Lights, cameras…action

Will Phillip Island defend its crown or will a new champion emerge from the ranks in West Gippsland football this year? 197394 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By David Nagel

We have only had a very small sample size but the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition (WGFNC) looks set to be one right out of the box in 2021.

Anthony Giuliano’s last-gasp effort to drag Cora Lynn across the line against Inverloch-Kongwak last week has set the scene for the most highly-anticipated season of local football ever.

Yes…that’s a big call…but after the unbelievable impact of Covid-19 this is a season that has been talked about brought smiles to people’s faces like no other.

We had our heart and soul ripped out last winter, but now it’s returned and players, coaches, volunteers and everyday football supporters can’t wait to be part of the action.

So who are the teams to watch out for this season?

Will Phillip Island, Cora Lynn and Tooradin remain the double-chance contenders, or will Ben Soumilas lead Inverloch-Kongwak to the Promised Land?

Will an influx of Narre Warren stars turn Bunyip into a force, or will Luke Young at Nar Nar Goon or Hayden Stanton at Garfield surprise the pundits with a bright and sparkling start to the season?

It’s a great time of the year – this year better than last – and it’s time to run our eye over the contenders.


Nickname: Bulldogs

Colours: Red, white and blue

Coach: Tim McGibney

2019 Finish: Sixth (11 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Cleyton Bertoncello (24)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 1

Last senior premiership: 2012

Key Ins: Michael Collins (Narre Warren), Jackson Dalton (Cora Lynn), Agape Patolo (Springvale), Dylan Quirk (Narre Warren), Ryan Quirk (Narre Warren), Chris Thuring (Traralgon).

Key Outs: Aaron Paxton (Longwarry), Duncan Proud (Longwarry).

Players to watch: Xavier Kinder, Dylan Gallasch and Matt O’Halloran

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Phillip Island, the reigning premier has dominated the competition for a while now, recruited well again and is the clear favourite in 2021 again. I think most observers would expect Phillip Island to win it again.

The year off has: Rested older bodies, healed injuries, fuelled and converted previous disappointment into determination, provided perspective and created serious excitement for 2021.


Nickname: Cobras

Colours: Teal, red and black

Coach: David Main

2019 Finish: Second (15 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Nathan Gardiner (84)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 4

Last senior premiership: 2016

Key Ins: Corey Batt (Poowong), Tristen Fernandez (Doveton), Anthony Giuliano (Mornington), Robbie Hill (Rowville), Matthew Robinson (Karingal), Nathan Villella (Karingal), Ash Williams (Mornington).

Key Outs: Jackson Dalton (Bunyip), Jai Rout (Bolder City Kalgoorlie), Rylan Smith (Cranbourne), Troy Tharle (Cranbourne).

Players to watch: Nathan Gardiner, Chris Johnson, Heath Briggs.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Tooradin is a very well drilled side behind the ball and their fire power up forward with Dean, Wright and Suarez will be hard to stop.

The year off has: Taught us to never take the little things for granted and why community sport is so important. Footy is a passion and something we love being a part of. The relationships within a club are a big thing that we all missed last year because it’s all about working together and striving for success.


Nickname: Magpies

Colours: Black and white

Coach: Peter Dunlop

2019 Finish: Eleventh (2 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Blake Carew (23)

2019 Team of the Year selections: Nil

Last senior premiership: 2015

Key Ins: Josh Chiavaroli (Poowong), Ethan Ford (Emerald), Michael Harris (Poowong), Matt Howell (Wonthaggi), Jye Loughridge (Korumburra-Bena), Wayne Luke (Wonthaggi), Michael Marotta (Collingwood VFL), Brad Monson (Korumburra-Bena), Hayden Wallis (Poowong), Brendan Walsh (Rowville), Nathan Walsh (Canterbury).

Key Outs: Lachlan Thomas

Players to watch: Hayden Wallis, Michael Marotta, Clay Tait.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Phillip Island has been a quality team for a long time and I can’t see that changing in a hurry.

The year off has: Given Dalyston an opportunity to reset, recruit and get ready for 2021.


Nickname: Stars

Colours: Green and yellow

Coach: Hayden Stanton

2019 Finish: Eighth (7 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Daniel Helmore (22)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 1

Last senior premiership: 2013

Key Ins: Matt Rennie (Warragul), Sam Russell (Warragul), Andy Soumilas (Inverloch-Kongwak).

Key Outs: Dan Johnson (Yinnar), James McKellar (Drouin), Aaron Wilson (Noosa)

Players to watch: Daniel Helmore, Tyler Hobson, Rhys Murphy, Lachie Schruers. All home-grown Stars players.

If not us the team to beat this year is: Phillip Island, Cora Lynn and Tooradin, all quality outfits.

The year off has: Caused many players to consider if they really want to commit to footy and therefore numbers are not as great as they have been in the past.


Nickname: Sea Eagles

Colours: Navy blue, white and gold

Coach: Ben Soumilas

2019 Finish: Fourth (12 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Sam Gibbins (43)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 2

Last senior premiership: 2017

Key Ins: Rhett Kelly (Leongatha), Todd Mackie

Key Outs: N/A

Players to watch: Corey Casey, Oscar Toussaint, Jack Hutchinson.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Tooradin has had a taste of the competition and realise what it takes to compete with the best teams. They’re hungry for success after a long wait for a premiership.

The year off has: It’s behind us now. We’ve all enjoyed the time away from footy and finding other interests. But we’re loving getting back together with footy players, netballers and supporters to connect again.


Nickname: Panthers

Colours: Maroon, blue and white

Coach: Stephen Wright

2019 Finish: Tenth (3 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Taylor Gibson (26)

2019 Team of the Year selections: Nil

Last senior premiership: 2013

Key Ins: Darcy Atkins (Stony Creek), Nathan Muratore (Kooweerup), Jayden Nolen (Stony Creek), Jackson Nolen (Stony Creek).

Key Outs: Damien Holmes (Phillip Island)

Players to watch: Hayden Spierings, Jake Weightman, Sam Watson.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Phillip Island, they are such a well-structured and well balanced side with a great blend of youth and experience. They are strong all over the ground and have the best player in the competition in Cam Pederson.

The year off has: Made us all understand just how much we miss footy. It’s not just the game but the interaction with staff, volunteers, everyone associated with the club. It’s been a tough time for everyone and my message to the players is to just make the most of it.


Nickname: Demons

Colours: Red and navy blue

Coach: Rhys Nisbet

2019 Finish: Fifth (10 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Jason Wells (57)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 5

Last senior premiership: 1981

Key Ins: Jackson Berry (Pakenham), Travis Bindley (Berwick), Jason Cox (Catani), Mitch Davey (Catani), Tommy Deighton (Caulfield VAFA), Kyle Nunn (Cranbourne), David Ramos (Doveton), John Ramos (Doveton).

Key Outs: Dave Collins, Mitch Collins (Fairpark), Joel Gibson (Fairpark), Brad Harding (Lang Lang), Nathan Muratore (Kilcunda Bass), Darren Sheen, Luke Walker (Fairpark), Jason Wells (Longwarry).

Players to watch: I’m looking forward to seeing all three Voss brothers playing together. Nathan, Matt and James are all very good young talents

If not us the team to beat this year is: Obviously Phillip Island is the team to beat but I think Tooradin has recruited well and could shake things up a bit.

The year off has: Given us the extra time we needed to understand a new game plan and style of play.


Nickname: Giants

Colours: Orange, white and grey

Coach: Paul Alger

2019 Finish: Ninth (4 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Jamie Cann (21)

2019 Team of the Year selections: Nil

Last senior premiership: Nil.

Key Ins: Josh Hargreaves (MPNFL), Matt Lello (Southern FNL), Daniel Willis (VAFA).

Key Outs: Jamie Cann (Inverloch-Kongwak), Manny Jakwot (Outer East), Luke James (Cairns), Brad Monson (Dalyston), Boadie Motton (Yarram), Ash Snooks (Not playing).

Players to watch: Bailey Patterson, Will Little, Rhys Dixon.

If not us the team to beat this year is: Phillip Island. They have a great mix of strong-bodied established players and some talented kids coming through. They’re well coached…and they’ve got Cam Pederson.

The year off has: Been hard from a recruiting point of view. We were really happy with our recruiting last year but have lost three or four of those players before they have even played a game. Saying that, the three we have brought in are all good players and we expect them to make a difference. And our kids are now 19,20,21 and have a bit more size about them.


Nickname: The Goon

Colours: Navy blue and white

Coach: Luke Young

2019 Finish: Seventh (10 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Troy McDermott (30)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 1

Last senior premiership: Nil.

Key Ins: Luke Bettio (Beaconsfield), Jai Hamilton (Beaconsfield), Zac Johnson (Heatherton), Jake Tabone (Longwarry).

Key Outs: Hayden Brough (Beaconsfield), Lachie Hansen (Ovens and King), Tyler Payroli (xxxxx), Harry Paul (Belgrave), Mat Stevens (Drouin).

Players to watch: Aiden Pipicelli, Flynn Parker, Jacobus Hynes.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: The top three from 2019. Phillip Island is obviously a well drilled side and I’m not expecting them to drop off. Cora Lynn went close in 2019 and from the outside look to have strengthened an already strong squad and Tooradin after having the first year in West Gippsland will settle in and I expect will continue to improve. I think Tooradin has the greatest room for improvement of those top three.

The year off has: Given our playing group the opportunity to reflect on our strong community involvement and support and look forward to representing the town and community again. The last month or so there has been a noticeable change in the group’s mindset and attitudes at training as we get closer to the start of the season.


Nickname: Bulldogs

Colours: Red, white and blue

Coach: Beau Vernon

2019 Finish: Premiers

2019 Leading goalkicker: Cam Pederson (51)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 6

Last senior premiership: 2019

Key Ins: Max Blake, Lachy Gay, Damien Holmes, Luke James, Orlando Kane-Gillard, Kai Mackenzie, Daniel Pearce.

Key Outs: Jarrod Andreatta, Matt Jackson, Jordan Patullo, Jack Taylor, Leigh Warne.

Players to watch: Hayden Bruce, Max Blake, Orlando Kane-Gillard.

If not us the team to beat this year is: It’s too hard to call because after two years off we don’t know where teams are at. If I had to guess I’d say Cora Lynn, Inverloch-Kongwak and Tooradin will be there about again but it really is too difficult to call.

The year off has: Really freshened me up and I have noticed that everyone seems to be loving their football right now. It’s not just the players, it’s the supporters, particularly the old-timers who are loving being back for dinners and things like that. The excitement that we’re all feeling at the moment would suggest that in a strange sort of way the year has been a positive for community football.


Nickname: Seagulls

Colours: Green, red and white

Coach: Lachie Gillespie

2019 Finish: Third (12 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Andrew Dean (66)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 3

Last senior premiership: 1997

Key Ins: Adam Oxley (Eltham), Dylan Paarlberg (Hastings), Steven Robb (Hastings).

Key Outs: Nick Lang (Emerald), Matty Livermore (Emerald), Taylor Stratton (Hastings), Waide Symes. (Crib Point).

Players to watch: Cooper Shipp, James Trezise, Brad Butler.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Cora Lynn has recruited really well and I think they will have a better squad than 2019. In that year they lost the grand final by a couple of points so it only makes sense that they will be there about again in 2021.

The year off has: Made us all appreciate the time we get to spend with our mates and their families a lot more. The social aspect of team sport helps greatly in all aspects, no more important than mental health. Having the freedom to go and kick a footy and take our mind off the day to day stresses in our life is a real blessing. The time off has given us perspective.


Nickname: Dusties

Colours: Maroon, blue and gold

Coach: Harmit Singh

2019 Finish: Last (2 wins)

2019 Leading goalkicker: Shane Brewster (26)

2019 Team of the Year selections: 1

Last senior premiership: 1996

Key Ins: Anthony Bruhn (Collegians), Jack Griffiths (Casey Demons / Beaconsfield), Harrison Law (Vermont), Damen Lawrence (Pines), Jackson Mockett (Seaford), Kane Taylor (Seaford).

Key Outs: Daniel Martini (Yallourn North).

Players to watch: Kyle Beveridge, Noah Glen, Brayden Hefford.

If not us, the team to beat this year is: Philip Island Football Club – well coached and been the bench mark team of the past few years.

The year off has: Been challenging for our group and we have faced a lot of adversity, however, through that the group has showed great resilience and worked super hard to give ourselves the best possible opportunity to compete.

The coaches have their say!

A majority of West Gippsland senior coaches believe reigning premier Phillip Island is still the team to beat as we head into the nitty-gritty of the 2021 season.

All West Gippy coaches were asked to list the likely finishing order for this season, with nine of the 12 coaches taking up the challenge of being Nostradamus for a day.

Once votes were collated, Phillip Island had a very narrow margin from Tooradin-Dalmore – chasing its first senior flag since 1997. There was a similar margin back to Cora Lynn in third place, with Inverloch-Kongwak making up the top four.

Tooradin-Dalmore senior coach Lachie Gillespie. 197277

The coaches also believe that Warragul Industrials will be the big improver this year after finishing last with just two wins in 2019.

Great rivals Bunyip, Garfield and Nar Nar Goon are expected to challenge the Dusties for a place in this year’s finals series.

Dalyston are expected to join the ‘K’s’ – Korumburra-Bena, Kilcunda-Bass and Kooweerup in a battle to be the surprise packet of the season.

But hey, it’s football, and as we all know…anything can happen!

The Contenders
Phillip Island
Cora Lynn

The Challengers
Warragul Industrials
Nar Nar Goon

The Potential Surprise Packets
Dalyston and Kooweerup