By Sam Watson
THE PAKENHAM Gazette has announced the final West Gippsland senior football team of the year.
The Pakenham Gazette released the team in increments over a few days last week, which included some big names along with some emerging local stars.
Phillip Island led the way once again with five selections, Inverloch Kongwak had four, and Kilcunda Bass had one.
Dalyston and Korumburra Bena didn’t have anyone selected in the final squad, which was the same case for the Warragul Industrials who had an impressive season under new coach Harmit Singh.
Nar Nar Goon secured four selections, Tooradin Dalmore had three, as did Koo Wee Rup which was a huge surprise after winning one game and finishing second last.
Cora Lynn had two selections and Bunyip and Garfield both had one.
Beau Vernon was also named coach for the third season in a row.
Here’s the local players who made it.
Beau Vernon – Coach
Vernon had his side firing on all cylinders in their pursuit of a third premiership in a row in 2021.
After winning a flag with Leongatha in 2017, Vernon came to the Bulldogs with big expectations, and he certainly hasn’t disappointed, winning two flags, and being named coach in the team of the year every year.
Since coming back to the Bulldogs, he’s turned them into an almost untouchable force, and he’ll be desperate to win it all again next year.
Jason Tomada – Full Back
Former Leongatha Parrot, Jason Tomada came across to join Vernon at the Bulldogs in 2019, where he’s become the key pillar of their defence.
Often locking down the opposition’s best forward, the 30-year-old is one of their most important players, and his ability to set up their defensive structures almost makes him an on-field coach at the Bulldogs.
Jaymie Youle – Centre
The Bulldog legend played his 200th game at the club earlier in 2021, and he’s clearly got no intentions of slowing down, earning another team of the year selection.
At the age of 33, his running capacity and deadly skills still make him one of the most formidable opponents in the competition.
Max Blake – Forward Pocket
In his first year at Phillip Island, it didn’t take long for Max Blake to become one of the fan favourites amongst locals, booting 39 goals to go with a few big grabs in 2021.
Blake came across from Templestowe with former Western Bulldog Daniel Pearce and he’ll be hoping to taste some premiership success in 2022.
Cameron Pederson – Ruck
After winning the league best and fairest by a country mile in 2019, Pedersen had another dominant year in the ruck while also drifting forward to kick a few goals.
The former Melbourne Demon continues to give the Bulldog mids first use, while taking plenty of contested grabs, and he may secure a second straight league best and fairest in the upcoming vote count.
Zak Vernon – Interchange
Zak Vernon arrived back at the Kennel with his brother Beau in 2018, and the hard-running midfielder has been a great contributor, earning three-straight team of the year selections.
He’s currently stuck on 99 games for the Bulldogs, so he’ll be hoping for a big game in round one next year.
Campbell McKenzie – Back Pocket
The 22-year-old junior product at the Sea Eagles had a stellar year in defence in 2021, proving to be an extremely versatile asset to Ben Soumilas’ side.
McKenzie responded brilliantly to every challenge thrown at him in 2021 and he’ll be a key part of IK’s push for a second West Gippsland flag in 2022.
Michael Eales – Centre Half Back
The former Foster Tiger had a career best year in 2021, and when he wasn’t nullifying his opponent down back, he was a big helping hand in the ruck.
Eales played in IK’s 2017 premiership, and he’d be stoked to make the team of the year after being one of the most reliable performers week in, week out.
Jack Hutchinson – Forward Flank
One of the youngest players in the team of the year, Hutchinson had a breakout year for the Sea Eagles in 2021.
He’s always been a promising junior product at IK and the fans would’ve loved to have seen him develop into a genuine star this season.
Corey Casey – Interchange
Casey had another brilliant year for the Sea Eagles through the midfield in 2021, racking up plenty of touches and using his pace to burn his opponents.
He also hit the scoreboard from the midfield, putting 11 goals on the board from 10 games.
Darcy Atkins – Centre
Atkins came across from Stony Creek after winning the Alberton League best and fairest in 2019, and he was off to an absolute flyer in 2021.
Every week his ability to win contested possessions and lay crunching tackles impressed Kilcunda Bass fans, making his selection thoroughly deserved.