The 2017 Division 1 season was a treat for players and spectators alike. All season long matches were precariously placed. The bounce of a ball deep in the forward pocket, or the way the wind pushed a ball the moment after it was dropped to the boot, swaying it just enough to push it across the goals for a minor score, separated victor from loser.
The ball bounced right for PEGS as they claimed an unbelievable premiership victory from third on the ladder. After handling the newly-relegated Oaks in the first final, PEGS overcame dangerous Ormond to make their way through to the big dance against St Mary’s Salesian. Unfortunately, on their way there they lost club gun, Cam Livori, to suspension. Though, as the big day rolled round, fans were reminded PEGS accounted for two of the three losses SMS sustained during the season.
As it generally did in 2017, a howling gale played a part in the result of this match. Despite being down 57-points as half time neared and having lost high flier, Tylar Vujanic, the smell of a PEGS comeback swept through Box Hill with every gust of wind.
Ruckman Robert Baddeley, awarded the J.W. Manton Medal for best afield, continued an amazing season to lead a remarkable comeback. Slowly fighting their way back into the match, it was not until the 18th minute of the last when PEGS finally gained the lead, which they never relinquished.
Strong performances across the board for the season, particularly in the finale, underscored a truly memorable season for the Bombers. Recruit, Adrian Romanyk, kicked 57 goals on the season while their outstanding defensive six was the stingiest in the competition.
Their gobsmacked opponents, SMS, will be struggling to see the forest through the trees for some time after virtually having two hands on the premiership cup. However, the silver lining lies in their ascension to the premier sections. The emergence of young star, Manny Dolan, will sweeten the bitter palate of a Grand Final loss. Dolan booted 76 goals to be the leading goal kicker in the competition and haunted the dreams of many a Div 1 defender. It was not a one man show though, Tim Dudgeon and Jos op’t Hoog led from the front as senior players and Alexander Bussell broke through to become one of the best defenders in the league.
Despite finishing second on the ladder at the conclusion of the home and away season after dropping back from Premier C, third-placed Ormond would have been hoping to at least make the big dance. A strong back half of their season was instituted by midfield bull, Thomas Buckley, and Team of the Year constituents Jeremy Simon, Blair Atkins and recruit, Matt Hine. The undoubted highlight of their season was their Round 17 victory over PEGS.
After dropping back from the premier leagues, Oakleigh were tipped to have a difficult year. However, they exceeded expectations and snuck into finals on the back of a triple figure victory late in the season. The Oaks were a challenge to their opponent every week due to “the trident”; their three-pronged forward line of Aaron Cloke, Tim Scott and Trevor Bromley, who played his 300th game during the season.
After a premiership last year, their third in four years, Preston were a team to be wary of. They started the season with a bang and sat equal-second at the mid-point of the year. Unfortunately, their season was derailed by European vacations and they missed finals for the first time since their VAFA inauguration. Star midfielder Dean Calcedo won his second competition medal in three years during the campaign.
Therry Penola came into the season with a new coach and ferocity after bowing out in finals last year. It was a disappointing year for them though as they limped through the season, recording just five wins from their first 15 games. The Egglestone brothers battled hard all year for the Lions despite the disappointing result.
It was all laid out for Ivanhoe in 2017. Young guns, Reuben Blackmore-Moore and Mitch Lovell, are rock stars up that way and they give some colour to the drab black and white of the Magpies guernsey. Despite matching it with every team in the competition on a weekly basis, and even knocking off SMS, Ivanhoe were never able to take the next step.
Brunswick NOBSPC had a season to forget after battling just to avoid relegation in 2017. The team never hit their straps during the year but, individually, big Scott Thomas had a stellar season in the ruck and Chris Ford did all he could up forward.
The 2016 Division 2 Grand Finalists, St Johns, struggled with the increased standard of Division 1 and failed to score 100 points in any game during the season. Although, unstoppable forward Aaron Thornton booted 55 goals and, captain, Glenn Costas, had a memorable year.
Nine years of Division 1 action ended for Whitefriars as they succumbed to relegation. Rarely looking likely, the Friars were winless until Round 7 and locked to the bottom of the ladder from Round 4. Angus Hands was their best player all year and topped off his season with a resounding best and fairest win.
JW Manton Medallist: Robert Baddeley (PEGS)
LS Pepper Medallist: Dean Calcedo (Preston Bullants)
Leading Goal Kicker: Michael Dolan (St Mary’s Salesian) – 72