Heartbreak for the undefeated Saints with a five-point Grand Final defeat, whilst the senior women made a historic Grand Final, coming up three points short of a big upset.
Ladder Position: 1st (18-0, 159.47%)
Leading Goalkicker: Tim Smith (54 Goals)
Five points away from a perfect season and their third premiership in five years.
A heartbreak way to finish 2023 for a South Belgrave side that went undefeated in the Home and Away season as well and advanced straight through to the Grand Final after a semi-final victory over Montrose.
They were the best side during the Home and Away season, entering Division One this year after a Division Two premiership in 2022.
Their 2023 season campaign couldn’t have gotten off to any better start, defeating North Ringwood in the opening round by 72 points. It started an unbeaten streak where they defeated each opposition side twice.
Finals and the Minor Premiership were locked in well before the final round of the season.
With a bye in the first week, South Belgrave took on Montrose, coming from behind at Three Quarter Time to storm home for a 19-point victory and a Grand Final spot.
Two weeks later they met Mitcham in the decider at Tormore Reserve. It was a tight encounter for four quarters, the margin never stretching past 2-3 goals either way. Mitcham took control just before the last break, managing to hold that lead for the rest of the game, even after a late South Belgrave goal in the dying moments.
Tim Smith had yet another standout year, finishing as the division’s leading goal kicker with 54 goals. Adding another TOTY to his resume, Smith was unstoppable when at his best, averaging 18 disposals and 3.4 goals per game.
Right next to him is Taylor Garner, who also averaged 3.4 goals per game and finished the season with 39 goals, despite missing six games of the Home and Away season.
In defence, Ryan Silver was key to the Saints success in 2023. Silver averaged 7 Rebound 50s and 3,5 Marks per game, a very valuable player to the lineup.
Sean Bartels’ year should be recognised as well, a consistent season with the Saints, played all 20 games and was in the best a total of 18 times.
Best Win: Semi Final – South Belgrave 11.5 71 def. Montrose 7.10 52 @Tormore Reserve
Not their most dominant performance but their most important win of the season came in the Semi Final when they came from behind to pinch a victory.
A tight contest saw Montrose take a four-point lead into the final term over the undefeated Saints. However, a big final quarter saw the Saints kick four goals to zip to run out 19-point winners.
Mitch Garner played a key role in the ruck while Tyreece Lelu starred with 23 disposals, 12 marks, 8 Rebound 50s and 147 Ranking Points. South Belgrave won the turnover battle, scoring eight goals from turnovers, making up 71% of their final score.
The 19-point win set up the club’s third Grand Final in a row.
Despite a change of senior coach, there’s no reason to believe the Saints will drop out of premiership contention in 2024.
Heath Black takes over from Luke Galliott, a great appointment for the 2023 Grand Finalists. A wealth of experience stretches across from his AFL career with Fremantle and St.Kilda, to coaching history with sides such as Narre Warren, Mooroolbark and Vic Metro.
He’ll take over a strong list which is only set to improve with the singing of Ex-AFL player Luke Dunstan, set to coach and develop the current midfield group.
They’ve also signed the likes of Matteo D’Alfonso from Silvan, a gun midfielder who helped lead the Cats to their recent premiership in 2022.
SBL Wolves Senior Women’s
Ladder Position: 3rd (7-5, 107.31%)
Leading Goalkicker: Olivia Flanagan (19 Goals)
Another senior Grand Final for the club in what was a massive year for the SBL Wolves.
A record of 7 and 5 in the Home and Away season guaranteed the Wolves a finals appearance after missing out last year, finishing just outside the top four.
This season, they finished strongly in their final month of the season, winning three of their last four to finish in third position on the ladder.
The Wolves took on Mount Evelyn in the first week of the finals, thumping last year’s Preliminary Finalists by 51 points in a dominant display at Quambee Reserve where Carmen Schuster kicked four of the side’s nine goals.
A week later, they met South Croydon, last year’s Grand Finalists. Once again they were extremely strong in defence, keeping the Dogs to just two goals for the entire game.
A 19-point win saw them progress to the Grand Final to take on the reigning premiers who were undefeated in 2023. The Eastern Devil were the red-hot favourites but were stunned by the Wolves’ first-half performance, kicking the first four goals of the game.
The reigning premiers managed to work their way back into the game and take the lead in the final term to hold on for a three-point premiership win.
A mammoth effort from the Wolves to not only make the Grand Final but to challenge the Devils the way they did.
Skipper Baylie Withers led from the front, the glue to the defensive structure of the side. Withers was selected in the Team of the Year, alongside teammate Olivia Flanagan.
Flanagan, former Hawthorn VFLW star was the side’s leading goalkicker with 19 goals, playing all games this season.
Georgia Grimmer missed a few games this season but still managed to have the equal most times in the best for the club.
Best Win: Preliminary Final – SBL Wolves 4.9 33 def. South Croydon 2.2 14 @Quambee Reserve
A famous win for the Wolves, knocking off last year’s Grand Finalists in a Preliminary Final to guarantee that the side would progress through to the Grand Final against the Eastern Devils.
A big turnaround from the first time these sides met in 2023, back in Round One where the Wolves were unable to shut down South Croydon’s attacking weapons.
In the Preliminary Final, the SBL Wolves held South Croydon scoreless. However, with a margin of just 14 points, there was still a lot of work to do for the Wolves in the second half. They managed to stretch that margin out and finish with a 19-point win.
The side’s goals were well spread out with four single-goal kickers in Fraser, Wilkinson, Flanagan and Withers.
After a historic year for the senior women’s side, they’re on track to repeat their efforts with many of their key players including Withers and Flanagan re-signed.
The benchmark over the last team has been the Eastern Devils, and now on multiple occasions, the Wolves have proved they are beatable. They’ll take a lot of confidence from that going into the 2024 season.
SBL Wolves Teal
Ladder Position: 4th (5-6, 171.86%)
Leading Goalkicker: Amy Watson (17 goals)
One of the few sides to have multiple teams in the Senior Women’s competition, the Wolves second senior women’s side competed in Division Three after a three-week grading period.
Five wins during the season had the Wolves finishing fourth, securing a second consecutive club finals series.
In the first Semi-Final at Silvan Recreation Reserve, they defeated a talented South Croydon by three points to progress through to a Preliminary Final against the Eastern Devils. Unfortunately, their season came to an end, going down by 17 points at Quambee Reserve.
Brooke Watson was key in her 12 games, seven times in the best, eight goals kicked, the second most of any player on the team.
Up forward, Amy Watson starred with 17 goals, her biggest tally came against The Basin when she kicked five in the Wolves’ big win.
Best Win: Semi Final 1 – SBL Wolves Teal 4.3 27 def. South Croydon Red 3.6 24 @Silvan Recreation Reserve
Hard to go past a fantastic Semi-Final performance against South Croydon, three-point victors and the club’s second finals victory on the same weekend.
The Wolves led at every change and managed to hold off a fast-finishing Dogs side to secure a Preliminary Final birth.
Depending on their numbers, the Wolves may be able to have enough players to fill two teams next season.
The club continues to have one of the strongest senior women’s programs in the league.
South Belgrave had one side compete in the 2023 Bendigo Bank Netball season, competing in Division Eight.
The Saints won ten games, had three draws and just three losses in the Home and Away season to finish third on the ladder. Unfortunately for the Saints, they weren’t able to get on a run come finals, losing in the semi-final to the Waverley Blues by just three points.
Ashlea Foster was one of the division’s best shooters, finishing with 221 goals.
South Belgrave Veterans
Another big tick for the club in 2023 was the side’s Veterans Men’s and Women’s side.
South Belgrave was one of three clubs to have Veterans teams in both the men’s and women’s. The men’s side won just one game this season, whilst the Veteran Women’s went through the season 7-1, before winning the premiership.
At Quambee Reserve, South Belgrave defeated Blackburn by 59 points in the decider. Kate Cattanach’s fantastic season earned her the league’s best and fairest award.