Selecting the 25 players that will have the biggest influence in the South East Football Netball League is becoming more and more difficult as the years unfold.
But selecting number one, well it’s probably as easy as it’s ever been.
Beaconsfield champion Scott Meyer elevated himself into rare territory last year, winning a third league best and fairest to wedge his name firmly amongst the greats.
Scotty is the sole owner of captaincy at Holm Park Reserve this season and with his never-satisfied attitude could, quite remarkably, take his game to an even higher level.
Six players join Meyer as being selected in every top 25 since the inaugural year in 2014, with Madi Andrews, Michael Collins, Marc Holt, Brandon Osborne, Dylan Quirk and Josh Tonna consistent measurements of the competition. s elite.
Nine new faces join the fray with names like Chapman, Cody, Davey, Dean, McCartney, Magner, O’hAilpin, Richardson and a returning Scanlon set to make this a season to remember.
The Gazette’s DAVE NAGEL runs his eye over the class of 2017.
1. Scott Meyer – Beaconsfield
Is there a ceiling on how good this bloke can be? Scotty took an already stellar career to astounding new heights last season, winning a third Norm Walker Medal as league best and fairest as well as best on ground medals for both SEFNL and Vic Country at representative level. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is the best ruckman in the business, but instantly morphs into a gun midfielder when the ball hits the deck. A magnificent athlete.
2. Ash Smith – Berwick
Cool, calm and collected, the former West Coast Eagle doesn’t turn 27 until July so still has some terrific football ahead of him. His right foot is the most penetrating in the competition and a lethal weapon in combatting the growing trend of a high press from opposition defenders. Only kicked one goal off half back last year, but with the Wickers using a more versatile forward line he could return to his 17 goals in the premiership year of 2015. A key figure if the Wickers are to regain their crown.
3. Marc Holt – Cranbourne
It’s almost sacrilegious to have the best mark – or is that Marc – in country football at three, but there are some doubts on Holty heading into 2017. The champion goal-kicker broke his left leg against Tooradin at the end of July last year and is still not 100 per cent right as we head into the new season. But this bloke is an absolute champion; expect him to kick his 70 goals that will take him past the magical 1000 goals for his career and maybe hold aloft his first premiership cup since 2011. He will be super hungry after missing last year’s success and will be the driving force behind the Eagles’ quest for back-to-back flags.
4. Russell Gabriel – Doveton
Big Russ gets relegated to the number two ruckman in the competition … but that’s only our opinion. If Meyer is the gazelle then Gabriel is the raging bull, using his immense presence to give the Doves first use at the stoppages. The big fella took on the opposition almost single-handedly last year, but with Frank D’Agostino and Gach Nyuon on the list, he should get more freedom around the ground. This is the one area on the ground where the Doves can dominate Berwick and Cranbourne.
5. Madi Andrews – Berwick
Berwick’s heart and soul who had a traumatic 2016 after an incident with Cranbourne’s Mat Fletcher saw him front tribunals and then successfully appeal a four-week sentence. The Wickers’ champ missed eight games last season because of an overseas trip but still managed to run himself into the ground and earn enough votes to finish third in the league best and fairest. Might be a bit low at six!
6. James Magner – Berwick
Strong of body and mind, the hard-at-it midfielder brings an elite resume to the South East Football Netball League. The former Beaconsfield junior played for the Dandenong Stingrays before joining Frankston from 2007 to 2009. He then impressed in two years at Sandringham in the VFL, winning the best and fairest in 2011 before being snapped up by Melbourne at number 42 in the 2012 AFL Draft. The now 29-year-old played 19 games for the Demons, played two years at Port Melbourne, before playing for Heidelberg in the Northern Football League last year. We might not see his full value until September 16!
7. Ben Kearns – Berwick
The exquisitely skilled half-forward has kicked 89 goals in two seasons at Edwin Flack Reserve and, quite unbelievably, is still only 22 years of age! He has an amazing bag of tricks and uses a solid work ethic to run his opponents up and down the ground. Needs to fire if the Wickers are to take back what was theirs in 2015.
8. Josh Tonna – Narre Warren
It probably happened earlier than this but we were too afraid to admit it … Josh Tonna has taken over from Michael Collins as the potent mid-field force at Narre Warren. Wow – that was even hard to say! Collo is the greatest player to have ever pulled on a boot at Kalora Park, but Tonna’s uncanny ability to find the footy and then use it with absolute precision off his left boot will play the biggest role in a Magpie premiership.
9. Brandon Osborne – Cranbourne
The yearly battle between Osborne and Michael Riseley continues, with the Eagles’ gun getting the nod as the competition’s best defender. Riseley is far more creative but ‘Yossie’s’ ability to shut down an opposition forward, completely blanket them, is something you very rarely see in local football. If the goals he saved were recorded like a forward, he’d be up there with his superstar team-mate Marc Holt.
10. Shaun Marusic – Cranbourne
Rating Marusic as the Eagles’ number-one midfielder is a big call, the centre square is full of class, but he deserves it after a brilliant first season at the club. An imposing figure at six-foot-four, the former West Perth premiership player can scoop the ball off his toes as comfortably as plucking a high-mark out of the air. Played a big part in bringing a winning mentality to Casey Fields last year.
11. Michael Riseley – Berwick
Riseley is like the gun all-rounder in cricket, the complete two-in-one package. He combines a freakish ability to spoil with the temperament and class to launch some stinging attacks off half back. It’s common knowledge that when he gets his hands on the ball the Wickers run to the fat side. Berwick’s quarterback.
12. Dylan Quirk – Narre Warren
The best pure rover in the competition, the new Magpies’ leader was born to be at the bottom of packs, driving the Magpies forward in his own indomitable style. It feels like he’s been around forever, but at just 22 Quirky is about to enter the prime of football career. A born skipper who leads by example … that sounds familiar at Kalora Park!
13. Mat Fletcher – Cranbourne
Damaging in front of goal and classy through the midfield, Fletch makes playing football look a lot easier than really is. Can collect his own footy, or sit off and receive from the likes of Ryan Davey, Max Gearon and Shaun Marusic. The complete package that has the poise those only very good footballers can exude. Has kicked nearly 250 goals for the Eagles, second only to Marc Holt since 2005.
14. Max Gearon – Cranbourne
The Eagles’ 2015 best and fairest winner had another outstanding season last year, using his strong frame and improved work-rate to win the majority of the in-and-under battles. Maxy’s passion to see the Eagles finally succeed grew as the season wore on, standing in for injured skipper Marc Holt on the premiership dais. If Holt is the heart … Max is the soul of the Eagles.
15. Nick Scanlon – Narre Warren
Welcome back to one of the true champions of football in this part of the world. ‘Scanners’ was ranked number four on our initial list in 2014 before leaving the Magpies to coach Clayton for the last two years. This bloke is super-versatile, kicking a stack of goals from 2010 to 2013 before becoming one of the best half-back-flankers in the game. Just where will Heath Black play him?
16. Michael Collins – Narre Warren
The most influential player of the last decade has had a super pre-season, shedding weight and becoming fitter as he heads into the twilight of his career. Played a different role across half back last season but will be keen to get back into the thick of the action. The six-time premiership player and dual premiership captain can just concentrate on his footy this season after handing over the reins to Dylan Quirk. Could a ninth best and fairest, and seventh premiership be waiting?
17. Luke Cody – Narre Warren
If the raps on Cody are correct, the Magpies’ midfield is set for a startling metamorphosis this year. The former Noble Park star played predominantly as a small forward with the Bulls but is expected to wreak havoc through the middle this season. From what we’re hearing a player of extreme high class.
18. Ryan Davey – Cranbourne
The feel good story of last year’s grand final, ‘Cheekers’ had the best day of his long and stellar career kicking two goals in a best on ground display against Berwick at Starling Road. But he’s not on this list because of one game, he had a season out of the box last year, using his strong frame, creative handball, and long penetrating kicks to dominate the centre square. One of the great guys of the competition.
19. Nathan Page – Tooradin
Due to injuries we didn’t see the best of Page last year but the former Casey midfielder is set to make his mark in his second season with the Gulls. A gut-busting runner at his best, the now 25-year-old will benefit not just from improved fitness, but from a ruck division that is vastly improved from last year. If he stays fit, could be a real smoky for this year’s Norm Walker Medal.
20. Jake Richardson – Narre Warren
Richo makes his top-25 debut after staking his claim as the most versatile big-man in the business. He was forced to take on the ruck duties last year, dragging him away from looks to be his most dangerous position at centre half forward. Leads well, presents constantly, and hits the ball at pace and is a constant handful for even the better defenders in the league. Stood tall for SEFNL against Murray last year.
21. Andrew Dean – Tooradin
Hopefully we get to see the best of Dean because at his high-flying best he is one of the most exciting forwards going around. Hits the ball at extreme pace, like a bullet, and can have an extreme impact on packs. Kicked 11 goals in a practice match against Devon Meadows a couple of weeks back and looks set to really fulfil his potential.
22. Clayton McCartney – Doveton
Number 22 might be way too low for McCartney, who has played at a very high level of football since dominating his junior days at Cranbourne. Dandenong Stingrays, Richmond VFL, Frankston, the list goes on and on for the classy indigenous half forward who represented Vic Country during his time in the TAC Cup. Extremely dangerous in front of goal, expect the livewire to live at the feet of key-forward Taylor Joyce and resting ruckman Russell Gabriel. Could be the real surprise packet of the season.
23. Dylan Chapman – Officer
Chapman has been emerging for quite some time now but last year filled into his body and became the power ruckman we all expected to see. A real workhorse for the Kangaroos, if Chapman can match, or even negate, the influence of a stellar cast of big-men it will go a long way to making the Roos more competitive. Has Sean Roach back to lend him some support.
24. Aisakie O’hAilpin – Tooradin
Another burly ruckman set to throw his weight around this season is O’hAilpin, the brother of the more highly-touted Setanta, who looks set to bring a presence that has been missing from Westernport Oval since the loss of Rohan Hyde. While Setanta will only play a handful of games, Aisakie is fully committed to delivering on a weekly basis for the Seagulls. With ruckmen like Meyer, Gabriel, Boland and Chapman floating around this year, Aisakie could almost be the Gulls most important player.
25. Jarrad Boumann – Doveton
On talent alone the former Hawthorn tall should be ranked a lot higher than 25, but his durability is the thing in question. He played just seven games in 2015 before backing that up with 10 last year. When he does play, Boumann is one of the most unique players in the competition with his combination of height and ball-carrying speed – a real tough match-up for any opposition. If he plays every game this year, the Doves will be there when the whips are cracking.
LAST YEAR’S TOP 25
1 Marc Holt (Cranbourne)
2 Ash Smith (Berwick)
3 Russell Gabriel (Doveton)
4 Scott Meyer (Beaconsfield)
5 Ben Kearns (Berwick)
6 Michael Collins (Narre Warren)
7 Michael Riseley (Berwick)
8 Brandon Osborne (Cranbourne)
9 Max Gearon (Cranbourne)
10 Luke Walker (Pakenham)
11 Jarrad Boumann (Doveton)
12 Mat Fletcher (Cranbourne)
13 Dylan Quirk (Narre Warren)
14 Darren Sheen (Narre Warren)
15 Nathan Page (Tooradin)
16 Shaun Marusic (Cranbourne)
17 Dean Kelly (Narre Warren)
18 Steve O’Bryan (Pakenham)
19 Dom Paynter (Pakenham)
20 Michael Theodoridis (Cranbourne)
21 Madi Andrews (Berwick)
22 Daniel Mislicki (Beaconsfield)
23 Aaron Davey (Doveton)
24 Josh Tonna (Narre Warren)
25 Mark Weekes (Berwick)