Ladder after Round 20: 3rd (13 wins, 5 losses, 134.78%)
Best & Fairest: Harris Lanyon
After a Grand Final berth last year, there was plenty of external expectation around this Caulfield side in 2017. Unfortunately, they never got a clear run at it, with injuries to key personnel preventing the Bears from reaching the lofty heights of the previous year. There were patches of impressive form through the year, however, and with stars Anthony O’Shea and Brandon Turner again excelling in defence, the Bears finished the home and away season with the lowest points against tally (1015) in the competition. But in the end, Caulfield simply ran out of puff at the business end of the season and exited the finals in straight sets, a result that would no doubt disappoint the Bears faithful.
Ladder after Round 20: 1st (15 wins, 3 losses, 157.61%)
Best & Fairest: Nathan Herrington
Hard to fault the Heighters after they stormed to the 2017 Division 2 premiership. Clearly the side to beat all season, the boys from Beazley Reserve were undefeated after 11 rounds and handled the tag of ‘flag favourites’ with aplomb. There were a couple of stumbles along the way, particularly with a growing casualty ward as the season progressed, which saw them drop winnable games to Skye and Mount Waverley in the run home. The lead in to the big dance was less than ideal, too – a bye in Round 20 ensured the minor premier played just one match in the month preceding the Grand Final – but it didn’t halt their march to the flag, coming from behind to defeat the in-form Murrumbeena. Captain Phil Smith again topped the league goalkicking, and while 2016 Bennett Medallist Jordan Peryman didn’t have the same impact this year, others including Nathan Herrington, Joel Williams and Jessie Odell stood up in his place, further underlining the side’s depth.
Ladder after Round 20: 7th (8 wins, 10 losses, 82.78%)
Best & Fairest: Andrew Jansen
The Vampires were keen to put a disastrous 2016 behind them, as they finished winless and anchored to the bottom of the Division 1 ladder. They had copped some fearful hammerings at the hands of some of the premier grade’s powerhouse sides, and after Skye dished up another belting at Hurlingham Park in Round 1, you could have been forgiven for thinking East Brighton were in for another long year. But it wasn’t to be, as the Vampires booted a stunning 23.13-151 to sink Mount Waverley at Mayfield Reserve a fortnight later for the club’s first victory since August 2015. All up, the side saluted eight times for the year, and while still one and a half games out of the top five, will give them plenty to build on for next year.
Ladder after Round 20: 9th (7 wins, 11 losses, 83.96%)
Best & Fairest: Guy Timms
Three straight wins to begin the home and away season and the then third-placed Hammers were beginning to emerge as one of the real surprise packets of Division 2, but it all unravelled from there as Hampton went on to win just four more matches for the season. Of their seven victories, none was more important than their thrilling nine-point triumph over Springvale Districts in Round 19, which helped the club stave off relegation. However, despite the lack of on-field results, there was a silver lining in the emergence of its crop of talented youngsters, with four of the top five placegetters in its senior Best & Fairest aged 22 or younger, including winner Guy Timms and runner-up Luke Hayes.
Ladder after Round 20: 11th (1 win, 17 losses, 49.73%)
Best & Fairest: Callum Cusack
Season 2017 was a nightmare for Heatherton, and the joy from their Round 1 victory over Springvale Districts was quickly replaced by despair as they went on to lose their next 17 matches in succession. The Tonners were somewhat competitive in several matches before being let down by one or two poor quarters, and aside from two beltings of 100+ points at the hands of Skye and Chelsea Heights, they were not often thrashed, which only compounded the frustration. After two wooden spoons in the last three seasons, Heatherton will be keen to turn it around in Division 3 next season.
Ladder after Round 20: 8th (7 wins, 11 losses, 85.87%)
Best & Fairest: Tom Brown
Gee, footy can be a cruel game sometimes, and when it doesn’t go your way, it can be a real hard slog. That was the story for Highett in 2017. After a positive 2016 campaign that yielded a finals berth, things went awfully awry this year, with injuries and form the key contributors to their downfall. An upset away victory over their bunny side Skye was their only victory in the first six rounds, and while they worked hard to improve their win-loss record as the season progressed, they were ultimately coming from too far back to challenge for finals. The end couldn’t have come quickly for the Doggies, who should improve next season.
Ladder after Round 20: 2nd (13 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw, 127.65%)
Best & Fairest: Chris Bryan
A super season for the Burras, although one that arguably ended prematurely. The troubles of 2016 were quickly forgotten as Keysborough flexed their muscle and established themselves as a genuine premiership chance. The return of former Pie and Blue Chris Bryan was a massive boon for the club and he a big part of their resurgence, with the big man coming agonisingly close to a Bennett Medal after his dominant season. Ryan ‘Bomber’ Goodes also put a testing 12 months behind him and returned to his best, but his injury-enforced absence during the finals was a huge loss for the Burras. While circumstances conspired against them in the latter stages of the year, including the tragic loss of former player Shaun Oliver, a Preliminary Final appearance is nevertheless a just reward for this side, who will enter next season as one of the flag favourites.
Ladder after Round 20: 6th (8 wins, 10 losses, 101.56%)
Best & Fairest: Jarrod Wilkin
At long last, Mount Waverley earned themselves promotion into second division following their long-awaited Division 3 flag in 2016. And the Mountain Lions acquitted themselves particularly well in the higher grade, finishing as the highest ranked side outside the finals. In fact, their sixth-place finish was the highest ladder position from the previous year’s Division 3 premier since Skye finished sixth in 2010. Among Mount’s highlights were upset victories over Caulfield and eventual premiers Chelsea Heights, as well as getting within a point of Keysborough in a heart-stopping finish. Retiring champion Jarrod Wilkin – a four-time League B&F winner in Div 3 – relished the opportunity to test himself at a higher level, claiming yet another club gong in his final year of footy, while rising star Jackson Smith scooped the Bennett Medal after his breath-taking season.
Ladder after Round 20: 4th (11 wins, 7 losses, 111.64%)
Best & Fairest: Jake Semmel
Heart can take a side a long way in footy – just ask Richmond and the Western Bulldogs – and few sides have more of it than the Beena boys. After five losses in its first seven games, including three straight defeats to commence the season, a flag looked a million miles away. Fast-forward to Round 20 and Murrumbeena entered the finals series as the form team of the competition. What changed? Well, the return of inspirational skipper Mitch Walder from a long-term calf injury was huge, and the big man was simply colossal throughout the finals series. And then there was the addition of two-time Div 1 B&F winner Liam Wilson in Round 4, with the former St Pauls champion finishing third in Bennett Medal voting despite playing only 12 games. After winning three straight cut-throat finals, the Beena entered the premiership decider as outsiders, and despite kicking into the breeze for three quarters, put in a gallant effort before ultimately falling short. Regardless of the Grand Final result, this was a remarkable season, and one of which the Beena faithful could be immensely proud.
Ladder after Round 20: 5th (9 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw, 119.16%)
Best & Fairest: Nathan McConville
A third Elimination Final loss in four years leaves Skye with just one finals victory since its Grand Final appearance in 2014. While not a wasted season, you could argue the club has been treading water, however, the Bombers rarely had a settled side in 2017 which was far from ideal. As such, the results were a mixed bag. Skye managed to upset both grand finalists in Chelsea Heights and Murrumbeena, but two losses each at the hands of Highett (8th) and Springvale Districts (10th) were missed opportunities to bank premiership points. From a personnel perspective, veteran Tim Barr spent some time in the twos, while playing coach Ben Walker missed games with a hamstring injury. Both men have since announced their retirements. On the flip side, spring-heeled forward Stephen Hawkins was a great find, finishing the year with more than 50 goals to his name, and B&F winner Nathan McConville also enjoyed a breakout season.
Ladder after Round 20: 10th (6 wins, 12 losses, 90.14%)
Best & Fairest: Matt Thompson
It was a tale of so close, but yet so far for Springvale Districts in 2017. In many respects, the club was desperately unlucky to be relegated, given it won six matches and finished with a higher percentage than three sides that finished above it. The competitive Demons were only twice beaten by a margin greater than 20 points, and suffered six losses by few than two kicks, but too often it simply couldn’t find a way to win the close ones. Kris Thompson took over as coach from Danny Rout in Round 9 after suffering a season-ending leg injury, and the side went on to win five of its last 11 games, including beating finalist Skye twice. However, the Round 1 loss to Heatherton hurt, and it’s heart-breaking home defeat to the Hammers in the penultimate round was a real kick in the guts and sealed its fate. Springvale Districts were a much-better side than 6-12 suggests, but sometimes the cards just don’t fall your way.