Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
“You don’t have reunions when you lose…”
I’ll admit, shivers travelled down my spine when Big V senior captain George Burbury spoke those words at the men’s and women’s jumper presentation last month. After losing to the SAAFL in 2016 and the lengths he, Stu Powell and many others have gone to gain the buy-in from teammates in the two campaigns since, you know he meant it.
The same message was expressed by Russell Barnes at last Thursday’s presentation dinner for the Premier B – Division 4 and U19 boys; it’s a great honour to wear the jumper but far better in a winning side. And if there’s one person who understands that, it is an 11-time Big V representative.
On both occasions, you could feel the energy in the room. All players were hanging onto every word their leaders spoke as the significance of the occasion dawned on them. More than 1500 players had pulled on the jumper before them and they were about to join an exclusive and privileged club.
As it turns out, history was created Sunday when the U19 boys defeated AFL Victoria Country and, in doing so, capped off the 2018 representative program with the fourth win from four games – the first time in 93 years of Big V football the feat has been achieved. While we’ve had more wins in a calendar year, not once have we done it with four different teams; senior men’s, senior women’s, B-D4 and U19s.
Game 1: Big V Senior Women’s vs Adelaide Footy League
One year after claiming their first Big V scalp in their inaugural game against AFL Goldfields, the women travelled to Adelaide alongside the men with 16 new faces in the starting 22. With such a large turnover of personnel, it was hard to predict performance against a competition with nearly 30 years of history. However, what ensued was an exceptional all-round display whereby our women ran out 37-point winners. Taylor Padfield proved unstoppable in the ruck and Nat MacDonald across half back, while Sarah Cameron booted three goals for the second year in a row. The increased skill level across the entire women’s competition has been evident from Round 1, but never has it been showcased in its fullest like this year’s Big V side.
Game 2: Big V Senior Men’s vs Adelaide Footy League
Redemption was a key theme heading into the men’s match against the Croweaters as Burbury intimated prior to the match. It wasn’t at the forefront of the campaign, but certainly in the back of the minds of those who experienced the disappointment of 2016. Stu Powell’s 22 were a select group of outstanding individuals who galvanised like few others and successfully backed up last year’s record-breaking win over AFL Vic Country and subsequent tour of Ireland with an incredible 50-point victory. Big V football breeds leaders and with players the ilk of Burbury, Tom Paule, Matt Handley and Josh Freezer teaching every one of their teammates the value of the jumper through both their words and actions, our Association is in a very good place.
Game 3: Big V Premier B – Division 4 vs Western Australian Amateur Football League
For the first time since 2015, the Big V B-D4 team got the go ahead against a talented group of U23’s from WA. While the future of the AAFC U23s Carnival remains airborne, our relationship with our Western counterparts has only strengthened following one of the toughest outings of the entire campaign. The B-D4 set-up gives players from our lower sections the same opportunities afforded our senior men and women, and it proved its worth when you witness Tim Nixon, Phil Dyck, Kane Nissenbaum, Joel Cusack and a host of teammates fighting until the very end, coming from behind and running out 16-point winners. Few would argue the moment of the day belonged to coach, Russell Barnes, when he revealed he was wearing his own Big V jumper under his jacket the entire day.
Game 4: Big V U19’s vs AFL Victoria Country
Despite heading into the match on a four-game losing streak to the Country, confidence was at an all-time high with the strongest list in recent memory. I mean, when you need to change training nights because 15 of your players are VFL-listed, you know you’re in pretty good hands. Dave Kinsella led a flawless campaign as a first-time coach and it was a dominant first quarter that set up the win, kicking five unanswered goals. 23 points was the final margin but at no stage did the boys drop their guard, with Anthony Zimmerman, Lewis Diggins and Luke Di Lizio continuing their outstanding club form.
Congratulations to all involved in the four campaigns this season and for being a part of history. Now mark that 10-year reunion in your diary.