Country Footy returned with a vengeance in 2022
Wayne 'the Flowman' Phillips reviews a 2022 footy season across Flow's country broadcast areas that saw leagues back in action after some were unable to complete recent seasons.
The country football year saw the first season post-covid completed, much to the relief of local towns and border communities particularly NSW and Victorian competitions that were curtailed in 2021 and abandoned in the main during 2020.
Despite the prevalence of transmission from the virus in the third wave Omicron, sporting clubs raised their level of health practices and delivered a much needed fountain of community spirit and a place to meet again socially and giving our younger kids both sporting activity and a chance to pursue their careers. Weren’t we all thankful - even the Flow Sports commentary team - to be back and not closed down?
New South Wales Riverina Farrer and Hume competitions had full seasons with most towns providing teams across most grades.
In Hume football the Osborne juggernaut was curtailed on that last day in September by the surprise packets Holbrook. Through the season Osborne had not lost a game of Seniors football but come the big day, the old adage of ‘the loss we had to have’ was on the wrong day. Playing at Walbundrie the Tigers led by 7 points at the final break only to be mauled by the Brookers with a 7 goal to two last quarter and the green and gold celebrated with a memorable 29 point victory. John Mitchell with 4 goals was best for the Brookers while veteran Joel Mackie consoled the stunned Osborne faithful. The reserves also won by Holbrook coming from behind and inflicting the same pain on Osborne while the Under 17’s a tough day in the playground for the Osborne boys, nailed by Rand Walbundrie Walla Giants who reversed the second semi final result. In the under 14’s the Henty ‘Swampies’ demolishing the Brock Burrum Saints by 5 goals. But regardless of the winners, Hume footy president Phil Bouffler said it was just good to be back!
The Riverina and Farrer Competitions resumed after the 2021 competitions were abandoned before the finals. Favourites in Senior Riverina footy were the GGGM Lions who had the Osborne star George Alexander in their stable. But they had a challenger from just up the road at Collingullie GP led by Ed Perryman. It was a hotly contested grand final at Narrandera and despite the deluge of rain through the season, and ever since, the two clubs were neck and neck at three quarter time but the quality of Ganmain shone through in the last to win in a low scorer by 17 points. Over in Farrer football, the Marrer Bombers led the season from start to finish and beat The Rock / Yerong Creek in the grand final at Robertson Oval Wagga. The Magpies did well to get to the last dance beating the Hawks from East Wagga Kooringal in the Prelim.
The Golden Rivers Season was overshadowed by the announcement of Quambatook finishing up as a club and the news that Nullawil were looking at moving to nearby North Central Football League. Strangely, Nullawil only lost one game in the season to Quambatook and when both sides made it to the second semi, the footy love was for a fairy tale finish to the Saints from Quambatook. But the Maroons from Nullawil were going to leave on a high note and won the grandy over Moulemein Swans who had vanquished the Saints in the Prelim. The Saints finished up with a home finals game that drew a large crowd and national media exposure, the Golden Rivers left with 6 teams as the Maroons are now the 9th team in North Central for the 2023 season.
North Central footy was back and the old rivalries from the 2019 premiership contest Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers and the Birchip Watchem Bulls set to continue after the 2021 aborted season. The Bulls recruited well again and through the season it was clear that they were the team to beat. Donald Royal Blues also rose to the occasion and the previously powerful Tigers were suddenly susceptible to the power forward lines of the Bulls and the Blues. The Bulls were captained by Flow FM North Central radio host Dale Hinckley and coached by the legend Trevor Ryan. The boy from Mundulla Elliot Jaeschke topped up the midfield and when former Richmond play Nathan Gordon lined up in the goal square, the Bulls were in the grand final. Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers were then brushed aside leaving the Royal Blues from Donald to fight the other Buloke ‘lakesiders’ from Watchem and Birchip for the flag. The Royals looked good early but once the Bulls got their radar going, they came home with their first premiership since 2001.
The Wimmera and Horsham District competitions were back and the Flow coverage clubs of the Southern Mallee Giants in the Wimmera and the Jeparit Rainbow Storm in the Horsham District were back in action with the Giants captain Coleman Schache, giving weekly commentary about farming life and parenting a new baby from the tractor, along with big Peter Weir, the goal kicking legend from the paddocks of Rainbow and Yaapeet stirring the pot weekly about Bow bakery pies and some unbiased JR Storm input. Sadly for the Giants, they were no match through the season despite a late surge and it was the Minyip Murtoa Burras who won the flag. The Giants in 6th, have begun recruiting early and have signed reigning Toohey medallist Keiren Delahunty from the Burras, to coach in 2023. The Storm were knocked out in the finals race with eventually winner Rupanyup, who, like the Birchip Watchem Bulls, broke a 21-year drought.
The Sunraysia season began with massive recruiting particularly Wentworth going big while Irymple across all grades looked the goods. The Ouyen United Kangas and Flow Fm welcomed a new reporter in Andrew Willsmore. Son Dallas, was back for a second season after a career at West Adelaide and Hawthorn. With him came Kaine Stevens and later in the year former Geelong and Glenelg player Cory Gregson. The Kangas got jumping toward the business end and beat Robinvale in the first semi. The had an epic struggle against Irymple in the Prelim only to lose it and see Irymple strangle the Wentworth opposition in the grand final. Junior numbers are a real concern for the Sunraysia as Irymple took most premierships across the grades and dark clouds on keeping under 18, under 16 under 14 and under 12 ages a big talking point.
The Western Eyre football competition was in its second full year following the inaugural year where the former Mid West stars the West Coast Hawks dominated across 3 of the 4 grades including winning the 2021 premiership against Westies. But 2022 was to be a different season. Westies coach Jesse Chandler, brother of Kade on the Melbourne list, would be coming up against other brother Brodie Chandler who had accepted the Ceduna Blues playing coach job. The Hawks never really got going in 2022 but come grand final day the stage was set at the childhood Penong oval for both brother coaches. And what a grand final it turned out to be. For a good part of the day the Blue boys were looking cooked on a warm sultry afternoon but come the final quarter it was Sam Jonas the brother of Port Power star Tom Jonas who dealt the final blow, victory to the Blues and Westies twice bridesmaid in the new Western Eyre.
The Great Flinders and Eastern Eyre competitions were in their second seasons of expanded teams and in Great Flinders, the Elliston Districts formalised the initial amalgamation of 2021 and went out strongly to recruit and to beat the mighty Yeelanna Eagles. But that remained their season long stumbling block as all matches in home and away and two finals matches including the Grand Final saw the Red White and Yellow Roosters routed by a classy Crittenden led outfit. Meanwhile over in Eastern Eyre the 2021 newcomers Central Eyre United made it to finals and beat the once kings of Eastern Eyre, Kimba. But a prelim against up the road at Rudall and Cleve Eastern Ranges saw the navy blue and white storm run out of puff. Ports the dominant side of the season beat Ranges in the final.
Across the Mid North teams were excited about the post covid season. The Brinkworth Spalding Redhill Tigers had won 4 of the past 5 premiership deciders, however there were going to be challengers from RSMU, Southern Saints and Mintaro Manoora. As the season got going it was clear that the BSR Tigers and the Min Man Eagles were the best sides and despite a late flurry by the Southern Saints who beat RSMU, Min Man met the might of BSR in the last weekend and the Tigers made it 5 out of 6 for the dynasty to continue. Meanwhile in Northern Areas, the powerhouse Broughton Mundoora met Orroroo for the second time straight and at the home ground of the Orroroo Kangaroos. But it was the Eagles from the coast who prevailed. In Yorke Peninsula footy it was a great finals series with 4 sides all very even from Moonta CMAS Crows Central Yorke Cougars and Kadina. Moonta won the big day at Bute by beating the CMS Crows.
The Barossa Light and Gawler began with some big stars joining the competition and South Gawler tipped to go back to back. Freeling recruited some new players but remained near the bottom while Gawler Central showed glimpses but not at the top 4 level. Willaston started strongly then crashed out as Andrew Jarmans’ boys went from loss to disaster while Kapunda and Angaston were in the hunt late but missed out to the Barossa Bulldogs. In the finals the Dogs were bitten early by Tanunda, Nuri had to go through the Prelim and beat their old block foes and South remained the pinnacle that seemed impassable until grand final day at Angaston. However the dream of another blue and white premiership was smashed by a near perfect performance from Nuri Rover Tigers.
Over on the Plains it was Two Wells that upset Balaklava after the mighty Mallala went out in straight sets. The decider a testament to good footy after a spirited finals series seeing Angle Vale make Adelaide Plains finals for the first time ever
In the Riverland Football League Waikerie Magpies have been the powerhouse of the 21st century. But that has changed as Renmark Rovers took the flag again in 2022. Loxton emerged as a threat for the future while Berri made the finals with some good recruiting. With the floods arriving, the 2023 pre season might be interrupted by flooded ovals given their proximity in the Riverland to the floodplain at Renmark and Waikerie. Emerging out of the season was the new league called the Murray Valley Football league formed from Riverland independent teams. Independents were won by Blanchetown Swan Reach Redbacks who had come out of recess from two years earlier. Unfortunately, Cobdogla couldn’t get the numbers to do likewise for 2023. Murrayville join the new Murray River Football League after the demise of the Mallee.
The Mallee league started amid rumours that it might be the last. It turned out that way but not until Pinnaroo erased the memories of 20 years of pain taking their first premiership over the BDT Crows. The Crows had been in yearlong discussions with Meningie in the River Murray and late in the season made their announcement that they would become the Coorong Cats. That set the dominoes in motion and Murrayville announced it would join the new Murray Valley FL. Lameroo and Pinnaroo wanted to go on as 4 or 5 teams, but Karoonda Peake talks were accelerated and the Mallee Storm was born for season 2023 to compete in River Murray Football. This brought on talks between the final two clubs Lameroo and Pinnaroo and despite the option of calling themselves Parilla Districts, they went with the Southern Mallee Suns and will also play in the River Murray. An era of Country footy is over with the Mallee following the Mid West and Mid Murray as recent leagues folding in the 21st Century.
The KNT has become the powerhouse of regional football in the last 10 years and rivals the Barossa Light and Gawler as SA’s premier country footy competition. 2022 saw the Navy blues at Lucindale win a memorable flag in a brilliant even season where all sides were competitive. While Kybybolite, Bordertown, Borders, Penola and later Padthaway slipped away, the top sides in Lucindale, Keith, Naracoorte, Kingston and Mundulla traded top 5 placings. Kingston recruited well but needs another good forward and midfielder, while Mundulla have finally fallen from premiership glory but will take their 4 premierships in a row. Keith become the challenger to Lucindale and as Flow FM caller Sammy Graetz said it is my boys against the Flowman’s. The Crows beat Mundulla to get there and got ever so close to knocking over the beef flat farmers from the drained swamp country. What a season 2023 looks to be with big signings already across the clubs.
The Mid South East began another season with plenty of rumour about a new league set up in 2023 and beyond. A proposal for Kalangadoo to go to Western Border along with Penola from KNT was met with a loud no from their members. Casterton Sanford have asked to join the MSE but the SANFL have said a loud no to that. 2022 saw Kalangadoo dominate at the top although they were challenged at different times. Tommy Wachtel picked up the Flow commentary from the Robe Roosters and they almost made the finals but eclipsed late by Mt Burr, Port McDonnell and Hatherleigh. The Robe Roosters won the Under 17 flag after going through the home and away season undefeated but losing the second semi. They erased that memory on Grand final day and 8 of the players are training with the A grade with the hope of better things to come in 2023 for the red and the white.
The River Murray is in flood and the local footy league based out of Murray Bridge has a flood of new teams. The 7 team competition has Meningie changing to the Coorong Cats following an amalgamation with Mallee team Border Downs Tintinara, The Southern Mallee Suns an amalgamation of the Pinnaroo and Lameroo teams and the Mallee Storm, Peake and Karoonda Districts will make for a very interesting 9 team competition. Not since the Murray Bridge Redlegs and Bremer Nairne played in River Murray have they had this number of sides. The 2022 season saw regular powerhouse Jervois play Imperials after Tailem Bend was eliminated. Imperials the winners. But a lot of interest surrounds the huge 2023 season as the Mallee clubs come into the flooded Murray.