Saints stars represent
The completion of The News Award voting recently got the sports team here in the 3630 thinking.
In an 11-match Goulburn Valley League campaign where the ability to attend games was severely hampered, how do we go about naming a team of the year?
One angle would be to take the top 21 vote-getters in the award — where we already adjusted the way players polled votes to fit the spluttering season that played out in front of us — and fit their magnets on the board is the most optimal way possible.
So that is exactly what we did.
What the tweaked voting system gave us was the top team of most influential individuals when it came to their respective clubs this campaign.
While that will not always translate to an optimum team on paper when combined, it is an interesting exercise in picking the best team players in a squad, rather than picking a squad of the best teams’ players.
With a bunched group rounding out what would have been the top 21, we extended the bench to encompass a total of 23 players in the squad.
It means all 12 GVL teams are represented in the team — a fitting result after the ups and downs of 2021.
And don’t fret, we will still put together our usual — and very subjective — football and netball teams of the year in the coming weeks, so look out for those as well.
BP — Jordan Wolff (Benalla)
Wolff was thrown forward and back this season for the Saints — finishing with nine goals in the end — but it is in defence where this squad needs him the most. Although he will play tall on an opposition small, his true role will be to help release his full-back from the more dour duties of defending.
FB — Logan Austin (Rochester)
We speak of course of Rochester's Austin. Used in every key position spot by the Tigers this year — and plenty of times more than a few a quarter — he will be the intercept and run-off defender while Wolff stays home. There's a distinct lack of pure defenders in this squad, so he has to start in the backline.
BP — Chris Welsh (Benalla)
This could be an eyebrow-raising pick for some, but despite his midfield prowess Welsh has the hardened edge it takes to play a shutdown role on the resting opposition midfielder. Will work well with Wolff in this set-up.
HB — Mitch Cleeland (Shepparton United)
A revelation for the Demons across halfback this season, Cleeland would be oddson for his side's best-and-fairest award. Took the step up from the Picola District Football League ranks with Waaia to the GVL in his stride and impressed all onlookers.
CHB — Jason Morgan (Kyabram)
Seasoned veteran who returned from serious injury arguably in better form than he left — which was no mean feat. Morgan reads the play like he has already seen the full-page match report of proceedings, and rarely gets beaten one-on-one in the air or on the ground.
HB — Kyle Clarke (Shepparton United)
Another shining light for United — and another player showcasing his talents upon returning from serious injury — Clarke is able to shut down opposition small forwards as well as be damaging on the rebound.
W — Josh Alford (Seymour)
With pace to burn and the fearlessness of youth, Alford’s ability to take the game on not only elevated his reputation in the league this season, but helped the Lions produce a stellar campaign. Can sneak forward for a goal as well after averaging one a game.
C — Tom Sullivan (Tatura)
The winner of this year’s News Award slots into the centreman role, allowing him to win the football at the coalface and then position himself where he is needed most. Was a shining light for the Bulldogs this season.
W — Nick Fothergill (Tatura)
Fothergill is the inside midfielder with the most outside talent in this squad, so he lands on the wing. Able to insert himself into the contest from the bounce onwards, Fothergill is one of the most proficient attacking ball-winners in the league — having kicked 15 goals in nine games — and could in reality line up anywhere on the field and still influence the result of a match.
HF — Callum Crisp (Benalla) CHF — Andrew Smith (Euroa) HF — Kane Morris (Echuca)
I know what you’re about to say. No team in the game’s history (fictional or not) has lined up with three ruckmen across the the half-forward line. And this was a hotly debated set-up within the team. But hear us out. This squad has an abundance of tall timber, so why wouldn’t you lean into it — at least for a period of the game. With the delivery coming into this forward line, the trio of big men are not dropping many marks. Crisp and Smith finished with four goals apiece this season and Morris jagged 12.
FP — Sam Willoughby (Echuca)
In reality, Willoughby probably swaps spots with his skipper Morris to balance out the forward line in this team. He managed eight majors of his own this year and will play an important role at the feet of the big men around him.
FF — Chris Nield (Mooroopna)
Nield booted 28 goals in his nine games for the Cats this season. The main target for John Lamont’s charges finished with 21 more than his next-best teammate — showcasing his importance as well as securing his place leading out of the square in this squad.
FP — Brett Mahoney (Mansfield)
The resting midfielder spot, with the experienced Mahoney starting in the position. Mansfield’s finest has averaged almost a goal a game over the past four GVL seasons as one of the premier midfielders in the region.
R — Shane Neaves (Shepparton United)
By our count you could play any of six members of this squad in the ruck and still be happy with the set-up, but there is only one Shane Neaves. The premier big man in the comp has plenty of competition for that title, but still holds it in our eyes.
RR — BJ Squire (Shepparton Swans)
Squire is exactly the kind of player you want following the ball all day long. His huge tank accentuates the rest of his midfield skills — which are plentiful.
Rover — Zac Keogh (Kyabram)
Keogh has gone from Seymour to Kyabram and remained one of the best inside midfielders in the league. Tough as nails and as hard to shut down as he is to tackle to the ground, Keogh is never a stranger to team of the year exercises.
Jack Hunt (Mooroopna)
Jack O'Sullivan (Seymour) Bryce Stephenson (Shepparton)
Matt Gorman (Mooroopna) Matt Pellegrino (Shepparton)
Plenty of midfield depth fills out the squad, allowing all and sundry to go hard all day. Stephenson — a surprise packet of sorts as a newcomer to the league for the Bears — provides more tall timber, but certainly of the athletic variety.