Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead
10. Hampton & Ormond take to the Boss
Friday 7 April 2017 will forever be remembered as the day women became fully immersed into our Association with the first-ever match for premiership points between Hampton Rovers and Ormond. Under lights at Boss James Reserve, thousands of supporters turned out to witness an elite pre-game function, a spine-tingling rendition of the Australian national anthem and a hard-fought match between two evenly-poised sides. Ormond won the match, but the real MVP were the thousands who played a part in this historical occasion.
9. Adam Bentick Goal of the Year
An injury-free run allowed Adam Bentick to return to some of his very best form in 2017, culminating in a third-place finish for the Premier B GT Moore Medal. However, it was the 2015 Woodrow Medallist’s explosive SPT Goal of the Year which blew viewers away as he demonstrated strength, poise and precision in one of the most devastating acts of individual brilliance you’re likely to see.
8. Big V women strike gold on debut
Over the past 92 years, 1454 male players have proudly worn the Big V guernsey while representing our Association, state and our country. This year, however, women received their first opportunity to don the esteemed Victorian symbol when the VAFA pitted our first representative side against AFL Goldfields in North Ballarat. Made up of 24 players from 18 clubs within each of the five women’s sections, the John Kanis-led outfit kick-started their Big V journey with a comprehensive 49-point victory. There were several outstanding individual performances across the ground, with Irena Malliaris (Caulfield Grammarians) named best afield and Riley Christgoergl (Old Xaverians) receiving the first-ever Spirit of the Big V Award. More than anything, the Victorian theme song has never sounded like this….
7. ‘Mahon of the hour’ defies all odds
University Blacks skipper and former Big V champion, Bede Mahon, defied all odds to win the 2017 Woodrow Medal. And by defying all odds, the Blacks secured just four wins and were relegated to Premier B for the first time in six years. Notwithstanding disappointing team results, Mahon registered 17 votes; including, the maximum three in a 20-point loss to St Kevin’s OB in Round 18 to pull ahead of the chasing pack on 14. Remarkably, Mahon polled 10 of a possible 12 votes in the Blacks’ four wins and had just a total of six half way through the season. He was dubbed the ‘Mahon of the Hour’ in the wake of his stunning victory but seriously this effort is one of the greatest in recent history.
6. Sheagles Salute
Marcellin created history when they became the first William Buck Premier women’s champions following a seven-point win over SKOB Saints. As previously mentioned, the Sheagles claimed one of the two Lightning Premierships on offer in April and were then fixtured in the highest section of VAFA Wilson Women’s. A bout of nerves kicked in to the playing group and coaching staff as they prepared to take a brand-new team of 43 women up against established units such as Fitzroy-ACU, Brunswick Renegades and the Saints; each of which had seniors and reserves teams. They really need not have worried as Women’s Coach of the Year, Tom Stafford, gradually built them into a flag contender. They finished third at the conclusion of the home and away season after winning three of their last four games, before taking out Old Trinity, the Roy Girls and finally, the Saints, one by one en route to premiership success. If the Sheagles couldn’t impress you more, their previous match against the Saints (R14) was an 84-point loss….yep.
5. PEGS’ never-before-seen GF fairy tale
As far as grand final victories go, PEGS’ Division 1 flag against St Mary’s Salesian is as good as it gets. The Bombers, who had defeated the Saints twice throughout the year, were completely outplayed in the first quarter and a half and trailed by as much as 57 points throughout the second term. 9.5 goals down. The premiership was lost…..However, as the game progressed, the Bombers, who were led by JW Manton Medallist and ruckman Robert Baddeley, refused to lie down. 12 goals to six through Q2 and Q3 meant the margin was just 11 points at three quarter time. With a shell-shocked Saints unit on the back foot, PEGS kicked another three unanswered in the final term to complete a fairy-tale, never-before-seen premiership victory that will live on in the memory of all who witnessed the magical feat.
4. SKOB break 70-year hoodoo
For the first time since 1947, St Kevin’s OB were crowned the number one team in the VAFA. In the 70 years since their inception into our Association, the one piece of silverware that has always eluded SKOB has been that A-Grade flag. Not anymore. The recruitment kings – who brought in Mitch Brown, Sam Critchley and Jay Schulz among others – capped off an outstanding season with a thrilling three-point grand final victory over Collegians at Trevor Barker Oval. It wasn’t THAT they won, it was also HOW they did it. They spent 13 of the 18 weeks on top of the ladder throughout the home and away fixture after losing just two games and with an average winning margin of 55.5 points. Shannon Grant had his chargers leading the competition in points for (105) and against (64), while five players were named in the Team of the Year and six in the Big V senior side. It was a long time coming, but it must have been worth it for all involved.
3. 125 Club Round
Traditionally, VAFA clubs operate on the hard work and dedication of their volunteers and recognising their contribution alongside players, coaches and sponsors was one small way of giving back. On July 1, the VAFA recognised more than 250 volunteers who had contributed to the success of their respective clubs over the past 25 years with specialised 125 medallions. Additionally, after each match, a medallion was presented to the player judged best on ground by the officiating umpires. It was a sensational celebration of our history and those who helped create it.
2. Big V seniors reclaim number one position
The Big V senior side produced one of the most dominant representative football performances ever seen when they defeated AFL Victoria Country by 82 points at Frankston Oval. Against an opponent made up of the six top-ranked country football leagues in Victoria, Stu Powell’s men galvanised unlike any in recent memory for their first win against the Country since 2013 and largest winning margin in the 33-year history between the two sides. Unbelievably, 12 players made their senior Big V debut as the VAFA reaffirmed its position as the number one community football competition in Victoria.
“In its 125th year, the VAFA commenced a women’s football competition and irrevocably changed the landscape of our Association in the most positive way” – Shona MacInnes.
In the biggest and best bit of 2017, 1958 registered players represented 40 teams from 35 clubs across five sections of VAFA Wilson Women’s. Those numbers alone are still pretty difficult to comprehend, but the impact of the female presence throughout our clubs has been far greater than even those numbers suggest. I doubt many could have foreseen the growth and undeniable success of the women’s competition, but it has, without doubt, been the single greatest venture our Association has embarked upon since 1892.