VAFA Top 30 Best Bits: 20-11

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Nick Armistead – @NickArmistead

20. Julia jags GF winner

Trailing by four points with two minutes remaining on the clock, the Development Division 3 premiership was slipping away from Mazenod as Old Mentonians looked to defy the odds and claim their maiden flag. Enter Julia Bortoli. The 2017 Annual Report cover girl was the recipient of a kicking-in-danger free kick (yes, technically her hand was in position before the foot) and, despite the devastatingly long wait from the goal umpire, slotted the winner in a moment she will never forget. And boy did they celebrate….

19. Doubles Galore

A playing list with elite depth, sound on-field and off-field structures, and a strong culture can SOMETIMES lead clubs to a premiership. SOMETIMES, if clubs are lucky enough, their hard work MAY result in two flags – both seniors and reserves. What transpired in 2017 was UNHEARD OF as four of the VAFA’s seven senior men’s sections were actually doubles. Old Brighton (Premier B), Prahran Assumption (Division 2), UHS-VU (Division 3) and Aquinas (Division 4) each claimed the 1’s and 2’s flags in a monumental effort from all involved at those clubs. Comparatively, over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, only two clubs won the double in each.

18. Air Richards Flies

Chris Richards (SBMT) wasted no time securing the SPT Mark of the Year, staking his claim in Round 7 against De La Salle. There was elevation, air time, a fair horizontal display and a one-handed grab. Serious, serious hops.

17. Trio’s Dream Season

While a lot of the moments appearing in the best bits of the VAFA season are acts of individual brilliance, few compare to the season-long performance given by Rhiannon Green (Old Camberwell), Penny Brown (Hawthorn AFC) and James Musster (Prahran Assumption). The talented trio produced one of the most dominant individual seasons imaginable, winning their competition best & fairest award, a premiership and a best-on-ground medallion. To put this into perspective, it happened just once last year when St Kevin’s U19 Premier star Michael Di Natale took out the triple crown.

16. Two great friends receive Life Membership

Two genuine stalwarts of our Association received Life Membership of the VAFA at this year’s Season Launch in March. VAFA Queen, Sue Anderson, retired in 2016 after an unmatched 32 years of service, while Tom Brain has been a VAFA Board Member and was the voice of Southern FM since its inception. The two friends have given years of dedication at club level and the recognition of life membership could not be bestowed upon two more deserving people.

15. Rhiannon Shakes ‘n’ Bakes

As described above, Rhiannon Green is a deadest star. In her first year of competitive football, she achieved the triple crown as well as taking out Old Camberwell’s Best & Fairest and Best Finals Player Award. Nobody could have thought she could possibly top it….but she did. While her appearance on VAFA Tragics was elite, I’m actually talking about Rhiannon’s second quarter goal in Old Camberwell’s Development Division 2 Grand Final win. It highlighted the depth of talent she possesses and was later named SPT Play of the Year at the Woodrow Medal & Awards Night. Do yourself a favour and check it out below….

14. SKOB Young Bloods Bag Rising Star Double

The future at St Kevin’s OB is as bright as it has ever been after Lachlan Sullivan and Sarah Cameron were named Men’s & Women’s Rising Star winners following outstanding individual seasons. Sullivan, who was a starting midfielder in the top-ranked side in the VAFA, kicked 22 goals and appeared in the best 12 times. He finished equal-sixth in the Premier Coaches MVP alongside teammate Mitch Brown on 49 votes. Cameron, who kicked three goals for the Big V women’s side against AFL Goldfields in July, was named in the best on five occasions and kicked goals in 10 of her 11 games this season. She bagged five against the Sheagles in Round 4 and has kicked two or more goals another eight times.

13. Deegan makes coaching history

When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. And Paul Deegan has certainly got it. The 2017 U19 Coach of the Year was deservedly rewarded after making history for coaching not one, but two premierships this season. Deegan took on the role of coaching Mazenod’s U19 (4) men as well as their Development Division 3 women’s team and led both to sensational grand final victories. Coaching one team on Saturday and one team on Sunday allowed the hard-working mentor to achieve something that has never been achieved in the VAFA before.

12. Ross-Harris’ polling rampage

High-flying Fitzroy-ACU ruck, Tash Ross-Harris, was crowned the first-ever William Buck Premier Women’s Best & Fairest winner this year after she went on a polling rampage. Through the first 10 rounds, the Roy Girl snared seven 3’s and finished with 27 votes from just 12 games – nine ahead of second-placed Claire Messent (Old Trinity). Her acceptance speech was one of the best things you’ll watch this year…

11. Ireland Hosts Seven Sections of Ammos

As previously stated, the 2017 VAFA Ireland & London Tour was a success of the highest order, with on-field and off-field wins culminating in immeasurable life experiences each member of the touring party will never forget. The greatest part about the whole thing; every senior section of the VAFA was represented. From Sam Hibbins (Collegians) and Tom Jok (SKOB) in William Buck Premier to Michael Culliver (Westbourne Grammarians), Brodie McLaughlin (Bulleen Templestowe) and Liam Whelan (Aquinas), the lifelong friendships forged cut through every sectional barrier you could think of. To see how much this trip meant to the players and coaching staff, simply watch the clip below.

VAFA Best Bits: 30-21

Feature photo: Don Gogerly