Resilience, determination, passion and not a hint of modesty has powered Visy Park United to a history-defining premiership in the AFL 9s staff competition.
“We are immortal,” one player muttered under his breath when the gang from AFL Victoria was presented with the cup after defeating Comm-Ops united in an epic finale last night.
And while captain Will McGregor offered words of humility to the waiting media scrum, the sentiment was wasted after celebratory team photos were taken even before the final siren.
The 34-point victory was in the bag when Rhy Gieschen kicked his ninth sausage roll for the night deep into the second half, capping a remarkable return to form after a season-riddled with controversy and a 2013 campaign that was worse than the ham at the staff Christmas party.
Gieschen was sublime in attack, carrying a heavy load after spearhead Steven Reaper was forced from the field in the first minute of the match with a severe knee injury.
Clever leading, strong marking and three goals in general play that had to be seen to be believed saw the champ claim the ‘Jim Cail’ medal for best on ground.”
“I knew I had to lift when Reaps went down and well tonight I think I proved while Thorpdale are paying me a fortune every week,” Gieschen said.
“But credit to my teammates too, they played okay I guess.”
Lauren Bunting was also heroic, adding three super goals to her season tally, and silencing any challenge from the opposition before it arrived.
Bunting, in stark contrast to Gieschen, instead praised her teammates, highlighting the decoy role played by Arron Clark as key to the victory.
Despite starting in defence, the crowd favourite was shifted forward to fill the void left by Reaper, and according to himself, was the “glue” that held the team together.
But while the forwards basked in their own glory, the huge contingent of AFL Victoria staff in attendance – Ricky bell, Dana Reddick, Dale Wain and Chyloe Kurdas- instead paid tribute to the running game of skipper McGregor.
Playing off half back, the speed machine rebounded like a tennis ball in the playground, hitting up forwards and helping out the undermanned Ryan Webb in defence.
Webb, wasn’t so much out-sized by his opponent but rather outclassed, with the basketball convert given what his son Noah has every night after dinner… a bath.
Determined not to look bad himself, Logan Whitaker refused to rotate and instead remained in the ruck for the entire night where his biggest contribution came by refusing to swap out when pitted against a smaller female opponent.
It was the ‘win at all costs’ attitude instilled by coach Darren Flanigan – who was an apology on the night – that Whitaker said inspired his stance.
“Darren told me earlier to make sure I left the ball outside off stump and while I’m not sure if he knew what sport we were playing, just having him in our corner really helped,” Whitaker said.
Despite his best efforts, Dave O’Neill struggled in the windy conditions and seemed to be battling nerves more so than the opposition.
In a football career devoid of highlights, O’Neill cried at the final siren and was last seen attempting to have deep and meaningfuls with his teammates and trying to organise a date for the 10-year premiership reunion.
With a new-found lung capacity, Erin Corrie enjoyed a better night at the office while young gun Joanne White played her best game for the year.
Maeve Ryan’s move to defence in the second half was also telling, stopping the threat of super goals and any hope of a comeback.
After a stellar season in which she secured the most determined title Rosie Butler literally dropped the ball and was somewhat subdued in the Grand Final, but left the field clearly satisfied with the opportunity to play with some of the game’s self-confessed greats.
It was a similar quiet ending for Reaper, who dominated the home-and-away season, only to be left on the sidelines for the entire night rueing the injury curse.
“We all play our part,” the Chief said.
“You write the articles, I kick the goals.”
“Tonight the force has intervened and I’m just disappointed for those who came to watch and didn’t get to see the Clarky/Reaper show one more time.”