By Sam Watson

THE West Gippsland Football Netball Competition last week announced the cancelled season would mean the ladder leaders would be crowned as the minor premiers.

No official premierships or medals will be handed out, but the top teams have been recognised.

The West Gippsland competition was lucky enough to have each side play each other only one time in 2021, meaning the seasons were about as even as possible.

Here’s a look at the teams who received minor premierships.

* Seniors – Phillip Island
THERE’S no doubting Beau Vernon’s Bulldogs were primed to win their third flag in as many seasons in the 2021 West Gippsland Football Netball Competition.

The flag favourites started off the year with a convincing win over local rivals Kilcunda Bass and they continued their winning ways against Cora Lynn the following week.

In round three, Nar Nar Goon pulled off a thrilling win at Cowes Recreation Reserve, but from there the Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat.

They would go through the rest of the season unbeaten with an average winning margin of 94 points.

One of those wins came against Inverloch-Kongwak, who many tipped to be the Island’s most formidable foe in 2021.

The Sea Eagles would’ve given themselves every chance when the finals series began, but it was obvious Phillip Island were the team to beat.

But IK weren’t the only ones hoping to topple the kings of the mountain; Tooradin Dalmore was starting to hit superb form at the right time.

Nar Nar Goon would’ve also been bullish about their chances, especially being the only team to take a scalp from the minor premiers in 2021, but they ran into some issues of their own in the second half of the year.

The Bulldogs also stumbled across some injury problems later in the year but big names like Cam Pedersen, Brendan Kimber, Jaymie Youle, Zak Vernon and Hayden Bruce would’ve put them in a prime position to three-peat.

The inclusion of gun forward Max Blake and former Western Bulldog Daniel Pearce was a huge bonus for Phillip Island in 2021 but the scariest sight for opposition clubs should be the up-and-coming youngsters like Mitch Moschetti, Harry O’Brien, Max Walton, Jack Opitz and Orlando Kane-Gillard.

It will be those young stars that keep the Bulldogs towards the top end of the ladder for many years to come.

* Reserves – Tooradin Dalmore
AFTER winning the reserves flag with a kick after the siren in 2019, it was going to be very tough to stop back-to-back flags for Tooradin Dalmore this year.

The Seagulls were off to a good start in 2021 with two solid wins to start off the year.

In their ANZAC Day clash in round three, some of their regular players were called up into the seniors, which made it easier for the Warragul Industrials to knock them off.

But the loss to the Dusties was a minor hiccup and they then won their next three games by more than 100 points.

Not one team even came close to the Seagulls after their encounter against Warragul, including Bunyip, who were second on the ladder with nine wins and two losses.

Missing out on a finals series will hurt for the Seagulls after a big effort throughout the year, but they’ll be more than ready to have another tilt at the flag in 2022.

* Under 18s – Garfield
THEIR perfect record would suggest Garfield were virtually shoe-ins to claim the 2021 under 18s premiership, but the ladder fails to show the amount of close encounters they had through the year.

After securing their first win of the season against Nar Nar Goon by 17 points, Garfield managed to hold off Bunyip by 13 points and looked like they were far from invincible.

However, subsequent winning margins of 79 and 121 sent a message to the rest of the competition.

When Phillip Island got out to a decent lead in their round six clash, Garfield looked like they were going to suffer their first loss of the season.

But in a true testament to their premiership credentials, Garfield wrestled back the momentum and held the Bulldogs scoreless in the last quarter to win by seven points.

They were put to the test once again by Inverloch Kongwak the following week, but they again managed to hold them off and hang on by four points.

Next came winning margins of 96 and 163 giving them a monster percentage at the top of the table.

The 2021 flag wasn’t definitely going to go to the Stars, but it was certainly theirs to lose, and their resilient mindset would’ve been very tough for opposition teams to overcome come finals.

* Under 16s – Tooradin Dalmore
NOT many sides have had more dominant years than Tooradin Dalmore’s under 16s.

The Seagulls didn’t lose a game all year and their first win of the year under 100 points came against Kilcunda Bass in round four, when they triumphed by 73 points.

After the Killy Bass clash, they romped their next three opponents by more than 150 points each.

They were tested by Phillip Island in round eight, but they eventually came home with a 29-point win.

Second-placed Cora Lynn would’ve taken it right up to them come finals time, but the Seagulls had all the hallmarks of a dominant premiership side.