By Ryan Long.
Ferntree Gully celebrated a much improved and consistent season on the field in Division Three, advancing through to the Grand Final.
Ladder Position: 2nd (13-1-4, 140.90%)
Leading Goalkicker: Jack Flannery (42 goals)
A Grand Final appearance was a very much deserving outcome for the Ferntree Gully senior side, one of the best two sides all season.
The way they finished the 2022 season, the Gully were always going to be one of the key sides to watch how they performed in 2023. Unlike last year’s horror start, Ferntree Gully won eight of their first nine games, setting themselves as one of the two benchmark sides of the competition. Their run included an impressive win over eventual premiers, Donvale, back in Round Three.
Facing Donvale for the second time, in Round Ten, they were a slightly different looking team than their Round Three side that defeated the Magpies. Prized recruit and star midfielder Lachlan Kennedy was missing in action, whilst skipper Luke McComb was taken off the field early due to a shoulder injury, which would keep him on the sidelines for over a month.
It was a minor turning point in the year, they were challenged quite frequently in the second half of the season but managed to constantly find a way.
The Eagles finished clear in second place, facing Donvale in the Semi Final at Jubilee Park. Unable to make the most of their opportunities in the first half, they were blown away late. The loss meant they were back at Jubilee the following week for the Preliminary Final against Oakleigh District. An even first half, Ferntree Gully dug deep to pull away in the second half and qualify for the 2023 Division Three Grand Final.
Up against the most dominant side in the division, it was Ferntree Gully’s fifth time playing Donvale in the year. They fought hard and played patches of good football, but they couldn’t stick with the Magpies for four quarters, losing 44 to 104. In his final game of his career, Daniel De Ieso fought his heart out with 39 disposals.
Young star Ethan Kiker was fantastic in the Grand Final side, averaging 23 disposals per game.
The likes of Harvey and Harrison down back were vital to the side’s success in 2023, two of their most important players.
Key Forward Jack Flannery had a great second season with the club, finishing as their leading goal scorer with 42 majors. Meanwhile. Small forward Gavin Kalisperies was one of three Eagles to not miss a game, 38 goals for the year.
Premier recruit Lachlan Kennedy played just the seven games but added plenty of value through the midfield and up forward. He finished with 15 goals, in the best six times from seven games, averaging 119 Ranking Points on Premier Division.
Best Win: Round 3 – Ferntree Gully 12.13 85 def. Donvale 10.6 66 @Wally Tew Reserve
The two sides went head-to-head a total of five times throughout the 2023 season. Although the Eagles only defeated Donvale once, they were also the only side to achieve that feat.
The win came in Round Three on their home deck at Wally Tew Reserve. They had to do it the hard way after failing to kick a goal in the first quarter, six behinds to Donvale’s four goals straight.
They straightened up in the second, kicking five straight goals to retake the lead. Despite trailing again at Three Quarter Time, the Eagles kept a high-scoring Magpies team scoreless in the final term to win by 19 points.
It was two of their more experienced stars that led the way in Lachie Kennedy and Luke McComb. Kennedy finished with 24 disposals, 19 of those contested, 9 clearances, 13 tackles and 2 goals. While the skipper had the ball on a string, 33 disposals and 10 inside 50’s.
Two very key players to their senior side hung up the boots at season’s end in Daniel De Ieso and Kieran Gray. Their tough players to replace and will give them a bit to think about.
They have re-signed a lot of their key players already such as Harrison, Salvador, Kiker and Kennedy. Ferntree Gully will be hoping to get a full season out of Lachie Kennedy, which would certainly help their premiership chances.
Brayden Wright will be crucial again in the ruck with De Ieso hanging up the boots.
Premiership window is wide open, but recruiting will be key over the off-season if Ferntree Gully are to challenge Donvale and others for the flag.
Overall, they had a great number of young players who took part in the Grand Final. Despite the result not going their way, the experience of playing in the big dance will only help them out in the long run.
Ferntree Gully’s first Netball side competed in Division One, winning five games and drawing once with Vermont. Chloe Bell managed to put together a fantastic season in front of the ring, 201 goals from 13 games.
In Division Four, Ferntree Gully White finished ninth on the ladder with four wins. Kelsey Bass finished as the leading goal shooter, 174 goals from 15 games.
Making the finals this year was FTG Eagles Yellow, nine wins for the season saw them pinch fourth position on the ladder. The side won four of their last five games to qualify for the Division Seven Finals Series. They met Coldstream in a Semi Final, losing the contest 33 to 20. They had great representation on the scorecard, Humphreys, Mavropoulos and Janssen all scoring over 90 goals. Paige Humphreys top scored with 207 goals for the season.
Ferntree Gully had a solid 11 teams in the junior competition this year.
In the Under 13C age group, Riley Flynn was awarded the Best and Fairest for the league competition.