Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
It’s just over two months until the first bounce of the 2019 VAFA season, meaning discussion is about ramp up within our community. Who can’t we wait to see on the field? What has us excited, intrigued and even a little bit nervous? Here’s eight of the top storylines to look out for in season 2019.
SKOB + Waite = ?
In 126 years of competition, the three-peat has been achieved just 10 times in the VAFA’s top section. Keeping in mind Old Xaverians (1995-2000), Ormond (1987-‘90) and University Blacks (1938-‘39, 1946-‘49) extended their three-peats to unfathomable heights of success with four and six-peats, respectively, it’s not otherwise a regular occurrence. St Kevin’s OB, however, have gone about adding to their flags over the past two years with the addition of former Carlton and North Melbourne forward Jarrad Waite. With Stephen Gilham and Jay Schulz no longer roaming the forward 50 at TH King, it will be intriguing to see how Waite adapts to VAFA football and without doubt a popular talking point among the Amateur community.
Laws of the Game changes
The AFL laws of the game changes have dominated headlines over the off-season, and we are set to implement a number of those in the VAFA. While the community will be forced to wait until the official announcement of the changes in two weeks, there’s no doubt kick-ins, ruck contests and player infringement penalties will dominate discussions throughout the season. As equally intriguing will be the laws the VAFA doesn’t adopt….there’ll be one or two.
Pirate Ship Stabilising
There’s no doubting it’s been a tough two years for Peninsula OB. After earning promotion to Premier B for the first time in the club’s history in 2016, they’ve since struggled to find consistency on the field and suffered the double drop with relegation in 2017 and 2018. Fear not though Pirates fans as they will enter Division 1 with an air of confidence following the return of star ruckman and dual B&F winner Nick Fisher, former skipper Stu Grigg and former vice-captain Adam Smrdel among others. In their 40th year as a club, cast your eye to the comeback of the Pirates.
Increasing difficulty of the Player Points Cap
The player points cap was introduced in 2016 and has gradually been reduced every year to a point where clubs cannot exceed 45 in 2019. While that may not seem like a huge deal to many, it is a two-point drop from last year and will absolutely affect clubs who have gone on recruiting sprees from outside the VAFA. Don’t be surprised if, on occasion, there are full strength teams who will be forced to select their players in the reserves for the sole purpose of avoiding the cap.
It’s been an incredible start to the Sheagles’ VAFA women’s campaign with two William Buck Premier grand finals in their first two years; including, the inaugural flag in 2017. However, they will enter 2019 without premiership mentor and 2017 Women’s Coach of the Year, Tom Stafford. It’ll be a HUGE shift for the most successful team in our Premier comp as they attempt their third consecutive shot at a grand final berth.
William Buck Premier Disposal King
VAFA Media is expanding its coverage again in 2019 to include live statistics for the William Buck Premier men’s competition. An initiative that was highly successful for the top women’s comp last year, this expansion means we will finally receive categorical evidence of who the number one ball-winner in our premier men’s section is. While Erin Gogerly (Fitzroy-ACU) and Dani Calautti (Kew) ranked one and two in disposals for the women’s comp last year, surely Tomi Johnston (Old Xaverians) and Viv Michie (Collegians) will be favourites in the men’s. Or Mitch Brown (SKOB)? Or Harry Hill (Old Brighton)? Either way, we’re about to find out!
Can the Big V go again?
It won’t be easy. The Big V broke ground with four victories from four different teams in 2018 and will have the same opportunity to do so with a senior men’s, senior women’s, B-Div 4 and U19’s game again this year. AFL Victoria Country will be wanting revenge in both the senior men’s and U19’s, our women will be chasing three from three, and the B-Div 4 boys will be facing a fired up WAAFL on home soil in Perth. While there’s no doubt they CAN do it, each game will certainly have the attention of many as the winning streak continues to grow, and grow, and grow!
Of all finals losses in 2018, Williamstown CYMS was one of the most heartbreaking after the minor premiers went out in straight sets by a total of four points. Coming up against Fitzroy (three points) and Old Geelong (one point), the CY’s were unable to finish off a stellar year of 16 home and away wins but will no doubt have redemption and their first trip to Premier B front of mind as they approach the 2019 season.