The 2017 Division 1 season was one of the memorable in recent years, and SFNL Media recaps how each team fared throughout the year.
Ladder after Round 18: 4th (10 wins, 8 losses, 127.10%)
Best & Fairest: Sam McGarry
The Jekyll and Hyde side of the competition, Bentleigh’s meteoric rise from the outhouse to the penthouse was one of the stories of the season. Cruelled by injury and form issues throughout the first half of the season, the 2016 runner-up looked shot with just one victory to its credit after six rounds. Adding to the turmoil was the mid-year resignation of coach Paul Dimattina, with Pete Pirera and Chris Johnson taking the reins for the second half of the season. But six wins from seven matches between rounds 7 and 13 kickstarted Bentleigh’s resurgence, which ultimately led to a Preliminary Final appearance. Missing for much of the early part of the season, the importance of former captain Scott Lawry and spearhead Matt Troutbeck were underlined as they played key roles in the second half of the season, while youngsters Mitchell Smart and Michael Rogers enjoyed brilliant debut seasons in red and blue.
Ladder after Round 18: 6th (9 wins, 9 losses, 106.73%)
Best & Fairest: Sean McLaren
While 2017 was a year of improvement on paper for Cheltenham – the Rosellas won two more matches than it did in 2016 – the pervading feeling was that is was a season of underachievement. With the triumvirate of heralded recruits in Sean McLaren, Will McTaggart and Jarrad Matheson, the club was looking well-placed in the preseason to return to finals footy, however, seven consecutive weeks of alternating wins and losses killed any momentum, while several lacklustre losses also put it behind the eight-ball. That said, the Rosellas showed that it’s best is good enough with rousing victories over Mordialloc, St Pauls and Bentleigh, and finals should be an achievable target in 2018.
Ladder after Round 18: 10th (0 wins, 18 losses, 18.29%)
Best & Fairest: Matthew Wilson
The season from hell for the Clays, who went from a finals berth in 2016 to winless a year later. A significant off-season exodus saw the club struggle for depth in the seniors and numbers in the reserves throughout 2017. The club copped several significant beltings, including consecutive losses of greater than 200 points in the final two rounds. While several players, including Jack McEwan, Joel Rigoni, B&F winner Matt Wilson and skipper Jayden Gilmour fought valiantly against the tide, it proved a season in which to much was left to too few.
Ladder after Round 18: 1st (14 wins, 4 losses, 208.24%)
Best & Fairest: Danny Ades
They may not have had the aura of invincibility about them as they did in previous seasons, but the Dingoes rose to the occasion on the SFNL’s biggest stage to cement themselves as the greatest Southern team of the modern era. Not since 2013 had Dingley had lost four matches during the home and away season, however a 200-point win over Clayton in Round 17 saw them edge ahead in a tight race for the minor premiership. Not even a 10-goal Semi Final loss to Mordialloc could derail Dingley’s campaign for a third consecutive flag, with Shane Morwood’s men reversing the result with a flawless performance against the Bloods in the big dance. And while the 2017 premiership side looked vastly different to the class of 2015, several members of the Dingoes’ original flag team were again leading the charge this season, including co-captains Jackson Peet and Travis La Rocca, B&F winner Danny Ades, Division 1 leading goalkicker Calhan McQueen and key defender Andrew Frost.
Ladder after Round 18: 5th (9 wins, 9 losses, 121.05%)
Best & Fairest: Ryan Mullett
A look at the East Malvern’s best 22 during the preseason and it was, on paper at least, a side that was widely expected to delve deep in to September and possibly challenge for the premiership. In reality, the Panthers exited the finals in the first round, which, while far from an abject failure in isolation, was significantly short of the team’s potential. Not once did East Malvern secure a victory over any of the four sides that finished above them – a fair reflection of the side’s season. Injuries to key players had an impact, and at times the club’s depth was sorely tested, however, superstar recruits Ryan Mullett (15 games in 2017) Simon Taylor (16), Nathan Henley (16) and Dean Millhouse (16) all played regular senior football throughout the season, which suggests the club relied too heavily on its top-end talent and simply didn’t get enough from its mid-tier to fringe players.
Ladder after Round 18: 2nd (14 wins, 4 losses, 196.52%)
Best & Fairest: Todd Bastion
Motivated by a disappointing end to the 2016 season – a year in which they failed to qualify for finals – the Bloods hit the ground running in 2017. Several key recruits, including former Collingwood rover Danny Nicholls and a quartet of De La Salle stars, helped propel the club into early premiership favouritism and the side quickly forged a reputation as the number one contested ball-winning team in the competition. Not even the shock resignation of coach Jason Chapple after Round 7 could derail the Mordi train, and with caretaker coach Dan Quinn at the helm, the Bloods finished just 12% shy of the minor premiership. A convincing Semi Final victory over Dingley saw them qualify for their second Division 1 premiership decider in three seasons, and with the week off, a healthy list to choose from and a game style that was tailor-made for big finals, the Bloods entered the Grand Final as slight favourites. Unfortunately, a maiden Div 1 flag wasn’t to be, with their disappointing performance in the big dance the only real blemish on an otherwise brilliant season. Nevertheless, with a talented and experienced playing group, and a highly-regarded coach in Mick Brown at the helm for next year, it’s a pretty safe bet that Mordialloc will be up there as premiership contenders again in 2018.
Ladder after Round 18: 7th (8 wins, 10 losses, 104.54%)
Best & Fairest: Ryan Pearson
After backing up its 2015 Division 2 premiership with a Preliminary Final appearance in its first season in the League’s highest grade, you could argue that 2017 was bit of a wasted season. That said, the Oaks looked every bit finals contender, spending half of the season in the top half of the ladder, including the first seven rounds. Ultimately, a finals berth hinged on a sudden-death clash with East Malvern at home in Round 18, but unfortunately for Oakleigh District, the Panthers proved too strong and secured fifth spot. Injuries to key players took their toll throughout the year, but there were still plenty of positives. Fiery playmaker Jake Mullen returned to the side from suspension in Round 9 and highlighted his star power with a stunning second half of the year, while Paul Fermanis excelled in his role up forward, booting 40 goals.
Ladder after Round 18: 9th (5 wins, 13 losses, 60.24%)
Best & Fairest: Lewis Mildenhall
The loss of 2016 premiership stars Brad Sutcliffe, Justin Taylor and Jason Butty, as well as coach Brad Julier, had the Colts behind the eight-ball from the outset. Compounding their issues was a season-ending knee injury to star forward Mitch Clarke in Round 3, which robbed the side of much-needed forward potency. As a consequence, Port finished the season with a measly total of 968 points for, the second lowest in the competition. Despite this, the Colts did claim a couple of big scalps along the way, including victories over Bentleigh and St Pauls at the Portress, but overall, 2017 was an underwhelming Division 1 debut.
Ladder after Round 18: 8th (7 wins, 11 losses, 91.18%)
Best & Fairest: Aaron Green
Another season at the Peanut Farm that promised plenty but delivered little. Several big-name recruits, including Malcolm Neiwand, Thomas Motlop, Troy Kelm and the Runnalls brothers, had several pundits tipping a possible return to finals for the Saints before the season commenced, a prediction that was looking more likely following surprise victories over 2016 grand finalists Dingley and Bentleigh in rounds 2 and 3. But the season didn’t follow the script, and as the losses began to mount, September looked further and further away. Kelm in particular was a massive loss, with the former Albion ruckman taking the competition by storm in the opening rounds before injury curtailed his influence. In the end, this team had a heap of potential, and arguably should have won more than seven games.
Ladder after Round 18: 3rd (14 wins, 4 losses, 134.30%)
Best & Fairest: Brad Gilder
The real surprise packet of 2018. After missing the finals in 2016, and the loss of several experienced stars including Liam Wilson, Jarryd Allan and Cal Cathcart, the club turned to youth in a bid to rebuild under new coach Jason Heffernan. Few would have expected the Dogs to return to finals in year one, let alone win 14 games and finish equal top of the ladder, behind eventual grand finalist Dingley and Mordialloc on percentage only. But that is exactly what happened, with the young pups leading the charge and the side’s exciting, fast-running style of football caught many opponents off-guard. The addition of former Sandringham Zebra Matt Kreymborg was a tremendous boon, with the powerful onball taking out the 2017 Ellis Medal, while experienced stars Kieran Knox and Brad Gilder also enjoyed outstanding seasons. While the straight-sets finals exit was a disappointing way to end their remarkable season, the foundation for future success has certainly been laid.