Well, what a way to finish Division 1 on the last day in 2017. With PEGS coming from 57 points down mid-way through the second term, we witnessed one of the all-time great grand finals at Box Hill City Oval.
Can we expect more of the same this year? I hope so.
With the Bombers and St Mary’s Salesian leaving us for Premier C and St John’s and Whitefriars going back down to Division 2, four new teams enter the fray. We welcome Hampton Rovers, Kew, Prahran Assumption and West Brunswick and look forward to another sensational year of Division 1 football.
Brunswick were the epitome of gutsy in 2017, fighting injury and lack of personnel to finish with five wins and avoid relegation in the final few weeks for the second year in a row. Anthony Palmer takes the reins as senior coach, replacing the outgoing Luke Mahoney, and brings with him a wealth of knowledge regarding Division 1 given he was recently in charge of Therry Penola. Daniel Mott played a number of games at senior level last year and can be pencilled in as a star of the future, while former Snow Dog Nick Burgin leads a talented group of recruits.
It’s been a tough two years for Hampton Rovers as they’ve suffered the double drop from Premier B to Division 1. The Rovers won just six games in 2017 and will be looking to improve significantly but the double drop is not unfamiliar territory and they will be buoyed by the two flags that ensued in 2013-14 last time it happened. A lot of experience has left the club over the past two seasons but, on the bright side, given opportunities for the young talent to flourish on the wide expanses of Boss James Reserve. Adam McNeil spoke with VAFA Media about the enthusiasm of the young side and relished the opportunity of getting back into the winners’ column with a fast-paced and exciting brand of football.
Ivanhoe claimed just six wins last year but can count themselves unlucky after taking it up to every side, including a win over eventual grand finalist St Mary’s Salesian. Reuben Blackmore-Moore has left for the Central Murray FNL and leaves a huge hole which will hopefully be filled by the host on ins looking forward to wearing the Magpies’ guernsey in 2018. Mitch Lovell is the key and his leadership will go a long way to helping the Magpies improve upon their seventh-placed finish in 2017.
Three wins in Premier C means Kew are back in Division 1 after two years and we are excited at the prospect of what they can produce following their 2015 flag last time they were here. Michael Shmerling has taken the reins as senior coach and will be looking to fill the void left by outgoing pair, Sam Glover and Rob Maibaum. While the Bears should expect a finals finish in 2018 with big man and goal kicking star Andrew Brazzale making a return, a lot of the excitement surrounds the women joining the competition this year as well, meaning the chance of a double flag is a real possibility.
Oakleigh’s form last season was on par with expectation with their 12 wins coming off the back of relegation the previous year. Numbers are through the roof with minimal departures combined with a large group of recruits. Expect nothing but gold from Aaron Cloke and Tim Scott again this year and another finals appearance is near shoe-in.
Despite finishing second on the ladder at the conclusion of the home and away fixture, Ormond were unable to continue their strong form into the post-regular season and were bundled out in straight sets. There’s been few departures and many ins (like most sides) and they will be led by Dylan Buckley, Jeremy Simon, Blair Atkins and Matt Hine as they look to go one further this year and galvanise after the withdrawal of their women’s team.
2017 was the Year of the Two Blues as they claimed both the seniors and reserves Division 2 flags just one year after suffering relegation. Last off-season was an onslaught as they brought in several high-class performers and retained most with the biggest departure being the retiring Eric Kuret. James Musster had a year to remember with the Fullerton Medal (33 votes), a premiership medallion and BOG, and he will take lessons learnt from the VAFA Ireland trip to help elevate his game even further in 2018. With more than 20 college players under 25 on the list and pushing for senior spots, expect the Two Blues to not just maintain their position in Division 1 this time around, but to compete come September.
Preston Bullants are always a team to be wary of but couldn’t maintain their elite string of finals/grand final runs when they narrowly missed the four last year. Dean Calcedo was outstanding yet again and claimed his second competition best & fairest in three years. His importance, and the importance of his brother Sean, amplifies this year with the loss of grand final stars, Damon Marcon and Reed Jepson. A long list of recruits will hopefully help make up for the loss of two their finest players, but they’ve proved time and again they can never be underestimated.
After eight wins and a sixth-place finish last year, Therry Penola set out to improve their list over the off-season and started at the top. They announced former Essendon star, Dean Rioli would take the reins as coach and he has brought some real talent with him. Jordan Bannister will make his playing return after eight years as an AFL umpire as well as the return of brother Jarrod Bannister in the forward 50 alongside fellow Bannister, Corey. Jonathon Mullins is the other key signing for the Lions as the former Port Melbourne and Coburg player adds speed and experience to the premiership fancies.
West Brunswick were outstanding in Division 2 and make their way up the sections on the back of 14 wins and a grand final appearance against Prahran Assumption. Bill Irving led the way again as the Westies were second for both points for (88) and against (66.8). The culture of the Westies is one of the strongest in community football and the sheer number of players wanting to don their jumper means they’ll once again compete in the higher section.