As the year winds to an end, we look back over the moments that defined the 2017 football and netball season.
Continue below as we reflect on 20 of the best highlights from a memorable year on the football field and netball court.
SENIOR WOMEN’S FOOTBALL LAUNCHED
2017 will be remembered as the year senior women’s football boomed across Australia, thanks largely to the successful introduction of the AFLW competition.
Having managed junior girls’ competitions for a decade, the NFL took its first step into senior women’s football with the introduction of the Northpark NFLW competition.
The NFLW competition saw 20 teams split across two divisions, as we welcomed clubs from outside the league as part of a transition from the AFL Victoria-managed Victoria Women’s Football League, along with NFL clubs fielding a women’s team for the first time.
In February it was confirmed Division 1 would consist of 10 teams from the former VWFL – with Bendigo, Darebin, Deer Park, Diamond Creek Women’s, Kew, La Trobe Uni, Melbourne Uni, Pascoe Vale, VU Western Spurs and Whitehorse to compete in the top flight.
The Division 2 competition included a number of second sides from the established Division 1 clubs, along with a number of upstart teams from NFL clubs.
Those to compete in Division 2 were confirmed as Darebin 2, Diamond Creek Women’s 2, Kew 2, La Trobe Uni 2, Laurimar, Montmorency, South Morang, VU Western Spurs 2, West Preston-Lakeside and Whitehorse 2.
With the opening round announced for the weekend of April 22-23, West Preston-Lakeside and Whitehorse 2 agreed on an early launch to kick-start the women’s competition.
The inaugural game was played on April 1 at J.E. Moore Park, following the senior men’s match between West Preston-Lakeside and Heidelberg. The Colts claimed an 8.10 (58) to 5.2 (32) win in front of a large crowd, helping to get the ball rolling on a memorable first year for the NFLW competition.
RESERVOIR RETURNS + POWER SWITCHED ON
The senior men’s competition expanded to 27 teams in 2017 with the return of Reservoir from recess and introduction of Laurimar. Both sides competed in Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3, giving the competition a record-high nine teams.
A mountain of work by the club’s committee ensured Reservoir returned to the playing field this year. The 2017 season was never going to be about the win-loss record, and the Mustangs showed great resilience despite regularly being on the receiving end of heavy defeats.
The highlight of the club’s season came in Round 15, when it claimed its sole win of the year over Laurimar. The Mustangs looked in trouble when they trailed by 20 points at half time, but kicked nine goals to two in the second half to break through for a long-awaited victory – their first since winning the 2015 Division 3 grand final.
Laurimar managed to avoid the wooden spoon in its inaugural season in the NFL senior competition. The Power scored two wins in their debut campaign and made big inroads as the season progressed.
Their maiden win came in Round 6, when a five-goal to two third quarter helped set up a 20-point triumph over Mernda at Laurimar Reserve. The second victory was recorded in Round 9 when the Power stormed to a 64-point home win over Reservoir.
NETBALL VICTORIA ASSOCIATION CHAMPIONHIPS AND LEAGUE CLUB CHALLENGE
The NFL’s open representative netball team competed at the Netball Victoria Association Championships on June 23.
The Championships pitted 16 leagues and associations from around Victoria against each other at the State Netball and Hockey Centre.
In shortened matches, our netballers ended the round robin stage with a 5-2 record to finish in third place in their pool – unfortunately missing out on a place in the semi-finals on percentage.
Meanwhile, Diamond Creek competed in the Netball Victoria League Club Challenge in March, which was held at the State Netball and Hockey Centre over the Labour Day long weekend.
Diamond Creek recorded six wins, two draws and a loss in the round robin stages, before losing a close match to Drouin Hawks in the semi-finals.
It proved to be a great pre-season warm up for the Creekers – who in September claimed their eighth-consecutive Section 1 title.
TOO GOOD FOR THE BEST FROM THE WEST
The senior representative football team emphatically scored its first win since 2014 when it smashed the Western Region Football League by 125 points at Preston City Oval in May.
The result propelled the NFL up to fourth place in the AFL Victoria Community Championships rankings, setting up another tilt against the Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League in 2018 – with the winner to face off for the No.1 ranking in 2019.
Garry Ramsay took the reins as senior representative coach this season and assembled a strong playing list for the clash against the WRFL, with Matthew Dennis and Jesse Donaldson continuing as co-captains for a third-successive season.
After a tight opening quarter, the NFL took complete control of the contest – kicking 23 goals to five after the first break. James Kroussoratis and Ash Close were a deadly combination in attack and shared 10 goals.
Montmorency on-baller Stephen McCallum won the medal as the player adjudged best afield. McCallum provided a key link between defence and attack through the middle of the ground for the NFL, finding a good balance of inside and outside ball.
McCallum had plenty of support through midfield, with fellow ball winners Jordan Perry, Lucas Hobbs, Jesse Donaldson and Anton Woods also among the better players in the massive win.
Unfortunately, the NFL’s under-19 side was let down by poor conversion in front of goal as it slumped to a three-point defeat to the WRFL. The NFL kicked just five goals from 23 scoring shots, which included a wayward 3.14 after quarter time.
We led for the opening three quarters, but then slipped 16 points behind midway through the last quarter. A late fightback wasn’t enough, as we slipped to defeat despite the best efforts of Mark Pavlovski, Clancy Bland and Wyatt Le Gassick.
REP NETBALLERS CONTINUE DOMINANCE
Our netball representative teams continued to represent the league with distinction in 2017, this time getting the better of the Eastern Football League.
Both the open and under-19 netball teams won their respective matches at Parade College on May 12 to keep our undefeated representative status intact.
The under-19 side got the night off to a great start with a 43-38 win, before the open side held on for a 48-44 victory.
The wins extended the netballers’ unbeaten streak at representative level to eight matches, following triumphs over the MPNFL and SFNL over the past two years.
Goal shooter Tayla Hardiman was in fine form in a best on court performance for the under-19s, while young defender Georgia Bowkett was adjudged best on court in her debut performance in the open representative team.
UNDER-15 GIRLS MAKE HISTORY
Led by Chyloe Kurdas, the girls reached the Division 1 grand final for the second-consecutive year.
Despite losing their Round 1 game to the Yarra Junior Football League, the girls responded with consecutive wins and entered the grand final with confidence.
They then reversed the result against the YJFL in a stunning upset to give the NFL its first-ever trophy at the AFL Victoria Metro Junior Championships.
Our Under-14A, Under-14B, Under-15A and Under-15B boys teams this year moved up to Division 1 of the Metro Junior Championships and came up against some very strong opposition.
Despite winning just one of 12 matches, our boys’ sides continued to give their all throughout the Championships.
Thankfully, the Under-14A scored a win over the Eastern Football League to ensure we will remain in the Division 1 competition for season 2018.
JUNIORS FINALS SERIES A SUCCESS
The 2017 WaterMarc NFL Junior Finals Series saw 26 of our 27 junior clubs fortunate enough to play finals football. Premiership success was shared around, with 15 clubs taking out a flag from our 25 junior football competitions.
Feedback from hosting clubs indicated crowds throughout the finals series were even bigger than season 2016, with all spectators again having the ability to watch any game of junior football free of charge.
We had 16 venues hosting NFL junior finals in week one, with four venues in Bundoora Park, Greensborough, Mill Park and South Morang hosting finals for the first time ever.
STAR JUNIORS AWARDED AT B&F NIGHT
The 2017 Junior Presentation Night recognised the best performed players and umpires from our junior competion.
The awards night was held on Monday August 14, at La Trobe University’s Union Hall.
Montmorency’s Ruby Panozzo claimed the Lew Hall Award for Demonstrated Club and Community Leadership by a Young Person. She won the award from fellow finalists Ethan Dixon (Hurstbridge) and Brayden Pimperl (Whittlesea).
Laurimar’s Zac Reichert claimed the Northern Knights Under-15 Rookie of the Year, while the NFL representative awards were won by Joel Trudgeon (Under-15A), Riki Kusaka (Under-15B), Ashleigh Snow (Under-15 Girls), Benjamin Fisher (Under-14A) and Riley Mudge (Under-14B).
Dylan Brown was named the Junior Umpire of the Year and Harry Grattidge claimed the Most Promising Junior Umpire Award.
Meanwhile, Diamond Creek Junior Football Club was rewarded for a great year on and off the field, winning the NFL Junior Club of the Year award, ahead of finalists Bundoora Park, Kinglake and West Ivanhoe.
See the full list of winners at http://nfnl.org.au/2017-junior-best-and-fairest-awards.
THUNDER, SPURS WIN INAUGURAL WOMEN’S FLAGS
Bendigo proved to be the standout side in the Division 1 NFLW competition, winning its opening 13 games in succession.
Led by a host of stars including Kerryn Harrington, Tiahna Cochrane, Jacinta Louttit and competition leading goal kicker Andrea Walsh, the Thunder claimed the minor premiership – finishing two games clear of their closest rival.
They were upset by Diamond Creek Women’s in the second semi final and had to take the long route through to the grand final – beating VU Western Spurs in the preliminary final.
The grand final was an epic. Bendigo got off to a flyer and kicked the opening three goals to race to a 21-point advantage at quarter time. The Creekers gradually pegged their way back and closed within four points at the 10-minute mark of the last quarter.
Enter Andrea Walsh. The competition’s leading goal kicker stepped up when her side most needed her – finding separation on her opponent to mark unopposed at the 15-minute mark of the last term before cooly slotting the goal to seal the premiership.
Jacinta Louttit won the best on ground medallion following a strong game in the midfield, edging out teammates Kodi Jacques and Cochrane.
VU Western Spurs were the dominant side of the Division 2 competition – finishing the regular season two games clear atop the ladder, before scoring wins over West Preston-Lakeside in the second semi and grand final to win the flag.
The Spurs lost just one game for the entire season – when they kicked a wayward 2.11 in a four-point loss to Darebin in Round 5.
Jessica Heath, Kerrie Clarke, Hayley Stanford and Danielle Mazzocca all produced wonderful seasons to ensure their side was the benchmark throughout the year.
BANYULE WINS FIRST NFL FLAG
Banyule claimed the 2017 Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 premiership with a 25-point win over South Morang in the grand final. It was the Bears’ first senior flag since joining the league from the VAFA in 2015.
Despite finishing the home and away season in second spot, Banyule saved its best for the finals. It booked the first place in the grand final with a commanding 36-point second semi final win over South Morang, before backing up that performance in the premiership decider.
The Bears led for much of grand final and held off a fightback by the Lions early in the last term, before stretching out to a 25-point win. Skipper Scott Gumbleton won the best on ground medallion, ahead of Devin McDonald and Michael Italia.
Gumbleton was dominant all season and also won the club’s best and fairest. James Kroussoratis became the first Division 3 player to play in the NFL’s senior representative team and slotted 78 goals in 15 appearances, while fellow recruits Riley Keath and Kieran Malone enjoyed strong debut seasons for the Bears.
BULLDOGS WIN PROMOTION BACK TO TOP FLIGHT
The raging favourite heading into the 2017 A Plus Labour Solutions Division 2 campaign, North Heidelberg delivered on its pre-season promise – putting together a dominant campaign to claim its second Division 2 flag in four seasons.
The Bulldogs were far too good for Diamond Creek in the grand final, leading from the outset in the 19.15 (129) to 7.10 (52) victory.
Jesse Tardio was voted best on ground for a dominant midfield display. It was the second time the 22-year-old has been awarded the best on ground medallion in a grand final, backing up his performance in the 2014 decider.
Mitch Dillon and Shane Harvey kicked five goals apiece, with the latter’s haul taking his season tally to 115.
DENNIS MAKES HISTORY
Matthew Dennis etched his name into league folklore by becoming just the second player to win three Division 1 best and fairest awards.
The Bundoora ruckman joined Diamond Creek’s John Elliot as the only three-time winner, after claiming his second-successive Frank Rosbrook Medal. He also shared the award with Bronik Davies in 2012.
Dennis’ best and fairest triumph was one of many highlights from the Senior Presentation Night, which also included Brent Harvey winning the Division 2 best and fairest in his return to grassroots football and Jarryd Coulson become the first Heidelberg West player in 29 years to win a senior best and fairest.
Shannon Egan won the inaugural NFLW Division 1 best and fairest despite playing only seven matches, while Natarsha Bamblett, Nicole Blythe and Rechelle McSwain tied for the NFLW Division 2 award.
Recap all the award winners at www.nfnl.org.au/2017-nfl-best-and-fairest-awards.
BULLS WIN GRAND FINAL CLASSIC
Bundoora staked its claim as the most dominant club of the decade by scoring a third premiership in seven years.
This flag may have been the sweetest of the them all, with the Bulls producing a stunning upset in the grand final – beating Macleod by three points in the closest Division 1 premiership decider since 1957.
It was one for the ages, with a clutch Gary Moorcroft goal at the 29-minute mark of the final term putting the Bulls in front with 90 seconds remaining.
Matthew Dennis was adjudged best afield in a dominant display, three days after winning his third Frank Rosbrook medal.
CRAIGIEBURN REP JOINS NETBALL COMPETITION
The league’s netball profile expanded further at the conclusion of the 2017 winter season, with Craigieburn Rep joining the league.
Craigieburn Rep became the fourth netball-only affiliate, joining Heat, Ivanhoe and St Martin’s.
Craigieburn Rep is fielding two sides in the 2017/18 summer competition and has made a strong start on the courts, with both sides undefeated at the Christmas break.
The club will also play in the winter competition in the 2018 season.
Six former NFL juniors became AFL premiership players as they helped end Richmond’s 37-year premiership drought.
Skipper Trent Cotchin headlined the former NFL contingent, which also included Josh Caddy, Dylan Grimes, Kane Lambert, Dion Prestia and Nick Vlastuin.
Cotchin played his junior football with West Preston-Lakeside and Reservoir, while Vlastuin and Caddy were both graduates of Eltham’s junior program.
Grimes hails from Hurstbridge, Prestia from West Lalor, while Lambert spent time with West Preston-Lakeside’s under-19 team in 2011.
NEW ERA FOR NFNL
In October we announced a name change to the Northern Football Netball League (NFNL), which included a new logo as part of a rebrand of our organisation.
The name change to the NFNL incorporates the entire membership of our organisation – including our senior and junior football competitions and open-age netball competitions.
The new-look logo, produced by La Trobe University graphic design student Maddison Curtin, includes the NFNL brand and incorporates both the football and netball components of the league.
The name change and new logo were unanimously ratified by the league’s affiliate clubs at the 2017 Annual General Meeting.
QUARTET JOIN AFLW
Diamond Creek Women’s trio Chloe Molloy, Tanya Hetherington and Reni Hicks were selected in the 2017 AFLW Draft, while Bendigo’s Tiahna Cochrane was snapped up in the AFLW Rookie Draft.
Molloy – who played her junior football at Whittlesea – was selected by Collingwood with pick 3 after a standout 2017 season, where she starred for Diamond Creek in the VFLW and for the Calder Cannons in the TAC Cup Girls.
Hetherington headed north after being chosen by GWS Giants at pick 17. The Creekers VFLW co-captain returned to football this season after a long injury layoff and helped lead her club to the VFLW grand final.
19-year-old Hicks was selected by Carlton at pick 29. The former rugby player was rewarded for a strong year in defence for Diamond Creek. It was her first season at the club after crossing from Bendigo.
All three made one appearance for Diamond Creek in the inaugural Northpark NFLW Division 1 season.
Cochrane, who claimed the NFLW Division 1 Coaches Player of the Year award and played a key role in Bendigo’s grand final win, was chosen by Carlton with pick No.5 in the AFLW Rookie Draft.
MORE SUCCESS AT AFL DRAFT
Eltham’s Nick Coffield, Epping speedster Jack Petruccelle and Panton Hill-aligned small forward Sam Switkowski were all selected in the 2017 AFL Draft in November.
Coffield was taken by St Kilda at pick No.8 after long being touted as a first-round draft selection following a dominant 2017 campaign for the Northern Knights and Vic Metro. He captained the Knights and was among Vic Metro’s best in every game at the 2017 AFL Under-18 National Championships.
Petruccelle went to West Coast with pick No.38. A former basketball star and son of NFNL life member Stephen, Jack burst into draft contention this year with an eye-catching campaign for the Northern Knights and Vic Metro.
Switkowski was selected by Fremantle at pick No. 73. The Northern Knights 2014 best and fairest winner played 27 VFL games for Box Hill Hawks and a further 20 games in the development league over the past three years.
Meanwhile, former Diamond Creek junior Lachlan Murphy and Fitzroy Stars half-back Derek Smith both made their way onto AFL lists via the Rookie Draft.
Murphy was selected by Adelaide with pick No. 38 after an impressive debut season with the Crows’ SANFL team. He finished fourth in the best and fairest award and won the Dean Bailey Award as Adelaide’s most dedicated development player.
Smith was added to Richmond’s list as a Category B rookie, with the premier using its first-ever selection in the Next Generation Academy Program. He played five VFL games for the Tigers his year, and made two appearances for the Fitzroy Stars late in the season.
PHILPOTS INDUCTED AS LIFE MEMBER
Outgoing Chairman Dean Philpots was inducted as the 43rd Life Member of the Northern Football Netball League.
Philpots joined the league’s Board of Directors in 2007, following the disbanding of the former Diamond Valley Football League.
He served as the league’s Junior Chairman from 2008-2012, before taking over as Chairman in 2013. He held the position until announcing his decision to stand down from the Board at the 2017 Annual General Meeting.