It's been one of the most thrilling and memorable Division 1 football seasons in recent history, with no shortage of highlights and enduring moments.
The all-powerful Dingley team saved their most breath-taking performance for the final day of the SFNL season, while their vanquished opponents, Bentleigh enjoyed a meteoric rise from sixth last year to their first ever Division 1 Senior Grand Final. Meanwhile, last year's Division 2 premiers, Oakleigh District, nearly emulated Mordialloc's feat of last season, and were just one win away from reaching the big dance.
The Bloods, Clayton, East Malvern and St Pauls each had their fair share of standout performers throughout the year, Cheltenham showed promising signs for 2017 with rapid improvement in the back half of the season, while it was a changing of the guard for East Brighton and St Kilda City.
The SFNL Media team were on hand to cover all the action every week, and in celebration of the 2016 season, have compiled their Team of the Year for the league's premier football division.
Tony Lavars (Dingley) CAPTAIN
The retiring champion was again the glue that held together the Dingoes’ defensive unit in 2016. A beautiful reader of the play, Lavars always finds himself in the right positions and his coolness under pressure and tidy disposal helps repel the ball out of the back half time and again. But Lavars’ greatest asset is his leadership and ability to instruct and direct his teammates out on the field. The popular choice as SFNL Interleague captain in 2016, Lavars thoroughly deserves his installment as captain of the SFNL Division 1 Team of the Year.
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There is no more respected leader in the SFNL than Tony Lavars.[/caption]
Brody Hodic (Oakleigh District)
The Oakleigh District skipper cuts an imposing figure on the last line of defence. His strength helps him outmuscle his opponents in one-on-one duels, and his sticky hands ensures he is able to clunk important contested marks. Hodic’s skills on both sides of his body are exceptional for a man of his size, and regularly clears the ball out of danger. Was an influential contributor in the SFNL’s Interleague victory in May.
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Oakleigh skipper Brody Hodic is tough to beat down back.[/caption]
Pat Carroll (Oakleigh District)
What a season from the District’s defensive playmaker! Carroll’s ability to read the game and nullify opponents of all sizes is second to none, but he is at his most dangerous when launching counter attacks from defensive 50. Exceptional foot skills and a willingness to run and create makes him a dangerous proposition for his direct opponent. Had the ball on a string during the Interleague match against Ellinbank, and was deservedly awarded the best on ground medallion.
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Oakleigh District defender Pat Carroll was best on ground in the SFNL's Interleague victory.[/caption]
Andrew Ray (Clayton)
A breakout year for the Clayton ace. Ray polled 23 votes to finish runner up in the Ellis Medal, which was a just reward for his superb consistency this season. His booming right leg is a standout feature of his game, and his ability to hit 50m targets helps set up the play further up the ground. He is such a smooth mover with his line-breaking run and carry, and he can kick goals, too, which is a rare but important commodity in a half back flanker.
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Clayton half back Andrew Ray had a breakout season.[/caption]
Andrew Frost (Dingley)
The Interleague centre half back had another outstanding year at the Den in 2016. Frost stepped up in the absence of key defensive partner Tom Wright during the early part of the season, and has been a pillar of strength in the Dingoes’ back six. His superb hands make him a dangerous threat in the air, chopping off numerous opposition forward entries, while his experience and composure are invaluable to his side.
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Andrew Frost was rock solid again for the Dingoes this season.[/caption]
Scott Lawry (Bentleigh) VICE CAPTAIN
Lawry simply commands selection in this side after taking home his second consecutive Ellis Medal earlier this month. The Bentleigh skipper has simply dazzled off half back again this year, launching many of his side’s forward thrusts with his scintillating run and his penetrating right foot, earning him a reputation as one of the most eye-catching players in the competition. His unwavering consistency and outstanding leadership has been one of the driving forces behind his side’s ascension from sixth last season to a Grand Final appearance in 2016, and is a thoroughly deserved Vice Captain of the Division 1 Team of the Year.
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Back-to-back Ellis Medallist Scott Lawry is one of the competition's best players.[/caption]
Jackson Barclay (Cheltenham)
After missing the entire 2015 season following a knee reconstruction, Barclay didn’t miss a beat in 2016, playing all 18 matches. The damaging midfielder finished third in the club Best & Fairest – a handy return given his 18-month layoff – and showed glimpses of the form that earned him selection in the 2014 Interleague team. Barclay’s leg speed and ball-winning ability ensures he is an integral part of a young Cheltenham team on the rise.
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Jackson Barclay returned from a knee reconstruction to add polish to a young Rosellas side.[/caption]
Paul Fermanis (Oakleigh District)
The Oaks veteran returned to Princes Highway after a 12-month stint at Healesville, and proved why he is one of the premier players in this competition. A raging bull through the midfield, his powerful and athletic frame allows him to dominate around the contests, but he is equally dangerous resting up forward where he finished fifth in the league goalkicking with 39 majors. The versatile Fermanis was rewarded for his stellar season with a third-place finish in Ellis Medal voting.
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Oakleigh veteran Paul Fermanis made a welcome return to the club this year.[/caption]
Callum Cathcart (St Pauls)
The dynamic Cathcart reminded us all just what he is capable of with a sublime season in 2016. The Dogs’ livewire hadn’t played since injuring his ACL in Round 1, 2014, but picked up exactly where he left off despite missing nearly two full seasons of football. He slipped seamlessly into the Dogs’ midfield this year, running rings around opponents with his explosive speed and deft footwork, while also hitting the scoreboard with regularity. Booted four goals in the Interleague victory over Ellinbank to underline his big-game credentials.
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Livewire Callum Cathcart has been a shining light for St Pauls this year.[/caption]
Daniel Farmer (Dingley)
Another stellar season from the Dingoes star, who split his time between the midfield and forward line. Although he is incredibly dangerous winning the footy around the contests, Farmer perhaps does his best work in the front half where his ability to kick multiple goals makes him a formidable threat. He booted a bag of 11 against East Brighton in Round 9, and his dominant five-goal performance in the Grand Final very nearly earned him the Meneilly Medal. A class act.
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Dingo Dan Farmer is super dangerous in front of goal.[/caption]
Pat Nicholls (Bentleigh)
The Demon’s big-money recruit delivered in spades in 2016, with his match-winning eight-goal haul against local rivals St Pauls in Round 1 a sign of the things that were to come. The big fella finished the home and away season second on the league goalkicking table with 56 goals from 16 matches, and was held goalless just once for the year. Nicholls tore several matches apart with his strong contested marking and ability to kick big bags of goals, and confirmed his standing as one of the most damaging forwards in Division 1.
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Spearhead Pat Nicholls has been a sensational addition to the Demons' structure this year.[/caption]
Nick Scanlon (Clayton)
There were few more dynamic players in the competition in 2016 than the Clays’ playing coach. Blessed with sublime skills and great game sense, Scanlon always leads his team by example. His leg speed and penetrating kick makes him a very dangerous weapon up forward, but his versatility allows him to play multiple positions when required. Also known for his ability to take a breath-taking grab and kick a team-lifting goal.
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Clayton coach Nick Scanlon is one of the most dynamic players in the competition.[/caption]
James Morris (Mordialloc)
It wasn’t quite the season that the Bloods had hoped for, but this was not due to a lack of effort from James Morris. The stylish forward booted 49 goals to finish top-three in the league goalkicking, but his impact on matches wasn’t always reflected on the scoreboard. Morris’ classy skills and innate goal sense allows him to step up and slot the momentum-shifting goal when his side needs it, while his ability to bring his teammates into the game is also vitally important.
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Mordialloc's James Morris knows where the goals are.[/caption]
Calhan McQueen (Dingley)
‘The Dream’ took his game to another level this year, ending 2016 as the most prolific goalkicker in Division 1. He slotted 64 goals in just 14 home and away matches at an imposing average of more than 4.5 per game. His speed off the mark and great pair of hands makes him lethal on the lead, and, combined with a deadly accurate right boot, he is capable of causing significant scoreboard damage when on song. A showman in every sense of the word, McQueen is not afraid to fly above packs to reel in spectacular marks, and is a joy to watch in full flight.
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Leading goalkicker Cal 'the Dream' McQueen is an excitement machine.[/caption]
Khaled Kandakji (Oakleigh District)
Electric. That’s the only way to describe the diminutive Districts livewire. Blessed with blinding speed and sublime skill, Kandakji is capable of turning a game in minutes if given any latitude. His stunning second-term performance in Oakleigh’s Qualifying Final victory over Bentleigh serves as Exhibit A, with his three stunning goals (two from the boundary, and one from 55m out on the run) in five minutes helping his team open up a match-winning lead. When Kandakji is at his best, just sit back and enjoy the show.
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Oaks speedster Khaled Kandakji is a human highlights reel.[/caption]
Andrew Walsh (Bentleigh)
Hard to go past the former Avondale Heights big man as the SFNL recruit of the year. The towering tap ruckman dominated around the stoppages all year and provided the Demons on-ball brigade with first use of the pill at every opportunity, which went a long way to facilitating their climb up the ladder. Perhaps the most important player to Bentleigh’s structure, Walsh’s consistent performances throughout the season have seen him emerge as perhaps the pre-eminent ruckman in the league.
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Bentleigh big man Andrw Walsh has become the most influential ruckman in the league.[/caption]
Nathan Robinson (East Malvern)
There wouldn’t be too many blokes in the Southern League with a larger tank than Robbo’s. A tall, gut-running midfielder with elite endurance, Robinson wins plenty of possessions simply because of his extraordinary work rate. Can push forward and kick goals, which adds another dimension to his game. His superb early season form was rewarded with an Interleague guernsey, and although he missed a few matches through injury in the latter part of the season, still cemented himself as one of the competition’s finest onballers.
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East Malvern jet Nathan Robinson is one of the SFNL's elite onballers.[/caption]
Chris Horton-Milne (Dingley)
This nuggetty little rover can win his own ball and possesses a good turn of speed that helps him evade opponents. A very elusive left-footer, Horton-Milne formed part of the mosquito-fleet that got the job done at Interleague level in May and, so impressive was his performance in that match, he was subsequently selected in the Vic Metro team that took on Vic Country for the AFL Victoria Community Cup. Ended the season with both a premiership medallion and the Meneilly Medal – not a bad return for the first-year Dingo.
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Chris Horton-Milne won the Meneilly Medal as best on ground in Dingley's Grand Final victory.[/caption]
Stuart Cleeve (Dingley)
Simply cannot overlook this bloke as the second ruckman for this Team of the Year. While a lot of his ruck duties were shared with new Dingo Chris Morgan, Cleeve nevertheless had an outstanding impact as the number 1 ruckman in the premiership-winning team. His massive tank allows him to run all day and contribute around the ground, and was a valuable member of the 2016 Interleague team.
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There are few more mobile ruckman going around than Dingley's Stu Cleeve.[/caption]
Sam McGarry (Bentleigh)
McGarry’s finest season to date in red and blue saw him edge out both Walsh and Ellis Medallist Lawry for the Demon’s Best & Fairest award. The ultimate professional, McGarry has an impact in every position he plays, and consistently delivers for his side week in, week out. Versatile enough to play multiple roles with aplomb, which makes him an important inclusion in any team.
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Sam McGarry performs every single week for Bentleigh.[/caption]
Travis La Rocca (Dingley)
In any other year, La Rocca would be a lock for a spot on the half-back flank of the team of the year, however, with the extraordinary form of both Lawry and Ray this season, the Dingley vice captain can consider himself desperately unlucky to be relegated to the bench. A smooth-mover with excellent skills, La Rocca capped a stunning season by taking out the Dingoes Best & Fairest. Oozes class and leadership.
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Classy Dingley half back Travis La Rocca provides plenty of drive through the middle.[/caption]
Todd Bastion (Mordialloc)
The Bloods skipper has been a valuable contributor in red and white for the last few years, and season 2016 was no exception. He again performed at a consistently high level throughout the entire season, and was duly rewarded with his third club B&F in four years. Bastion’s efforts in the trenches set the standard for his teammates, and remains one of the best clearance players in the league.
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Mr Consistent Todd Bastion claimed yet another Mordialloc Best & Fairest this year.[/caption]