By Sam Watson
ON Monday, the Gippsland League announced its final 22 under 22 team, along with the fan-voted team.
Fifty of the competition’s best youngsters were nominated for the social media exercise, with the league discussing their own team with coaches and also opening a fan-voted team.
To qualify players had to be born in 1999 or later, and they must have played four senior games in the Gippsland League in 2021.
The selection was based on their performance in the seniors only, not on under 18s or Gippsland Power games.
Leongatha had four selections, who were in both the league and fan team and Wonthaggi had four selections, with two in both teams, one in the league team only and another in the fan team only.
Jake van der Pligt (Both Teams)
AFTER two years at Gippsland Power in 2018 and 2019, Jake van der Pligt has been a very welcome addition to Paul Carbis’ team.
Van der Pligt, 20, started his football at Inverloch-Kongwak, coming across to the Parrots when he moved into the under 16s.
That year, as a bottom ager, he was awarded best on ground for the Parrots in their grand final loss to Moe and two years later he was a prime mover for Gippsland Power.
He played one game for the Parrots in 2018, but his next game would be round one in 2021, where he was awarded second best on.
And that form has continued for the rest of the season, impressing supporters with his knack of pulling in high flying grabs and his ability to win contested possessions, despite his lighter frame.
He was named on the half back flank in the 22 under 22 but he has also spent a lot of time in the midfield, where he’ll be a crucial player for the Parrots long into the future.
Kim Drew (Both Teams)
THE tough on-baller had a stellar season in his first year at Leongatha after a brilliant junior career at Warragul.
Drew was lured to the Parrots from the Gulls thanks to his sister’s place in Leongatha’s netball side and he did not disappoint in 2021.
He was named in the best five times after playing all 10 games, well and truly earning his spot in the centre of the 22 under 22.
In his junior years, Drew was a dominant force for Warragul, getting in the best nearly every week, even as an under 16 playing under 18s.
He made his senior debut in 2017, where he played four games including a best on ground performance against Leongatha.
He also played 19 games for Gippsland Power in 2017 and in 2018 he continued to dominate in the seniors at Western Park.
At just 19, his superb 2019 form was rewarded with a senior best and fairest and it also saw him play two games for Frankston in the VFL.
The 21-year-old has shown he can play just as well in the green and gold as he does in the red and black, and he’ll be one of the first players Leongatha will look to sign up for 2022.
Jack Hume (Both Teams)
LEONGATHA lifer, Jack Hume, has become one of the premier key forwards in the Gippsland League in 2021.
In nine games, the 20-year-old has booted 23 goals, leading the Parrots tally in their pursuit for a premiership.
He made his senior debut as a 16-year-old in 2018 where he kicked three goals and was named in the best players.
The athletic tall would go on to play six more games that year, and in 2019 he was in and out of the seniors and the under 18s.
Later in 2019, Hume would kick seven goals against Maffra in the under 18s grand final to pull off a miraculous win, after finishing the home and away season in fifth.
In 2021, Hume has looked right at home in the seniors and will only get better as he grows into his body.
And much to the delight of Leongatha fans, his younger brothers Darcy and Rhett are showing promising signs as well.
Cam Olden (Both Teams)
DESPITE a VFL debut in 2021, mid-forward virtuoso Cam Olden was selected on the bench in the 22 under 22.
The only thing that can be put down to is lack of action in a Parrot jumper.
Olden has played just five games for Leongatha in 2021, because of his selection in Richmond’s VFL side.
In his three games for the Tigers, Olden kicked three goals twice, showing he can mix it with some of the best players in the country.
The 21-year-old started his junior career at Leongatha, then briefly moved to his family’s original club, MDU.
Thankfully for the Parrots, he returned and continued to be a superstar in the under 16s and 18s.
In 2018 he came third in the under 18s league best and fairest and in 2019 he was runner-up in Leongatha’s senior best and fairest.
That same year, Olden had a sublime performance against Maffra in the grand final, but it wasn’t quite enough to get the Parrots the premiership.
Despite his average height, Olden has one of the best pair of hands in the Parrots’ 22 and that combined with his shrewdness around goals will be causing opposition clubs headaches for many years to come.
Tom Murray (Both Teams)
A PROMISING junior prospect at the Power, Murray made his senior debut in 2016 at the age of 16.
In 2017, Murray played half the year for Gippsland Power and the other in the seniors for Wonthaggi, and a year later he played nearly every game in the seniors and in 2019, he only missed one senior game.
And in 2021 a move from the midfield to defence saw the 20-year-old play the best footy of his career.
However, the hard-nut’s best game of the year came when he was thrown into the midfield against Morwell and was named best on ground in their 62-point win.
Now a consistent performer in the senior squad, Murray will play a key part in Jarryd Blair’s team well into the future.
Josh Schulz (Both Teams)
THE 19-year-old pocket rocket didn’t boot as many goals as he would’ve liked in 2021, but his elite forward pressure made him a must-have in the senior side.
After coming through the junior ranks, Schulz made his debut at just 15 years old in 2018, and in 2019 he won the Power’s rising star award when he played 16 games in the seniors.
He didn’t miss a game in 2021, and if he can find ways to consistently hit the scoreboard into the future, he will become one of the premier small forwards in the Gippsland League.
Josh Bates (League Team Only)
THERE must’ve been a glitch in the Gippsland League’s voting system for Josh Bates not to be in the fan team of the year.
The 20-year-old Power prodigy is one the most-loved teammates in the senior side and he had a super year on the wing in 2021.
Bates made his senior debut in 2017 and was able to play two more games that season under Stuart Gilmour.
In 2018 he became a regular member in the senior squad playing 14 games and in 2019 he stamped himself as one of the best young players in the league, playing all 18 games.
He was able to pick up right where he left off in 2021, earning multiple selections in the best players thanks to his damaging play on the wing.
Already a key player to Wonthaggi’s success, Power fans should be excited for plenty more years of Bates at his best.
Flynn Anderson (Fan Team)
10 years ago, when Flynn Anderson was holding up banners supporting Jarryd Blair in the Collingwood cheer squad, he probably never imagined he’d become one of Blair’s most dependable players at Wonthaggi.
The eldest member of the Power’s selections, Anderson has been waiting in the wings in the reserves, despite a stellar junior career at the Power.
The 21-year-old made his senior debut in 2021 and he quickly felt right at home playing down back, only missing one game through injury.
His pinpoint skills and clever decision making will see him remain a key player in his childhood hero’s side for many years to come.