Kors, clutch and camaraderie

Dave has some thoughts on Interleague football.

MARCUS: Well boys, I must say I’m glad to be inside today and sheltered from the wind that caused chaos across the footy landscape on Saturday. Dave, you’re champing at the bit to give us your best action, why don’t you kick us off?

DAVE: Thanks Marcus, there’s a bloke that’s a bit stiff this week. My first shout out goes to Myles Currie from Beaconsfield. The Eagles were playing the top team in Park Orchards, who got the jump on them, but in the third quarter the Eagles kicked four in a row and actually hit the front. I think the inspiration behind that was Currie. There was a moment where a Park Orchards kick went straight up in the air and the wind got hold of it, so it pretty much dropped straight back down to earth. There were five or six players underneath it and Currie got there, spreading the pack and almost killing himself. He got up, dusted himself off, and kicked the goal. On any other week that would be best action; so well done to Myles. But, I can’t go past Sam Kors’ goal – on the siren – for Pakenham to win the game against Monbulk. Pakenham never looked like winning all day. Jordan Stewart took a huge contested mark to get the ball inside 50 that led to Kors’ mark, but Kors had to sprint from so far away to reach that pack, hit it at pace and then kicked the goal. The siren sounded immediately after the ball hit his boot, it’s everyone’s dream. I spoke to him after the game and he was shaking; he couldn’t believe it. That was a huge win for Pakenham; they went in missing a few guys and lost a couple more important players as the game went on. They won that game from eight points down, halfway through the last quarter, with their two best midfielders off the ground and none on the bench.

JONTY: I could sit here and say that the highlight of my afternoon was getting to watch Joel Hillis play footy.

DAVE: You’re in love with this kid!

JONTY: He’s just a gun, and probably my favourite local footballer in the region now. He always steps up when the moment demands it. But I will say that the best moment came on Saturday night at Cardinia Life, with Kaleb Beveridge nailing a dunk on the fast break that really was the perfect footnote for a dominant first half from Pakenham’s Youth Men side. He’s one that always gets the crowd up and about and has a lot of swagger on the court, and he really showed that on Saturday night.

DAVE: Marcus, how’s basketball making a regular appearance in LTS now? Jonty’s really jumped on the bandwagon!

MARCUS: He sounds like he’s got a real grasp of the basketball terminology, that’s for sure. My best action goes to a courageous mark from Berwick Springs’ Michael Misso. The Titans were under the pump against Mt Evelyn and there was a sequence where Kai Maas and Aidan Nelson had to really fight and scrap with repeat efforts in the forward line, under pressure from the Rovers, and eventually got the ball to the top of the square where Misso took a strong mark with a defender closing from front on. I was really impressed with the lead up, it was like one of those drills at training where you have a two-on-two and one pair has to get the ball back to the coach. Nelson and Maas did really well to work through the situation and Misso made sure their efforts were rewarded.

DAVE: Joel Hillis would have done it by himself, by the sounds of things. Wouldn’t have needed a teammate….


MARCUS: On the back of Kors’ huge moment, I thought it would be a fun exercise to build our own ultimate clutch player from the characteristics and traits of some of our favourites. Jonty, please walk us through your amalgamation.

JONTY: One of the most important traits in modern footy is power and the ability to explode from stoppage, so I’m taking John Rafferty from Endeavour Hills, because he does that really well. I’ve got the fitness and ability to get to repeat contests of Zak Roscoe, and the ability to stand up when the game matters of Joel Hillis. Then there’s the composure and calm of Tanner Stanton, the courage of smaller players like Ricky Johnson from Doveton and Riley McDonald from Devon Meadows, Cam Williamson’s overhead ability and the one-on-one strength of Kane Hurst from the Dandenong Stingrays.

DAVE: I’ve got more mental traits and the four I think are most important is composure, skill, seizing the moment, and marking ability, likening it to the Sam Kors moment. So I’m taking Nathan Gardiner’s marking ability. I’d say there are more photos of him going for marks in the Gazette than any other player. He’s got a magnificent presence; he’s a big man with tattoos and gets up high. There’s no more daunting image than him. For composure, I’m taking Lewis Rankin from Inverloch-Kongwak. He’s a defender but I’ve never seen him flustered. I’d love to give Gardiner the calmness of Rankin under pressure. I want the skill of Inverloch’s Will Hams, and yes, I’m aware that there’s a heavy Inverloch flavour here, which is starting to remind me of how good they are. He’s a classy left footer. So Hams and Luke Walker’s skills, ‘Tex’ has been one of the classiest ball users in the region for the last 15 years. And seizing the moment is another Sea Eagle in Nick Baltas. He is a freak; he can pick a ball up from nowhere and make something happen. That’s my clutch player….a combo of those blokes.

MARCUS: I’ve gone a similar path to Dave with more mental traits than physical. I’ve got the experience and the appetite of Emerald’s David Johnson. He relishes the role of being the leader of a young Emerald forward line and kicked six on grand final day last year. Jake Barclay’s will, he’d run through brick walls for Pakenham and won games off his own boot last year. The composure of Will Howe, because he doesn’t look like too much bothers him. The dare of Sam Toner who’s incredibly talented and doesn’t know what isn’t possible yet. Then there’s the accuracy and skill of Peter Gentile from Narre Warren, and Pat Bruzzese from Wandin, because they’re such beautiful ball users and immensely skilled. So Dave, I’ve ended up like you, picking a handful of Narre Warren players like you did Inverloch-Kongwak. Sounds like those teams are in a similar bracket.


MARCUS: So there was no Southern Footy League action this weekend due to the best of the best being picked for an interleague game against the Riddell District Football League, in which Southern got home by a point in extra time. Unfortunately there’s no Interleague for the Outer East and West Gippsland competitions, but Dave, you’ve regaled us with yarns over the years about some of these occasions. Can you take us back to what those times were like, not only the games themselves but the lead up, selection, speculation and everything for the region?

DAVE: I was lucky enough to go to Horsham, Shepparton, Yarrawonga and Geelong to cover them for the paper over the years and it’s not just about the day itself, it’s about the build-up and the relationships that come with it. Michael ‘Jock’ Holland was the coach of the side during my time covering it and I became close with him as a result. Then there are people like Stuey Batten from Doveton, who used to hate Pakenham, but because of Interleague, he’s now mates with ‘Jock’ and Dan O’Loughlin. Doug Koop, no one liked him because he was such a fierce competitor, but that weekend at Horsham against the Wimmera, people came around to him. Marc Holt rolled an ankle, but Koop – an assistant coach – wanted to win that game and didn’t care about what it would mean for Cranbourne. He kept ‘Holty’ out on the field, and that gave a sense of how much everyone bought into the occasion. At training for the few weeks leading up, so many people come together from different clubs working on the one team, then you’d jump on a bus and head off and you feel like you’re a part of something special. When I see the likes of a Troy McDermott or Daniel Battaglin, or even Holty, you reminisce on those Interleague days, like the bus trips and all that. I understand why leagues don’t do it anymore, because it’s a costly exercise when you add up all the expenses like accommodation, food, jumpers, bus rides… for 40-odd people, but I think we need a yearly competition between West Gippsland, Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland, Ellinbank, and have a localised competition. West Gippsland and Ellinbank could even combine into one team…and who knows where that could lead; I’m being cheeky now! The other thing with Interleague is I think it should be an Under-23 competition, so that talent scouts can come down and have a look at the region’s best, and mix in a handful of guys over 23. Imagine what that would do for a young bloke from Garfield or Bunyip to play a game of footy with someone like Jimmy Munro from Cora Lynn, or Cam Pederson from Phillip Island, or Matt Buntine from Tooradin-Dalmore.

JONTY: I really like that. That turns the contest into an exhibition game and legitimate talent pathway and series.

DAVE: If you had an Interleague Team of the Year from across the state, talent scouts would look at that list.

MARCUS: That was brilliant Dave, and might go down in LTS lore as one of the better discussions we’ve had!


MARCUS: To finish off; now that we’re roughly a third of the way through the AFL season I thought we could have a look at our preseason predictions and see how they’re tracking. To recap, Dave, you had; GWS – flag. Runner up – Sydney. Brownlow – Caleb Serong. Wooden Spoon – North Melbourne. Jonty, you had GWS – flag. Runner up – Brisbane. Brownlow – Errol Gulden. Wooden Spoon – West Coast.

JONTY: I also had Serong in my top three in the Brownlow!

MARCUS: I had; Port Adelaide – flag. Runner up – GWS. Brownlow – Marcus Bontempelli. Wooden Spoon – West Coast. Dave, you must be feeling pretty good about your picks!

DAVE: Looking at the odds as of Monday morning, the Swans are flag favourites and the Giants are second – tick. North is nearly unbackable to win the spoon – another tick – and I haven’t forgotten you two being sceptical when I picked North! And Serong is fifth in line in the Brownlow odds – tick! I’m very happy with my picks, and I think I’m in front, out of the three of us.

JONTY: It’s hard to argue that. Clearly Brisbane have been underwhelming so far, so if I had to reassess, I’d pick a Battle of the Bridge grand final. Gulden has been overshadowed by Isaac Heeney, but I’m happy with saying Serong would be top five because I don’t think too many were expecting that, other than, of course, you, Dave. I also expected Fremantle to make the finals, and they had a tough loss on the weekend, but I’m happy with that one too. And West Coast, well, full credits to Adam Simpson for lifting them off the canvas.

MARCUS: My Port Adelaide pick was one out of left field and caused the most discussion of the three, and I still like their chances. Their midfield still terrifies me, they’ve got all bases covered, but it’s up to them to overcome the mental challenge of winning in September, where they’ve struggled in recent years. Bontempelli hasn’t really hit the heights this year, and as you said, Jonty, credit to West Coast for improving this season.

JONTY: I still have question marks over Port Adelaide’s ability to win big games, despite winning on Friday night.

MARCUS: When do we put Essendon into flag discussions? They’re now third on the ladder.

JONTY: ARE THEY REALLY?! I don’t think the ladder really means anything until around now.

MARCUS: I guess I still don’t trust them, and they’re the only side in the top 13 with a percentage of less than 100. They’re a bit like a toxic partner and I fully expect them to let me down.

DAVE: Who have they beaten? Hawthorn, St Kilda, Adelaide, West Coast, Western Bulldogs, drawn with Collingwood, lost to Port Adelaide and Sydney…

MARCUS: We’ll see. Thanks again, boys, and a big Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely mums out there!