping his way into the Premier B Team of the Year and finishing equal-fifth in the GT Moore Medal with 15 votes.
Also concluding with just three wins in a season of football, 10th position would seem a fitting result for Mazenod who endured a difficult year riddled with injuries. Nevertheless, just one additional victory in the final eight rounds of the home and away season could have saved the Nodders from relegation, such was the closeness of the bottom-order Premier B sides, and the disparity between the relegation battlers and finals contenders in the section. Josh Muling was a standout performer for the Nodders, claiming the club’s B&F award and a position in the Premier B Team of the Year.