By Sam Watson
THE Gippsland League has announced the senior football team of the year, and once again Leongatha and Wonthaggi have plenty of selections in the star-studded team.
In his first year back at Wonthaggi after his 157-game career with Collingwood, Jarryd Blair received one of the highest honours in the league, being named coach in the team of the year.
The 31-year-old had a brilliant start to his coaching career in 2021, leading the Power to seven wins in a row to start the year, including a drought-breaking win over Leongatha in round two.
The Parrots got their revenge later in the year, breaking Wonthaggi’s winning streak.
But the Power regrouped quickly and won their next two games, before the season was put back on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Wonthaggi finished the year on nine wins and one loss, as did Leongatha who had a higher percentage than Wonthaggi, giving them the minor premiership.
Blair was also named in the starting midfield alongside senior league best and fairest Shannen Lange.
Blair’s younger brother Jack was named on the bench after an exceptional year in Wonthaggi’s midfield.
Jack was just as impactful as his brother on the field, winning plenty of clearances and he was also able to sneak forward and hit the scoreboard, averaging a goal a game.
Wonthaggi’s Troy Harley was selected at full-forward after booting 25 goals in just eight games.
Harley’s ability to take contested grabs and kick truly was a headache for opposition defenders all year, and he was a key pillar in their pursuit of a premiership.
Up the other end, Fergus O’Connor’s extremely consistent year for the Power was rewarded with a selection in the back pocket.
O’Connor was rock solid in defence all year, and his ability to intercept forward entries and then hit up targets with pinpoint accuracy was a welcome sight for the Power faithful.
Jake van der Pligt was one of Leongatha’s selections with the young gun earning a spot on the half back line.
His freakish abilities in all aspects of the game was a big factor behind the Parrots success in 2021 and they’ll be hoping he can replicate it in 2022.
Leongatha assistant coach Aaron Heppell was named on the half forward flank after a dominant season in his first season back from Essendon’s VFL side.
The 26-year-old spent a lot of time in the midfield for the Parrots, but he also made an impact up forward, snagging 14 goals in his 10 games.
Young sharpshooter Jack Hume had a breakout year in 2021 for Leongatha, kicking 23 goals in nine games.
His goal tally, which was the fifth-highest in the league earned him a spot in the forward pocket.
Parrots midfield superstar Tom Marriott was selected in the centre after another consistently great year.
Marriott continues to win countless contested possessions and his ability to break away from stoppages is still one of the most unstoppable forces in the league.
And Leongatha ruckman Ben Willis was selected on the bench, once again proving to be one of the smartest big men in the league.
The Parrots will be hoping for another big year out of Willis in 2022, where he will continue tapping it down the throats of those in green and yellow jumpers.
Leongatha had the most selections in the team with five, Wonthaggi and Sale both had four and Moe and Traralgon had three each.
One of Moe’s selections was former GWS Giant and Carlton Blue Kristian Jaksch who won the league goal kicking with 36 goals.
Bairnsdale, Drouin Morwell, Maffra, and Warragul all had one selection meaning every club had at least one player in the side.
The full team can be found on the Gippsland League’s Facebook page.