The Victorian State AFL Wheelchair team has claimed the silver medal at the 2019 Invacare Wheelchair Aussie Rules National Championships in Adelaide over the weekend.
Following the success of the Robert Rose Foundation Victorian Wheelchair Football League, the Vic’s were out to improve this year from their Bronze Medal in 2018.
Three-time reigning champions, South Australia (SA), were too strong in the decider, winning 100-71 to claim their fourth consecutive title.
Led by Captain Louis Rowe from Essendon, the Vic’s started their campaign at St Clair Recreation Centre facing the eventual champions. After a fast start, Victoria led at the first break, but South Australia clawed their way back and put their foot down in the all-important third quarter to win the tournament’s first match 69-44.
James Leonard (Essendon) was outstanding in defence, while the VWFL’s inaugural MVP Pat McKay (St Kilda) did an outstanding job on SA big man Matt Gregory.
Victoria then took on RSL Active, which also featured four participants from the VWFL including Brett Newman (Collingwood), Sam Maraldo (Essendon), Jason Jinks (Hawthorn) and Damon Craig (Essendon). An improved RSL team took it up to the Vic’s, but Ryan Smith (St Kilda) was dominant up forward with six goals, leading to a 95-41 win.
Day two saw Victoria play the two Australian Defence Force teams. Yasmina McGlone (Richmond) and Peter Ogunyemi (Hawthorn) were consistent throughout both matches, while Anthony ‘The Banana’ Perito (St Kilda) provided a spark up forward, putting through some highlight reel goals. It was a good day for the Big V defeating ADF White 85-33, and ADF Blue 144-9, giving us the best percentage in the competition.
The finals commenced on Saturday, 13 April. The semi-final matches saw SA take on ADF White and Victoria take on RSL Active. After RSL pushed SA in their match the previous afternoon, Victoria needed to be on top of their game, and put in their strongest performance of the tournament. Smith and Logan put on a show in the forward line, running out winners with a score of 146-28.
The stage was set for the much-anticipated final, and again it was the Vic’s who shot out to a quick start leading by 21 points at the first break. From there South Australia showed why they’ve been the team to beat over the years, going on to complete a four-peat in front of their home crowd.
Victorian forward Ryan Smith (St Kilda) and defender Peter Ogunyemi (Hawthorn) were named as members of the All-Australian team, along with Sam Maraldo (Essendon) who represented RSL Active. Jason Jinks (Hawthorn) took home the Spirit of the Game Award, also representing RSL Active.
Disability Programs Manager Scott Nicholas highlighted the importance of the VWFL in strengthening the Victorian side and the competition as a whole.
“There were over 30 players who trialled for the Victorian side this year, and it was a very competitive process.
“We are improving each year and it’s clear the professionalism of the league has had a huge impact in making those strides. In addition, there were four VWFL players in the RSL Active side who won their first ever match at a National level finishing with Bronze.
“We are really proud of the way the league has had a huge positive impact on the competition.”
AFL Victoria would like to thank the support staff, Marcus Sander (Head Coach) and Tim Nield (Assistant Coach), for their work throughout trials, training and the tournament to lead the Vic team.
AFL Victoria would also like to thank the Robert Rose Foundation and Disability Sport & Recreation for their ongoing support of the State team.