By Christian Burgess
It’s fantastic to finally have football underway in the VAFA community. After two agonising weeks of watching AFL, the excitement it has produced has had us all itching for Round 1 and finally it’s here. Let’s take a closer look at the teams in Premier C and what we should expect.
Peninsula Old Boys has had an impressive off-season playing against some stellar opposition in the practice matches. They look set to fire this year after retaining most of their list and recruiting well. 2015 Grill’d Rising Star, James Fletcher, looks set to play a dominant role after his pre-season at VFL level and will be amongst many young guns looking to offer run and carry in 2016. The Pirates will be led strongly by their skipper, Stu Grigg, who will be accompanied by some experienced recruits. Their first clash with Ormond will give us all an insight as to how far they will go this year, but expect big things from the Pirates.
Ormond are chasing the lost premiership which they had one hand on during the 2015 home and away season. After losing one match and sitting three games clear on top of the ladder after the home and away season, Ormond went on to lose by 30 points to Kew in the Division 1 Grand Final. Despite Ormond taking the step many believe to be the biggest in amateur football (Division 1 to Premier C), they should not be written off as they are every chance to redeem themselves this year in finals. With the likely inclusion of ex-AFL player, Matthew Robbins, to their already talented list, Ormond’s search for redemption could produce outstanding results.
Williamstown CYMS fell in the middle of the pack in 2015 and will look to improve this year. Despite finishing seventh, they were the fifth highest scoring team in Premier C and will look to keep their attacking style of play in 2016. A lot of young talent has emerged from the Williamstown Juniors; each of whom will be fighting for a spot in the senior side. Outside of their juniors, they have been relatively quiet in the recruiting department but retained many of last year’s list. The CY’s aligned four of their guns – including goal kicking star Nick Ebinger – to Williamstown Seagulls (VFL) who, if available, will play a major role in team success.
Old Camberwell Grammarians will have a thrilling opening encounter against Williamstown CYMS after they finished two games apart in 2015. They proved they are capable of competing against some of the sections’ stronger sides in patches throughout last year, including last year’s Premiers Old Haileybury. In Round 18, it was inconsistent goal kicking which let the Wellers down as they finished the day with six goals and 11 behinds against the Bloods. It’s been a grueling pre-season for the boys and I expect them to finish higher than eighth this year.
Caulfield Grammarians has been relegated after managing just two wins in Premier B, yet had a strong off-season as they recruited more than 30 players to their Club. Caulfield are happy to see the back of St Kevin’s after an average losing margin of 107 and will be chasing wins in 2016 after numerous tough encounters last season. They have the right men in charge to get the club back on the winners’ list, with co-captains, Tim Nixon and Tom Small, set to lead the pack alongside coach, Simon Williams, who has 218 games of amateur experience as a player under his belt as well as coaching last year’s Big V representative side.
Mazenod OC were 2.65% short of avoiding relegation in 2015. Managing five wins last season, Mazenod will be a strong presence in Premier C whilst also recruiting Kalem Post after he played 14 games for Frankston in the VFL. The Nodders will be led by Ben Phibbs who has an exceptionally impressive football resume and will look to improve his talented list.
It was a disappointing conclusion to the year for Marcellin after finishing on top of the ladder at the end of the home & away season. Marcellin has shown in the last four years they are more than capable of winning a premiership, finishing in the top three each season. Amateur enthusiasts would love to see them finally receive the reward they are so desperately close to and I think everyone in the VAFA expects them to finish at the top end of the ladder once again.
Old Ivanhoe Grammarians lost in the 2015 finals series to eventual premier, Old Haileyburians, to the tune 95 points after finishing two games above them at the end of the home & away season. Their off-season has been impressive, playing well in practice matches and recruits some big names. Joining the club is gun forward and ex-St Kilda player, Matthew Ferguson, who was the leading goal kicker for Strathfieldsaye Storm last year and is rumored to be the fittest he’s ever been. Chris Naish will again lead the troops alongside last year’s Zachariah medallist, Carl Groth, to what I believe will be a Premier C Grand Final in 2016.
Kew are in the hunt to make VAFA history as they attempt to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back! Senior coach, Ian Aitken, has revolutionized the club and created a dominant outfit who has climbed the grades from Division 3 to Premier C in consecutive years. A winning culture has been enforced upon the playing group as their journey has been well publicized outside the VAFA community. It’ll be a ‘feel good’ story if achieved but they may face their biggest task to date, similar to Ormond, elevating from what could be considered as the biggest step in amateur football. Will the Kew run come to an end in 2016?
Oakleigh finished three games out of finals in 2015 and are hoping to take the next step this year. Despite their ladder placing, the Krushers were the second highest scoring team in 2015. It’s their attacking ‘score fest’ style of football that makes them exciting to watch, demonstrating that they are more than capable of finishing higher in 2016. Dual B&F winners, Shane Borland and Stuart Wines, look to lead the pack again and you can expect it to rain goals as Aaron Cloke remains in the arc.
Good luck to all playing in Round 1 this weekend for what should be an exciting start to a much-anticipated Premier C Season.
Top Four: Peninsula, Old Ivanhoe Grammarians, Marcellin & Kew
L Zachariah Medallist: Tie – James Fletcher (Peninsula) & Matthew Ferguson (OIG)
Leading Goal Kicker: Matthew Ferguson (OIG)