By David Nagel
The 2022 West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) Team of the Year is a shining example of the league’s growing reputation in the sport.
Since a Covid-wrecked 2020, several new faces have already made an indelible mark on the competition.
A total of 13 players, plus coach Lachie Gillespie, have earned selection for the first time, with a great mix of youth, experience, and new players to the league making up the elite class of 2022.
Dillan Bass, Matt Herbert, Adam Oxley, Dermott Yawney, Stewart Scanlon, Mason McGarrity, Nathan Foote and Dale Gawley are players to have earned selection for the first time after recently embedding themselves in the WGFNC.
Proven performers such as Jye Keath, Shem Hawking and Oscar Toussaint have also earned their first gongs, while exciting Tooradin-Dalmore youngsters Lewis Hill and Cooper Shipp join their senior coach Gillespie as maiden Team of the Year members.
This year’s league medallist, Collingwood premiership player Brent Macaffer, has also added some quality to the WGFNC after returning to the competition after a one-year involvement with Kilcunda-Bass in the inaugural season of 2017.
Impressively, three players have earned their fourth selection in the five-year history of the league.
Kooweerup’s Jason Wells returned to the Demons after a one-year stint with Longwarry, and added previous certificates from 2017 (Kilcunda-Bass) and 2018-19 (Kooweerup) to his growing list of achievements.
Nar Nar Goon star Trent Armour has earned a fourth-consecutive role through the midfield, while Zak Vernon continues to enhance his reputation as a driving force behind Phillip Island’s success over the last few years.
Dual league best and fairest winner Cam Pedersen was once again a standout choice in the ruck, and has been named captain of the team after three years of completely dominant form.
Macaffer, the other member with significant AFL experience, has been selected as Pedersen’s deputy.
Corey Casey and Cora Lynn full-forward Nathan Gardiner join Pedersen as three-time members of the team, with Blake Grewar, Brendan Hermann, Jack Taylor and Mitchell Cammarano joining Macaffer as being dual selected.
Gillespie’s selection as coach is a thoroughly deserved accolade after riding a roller coaster at Tooradin since taking over from incumbent Andrew Clarke, mid-way through the 2014 Casey Cardinia league season.
Gillespie has guided the Seagulls through some dark days, both on and off the field, but is now on the precipice of ending a 25-year premiership drought at the club.
Gillespie said the squad epitomised the growing depth of talent in the WGFNC.
“It’ a great squad, full of exciting talent, and the influx of quality players into the league has been something very noticeable over the last two years,” he said.
“As the league gets stronger and stronger, quality players will be attracted to the competition and that can only be a good thing moving forward.”
While more than happy with the quality of his own team at Tooradin-Dalmore, Gillespie said coaching the TOTY in match-day conditions would certainly be a highlight.
“There’s some serious firepower in there, that’s for sure,” he said.
“Gardiner, Yawney and Wells have had great years up forward, Stewie (Scanlon) has been good for us, and McGarrity from Warragul has been pretty dangerous as well.
“It would be a very hard team to stop.”
Gillespie said earning TOTY honours was a nice accolade to receive, but was quick to highlight the fact that he is a piece of a much-larger puzzle at Seagull-land.
“I’m so lucky to be working with such a great team of players and coaches that are trying to get better at what we do each day,” he said.
“And it’s not just the players and coaches, we receive great support from our committee and volunteers and everyone’s help just makes my job so much easier.
“We’ve got some great leaders right throughout the group…I’m just the figure-head of it all.”
As usual, several players – and one coach – were extremely stiff to miss out.
In the ruck, Billy Thomas, Eamon Trigg and Piva Wright were forced to sit in the shadows of Gawley and Pedersen – who finished top-three in league voting – while Curtis Murfett, Matt Voss, Will Gibson, Michael Marotta and Nathan Allen were unfortunate not to get a gig through the midfield.
And the magnet of Tooradin-Dalmore young-gun James Trezise, was on and off the whiteboard until the final minute…after a sensational season as a high-half forward for the Gulls.
And Warragul Industrials coach Harmit Singh was also seriously considered, after taking the Dusties from last position in 2019 to a preliminary final performance this year.
The team has been selected with match-day in mind, with three mids, a defender, forward and ruck all earning selection on the interchange bench.
PAKENHAM GAZETTE SENIOR FOOTBALL TEAM OF THE YEAR
FB: Dillan Bass (Cora Lynn), Jye Keath (Bunyip), Matthew Herbert (Warragul Industrials)
HB: Brendan Hermann (Nar Nar Goon), Adam Oxley (Tooradin-Dalmore), Shem Hawking (Inverloch-Kongwak)
C: Zak Vernon (Phillip Island), Brent Macaffer (Tooradin-Dalmore), Lewis Hill (Tooradin-Dalmore)
HF: Oscar Toussaint (Inverloch-Kongwak), Dermott Yawney (Nar Nar Goon), Stewart Scanlon (Tooradin-Dalmore)
FF: Jason Wells (Koo Wee Rup), Nathan Gardiner (Cora Lynn), Mason McGarrity (Warragul Industrials)
Ruck: Cameron Pedersen (Phillip Island), Blake Grewar (Tooradin-Dalmore), Trent Armour (Nar Nar Goon)
Interchange: Corey Casey (Inverloch-Kongwak), Nathan Foote (Kilcunda Bass), Cooper Shipp (Tooradin-Dalmore), Mitchell Cammarano (Koo Wee Rup), Jack Taylor (Phillip Island), Dale Gawley (Kilcunda Bass)
Coach: Lachie Gillespie (Tooradin-Dalmore)
Captain: Cameron Pedersen (Phillip Island)
Vice-Captain: Brent Macaffer (Tooradin-Dalmore)
The depth of quality on display in the senior
level of the West Gippsland Football Netball
Competition went to incredible new heights
Though the reigning premiers, the Bulldogs, remained the benchmark throughout
the home and away season, they had to constantly fend off no end of challengers to their
But therein lies the mark of a champion
side – in its ability to stand up time, and time
again when tested.
This season’s team of the year features no
less than seven Phillip Island representatives,
including the newly-crowned, runaway WGFNC senior best and fairest winner Cam Pedersen, and his predecessor and Bulldogs skipper
Brendan Kimber, while Beau Vernon – who led
his side through an unbeaten home and away
campaign – rightfully takes his place as coach
for the second year running.
As a testament to the consistency of the
Bulldogs, Zak Vernon, Kimber, Jaymie Youle,
Mark Griffin, and Beau Vernon have all been
named for the second year running.
Pedersen and key defender Jason Tomada
join them in this year’s side.
And while the Island is well represented
again this time around, there are still a number of Bulldogs who could count themselves
unlucky to miss out on a berth – the likes of the
brilliant Hayden Bruce among them.
But when it comes to the Island, it’s also
well worth remembering just how many
youngsters they’ve given a taste of senior footy
to this season.
The Bulldogs are well and truly on the path
to history-making greatness – and the scary
thing for opposing sides is just how sustainable that looks like being.
While Phillip Island unsurprisingly has the
most representatives of any club in this year’s
team of the year, one slight surprise would be
how many Kooweerup players made the final
Nathan Muratore, the evergreen Luke Walker, proven superboot Jason Wells, the exciting
Nathan Voss, and hardened ball winner Joel
Gibson have all more than earned their selections – while skipper Tim Miller, and Voss’
younger brother Matt could also consider
But often the stronger sides in any given
season have less individual standouts on the
path to team success.
And that’s the case this time around with finalists Tooradin-Dalmore and Inverloch Kongwak.
The Seagulls have three representatives
(Julian Suarez, Andrew Dean, and Kris Sabbatucci) in their first season in the WGFNC,
while the Sea Eagles have two (Lewis Rankin
and key forward Sam Gibbins) but both sides
impressed through the consistency of their
whole line-ups, with a wide spread of players
unlucky to miss the final cut.
Brad Lenders, Luke McKenna, Nick Lang,
and Waide Symes were just some of the long
list of other Gulls players to have outstanding
seasons, along with the likes of Callum Beattie-Powell, Brendan Iezzi, and Tristan Van Driel
from the Sea Eagles.
McKenna, along with the similarly unlucky
Jake Smith from Nar Nar Goon, missed a number of games through injury this season which
worked against their chances of selection. Cora
Lynn’s Jaxon Briggs was another who missed a
number of games at clubland – in his case due
to commitments with the Casey VFL side.
In the coming years, look for he and younger brother Heath to feature regularly in teams
such as this season’s team of the year.
But there were other players named in the
side who simply couldn’t be left out – like Nar
Nar Goon’s gun young on-baller Trent Armour,
who’s the first to see the opposition’s best
midfield stopper each week.
Similarly, Tyson Bale from the Warragul
Industrials demanded selection through his
impressive consistency through how much he
was relied upon each and every week at clubland.
Garfield’s Tanner Stanton was another
firmly in that category, and the lifelong North
Melbourne man’s form at local level played a
significant role in him debuting for the Kangaroos’ VFL side in the second half of the season.
Bunyip tough nut Jeb McLeod was another
whose selection was more than warranted,
and he had a number of team mates who could
rightfully consider themselves super unlucky
not to join him.
But therein lies the prestige of the team of
the year. What makes it is actually the quality
of the players who miss out on selection.
Bailey Patterson, Ryan Silver, James Phillips, and Taylor Gibson were some of the other
players right on the cusp of selection, for example, alongside the Goon’s Jake Blackwood
and Trent Noy.
The captain of this year’s side – for the second straight season – is Kimber, with Pedersen
named his deputy.
Each of the top five vote-getters in this
year’s senior best and fairest count – headed
by Pedersen, Kimber, and Cobras full-forward
Nathan Gardiner – were named in the team ofthe year.
A total of 10 players who played senior interleague for the WGFNC this season werenamed to the side, with Pedersen a late withdrawal from that team back in May.
Opinions for the team of the year weregauged from a range of coaches and otherleading figures from throughout the WGFNC.