Premier C was the epitome of competitive balance in 2017 with 3-8 on the ladder still a chance of playing finals 16 rounds into the season.
The two true contenders across the course of the year, Caulfield Grammarians and Old Haileybury, played off in the grand final and thus left us for Premier B, while Kew and Hampton Rovers were relegated on the back of a combined nine wins.
Filling the void left by those four clubs are Fitzroy, Peninsula, St Mary’s Salesian and PEGS. We’ll tell you a bit more about those sides as we investigate the 10 competing for the Premier C flag in 2018.
It’s been a few years since Fitzroy were in Premier C but a combination of injuries and a loss of personnel meant they battled for just five wins last year. While just seven points and .3% over the length of the season separated both them and Parkdale from ninth spot on the ladder, reloading in Premier C may not be the worst case for the Roys. They’re now under the leadership of Big V assistant Luke Mahoney and after GT Moore Medallist and Roys star, Rory Angiolella, gave up the captaincy, will be led by young gun Julian Turner. We know the capabilities of the Roys after they just narrowly missed Premier B finals in 2016, so expect a fightback at Brunswick St Oval this year.
Marcellin broke a long-standing seven-game finals hoodoo last year by taking care of Williamstown CYMS in the first semi but were unable to back it up against a rampaging Caulfield the following week. They were unlucky to miss out on the double chance with the same amount of wins as Old Haileybury (11) but will be buoyed by their minor post-regular season success. Jarrod Carlson relinquished his role as senior coach over the off-season and Glenn Cox took up the post again after he was first appointed in late 2008. With a strong leadership group and a 50th-year anniversary to celebrate, the Eagles should push for finals once more.
The Wellers will be looking to start the season in the same vein as 2017 when they secured back-to-back wins. They were primed for a shot at final before suffering six losses in their final nine games. Ben Hart was the main catalyst for the Wellers and, as the reigning Zachariah Medallist, will lead a largely unchanged line-up into the new season. Three of their first four games are against teams who finished outside the four in 2017 so the Wellers have the opportunity to establish themselves as a finals contender early in the year.
Under the guidance of Big V Champion, Nick Burke, Old Geelong narrowly missed finals last year and will be hell-bent on going (at least) one place better than fifth in 2018. While the loss of George Burbury to Collegians would hurt any side, Ogs will attempt to fill the void with a bevy of talented ins. Jez Nettlefold had a debut year to remember at Lady Como with a best & fairest award, and he will need to continue that form alongside the boys who claimed the Division 1 flag in 2016 for the Ogs to take the next step into finals.
Old Ivanhoe’s inconsistencies have been well-documented over the past two years, but fully expect the Chelsworth Park natives to iron them out and press for promotion in 2018. After finishing eighth with eight wins in 2017, the Hoers announced a new-look coaching line-up capable of striking fear into any opposition with former captain, Jarrod Geischen, taking the reins alongside AFL-experienced trio, Jeff Gieschen (Director of Coaching), John Stevens (Senior Assistant) and High-Performance Coach, David Buttifant. Haydn Heta’s departure for the Northern is a loss, but with on-field leadership from Mal Mitris and Nick Reeves-Smyth, along with a talented young list who took out the Section 3 flag last year, the Hoers are placed perfectly for a shot at ending their four-year stint in Premier C.
The Panthers were another who had a great shot of playing finals last year after winning their first three on the trot. However, like many others, injuries and unavailability’s struck and the Panthers managed just six more wins for the year. For the second consecutive year, they’ve cleaned up with far more ins than outs and with Comrey Edgeworth and Jack Davis leading the charge, will be more threatening this year.
PEGS return to Premier C for the first time since 2015 after they stormed home for one of the greatest grand final victories in the history of our competition last year. Trailing by as much as 57 points mid-way through the second term, the Bombers exploded with 10 second half goals to three, storming home for a 13-point win over St Mary’s Salesian. Dane Pound was named VAFA Divisions Coach of the Year as the inspirational leader of the premiers and it seems as though his leadership has been lost on nobody. They’ve lost just nine players from their entire 2017 playing list and attracted more than 25 new or returning names, giving themselves every opportunity to not just stay in Premier C, but push for finals.
The Pirates climbed to their highest-ever section at the end of 2016 when they fought off in the grand final and rose to Premier B for the first time. Unfortunately, they were unable to play at home for most of the year which railroaded any potential run of form, culminating in just three wins and a drop back down to Premier C. However, with eight straight grand final losses at senior level, the Pirates will use lessons learnt from Premier B to help in their quest for a maiden senior flag. Sam Glenn has been named replacement skipper for Stu Grigg, while Shane Mottram has taken the reins as senior coach.
St Mary’s Salesian
St Mary’s Salesian enter Premier C for the first time as a combined entity after they played off in the Division 1 Grand Final last year. Unfortunately, they’ve lost star midfielder, Tim Dudgeon, back to Tasmania, but welcome the return of Louis Holmes and Brett Borland after a few years away. Goal kicking dynamo Manny Dolan will only improve after his experiences in Ireland with the Big V side, while the size – or lack thereof – of Ferndale Park will surprise a lot of opposition and play right into the Saints’ hands.
The ever-competitive Williamstown CYMS will fancy their chances in 2018 after playing off in the finals last year and attracting a large chunk of talent from the WRFL over the off-season. Conversely, they’ve lost very little in terms of numbers and have a couple of boys, including Nick Ebinger and Taite Sharp, on VFL lists. If they can get enough games out of their VFL-listed players and return the Fearon to the cauldron it has been in the past, the CYs will go deep in 2018.