ADVENT OF THE IVIES
Seasons 2017 and 2018 will be best remembered as the foundation years of women’s football at Ivanhoe Park.
Club secretary Peter Marshall was the driving force behind the Ivies, which was inspired by the VAFA’s announcement to host an inaugural women’s competition in 2017 in line with the AFL’s push to develop a women’s league.
The Ivies would offer a pathway to senior footy for junior club players graduating from Under 18 Youth Girls.
Reserves coach Bill Emerson accepted the challenge to coach the women – most of them were enthusiastic newcomers to football – and Leighton Pearce joined him as assistant coach. The dual premiership duo were helped by Marshall and committee member Peter Benson. Former IJFC president Jan Wright also came on-board as the Ivies’ patron.
The Ivies had 28 players registered when pre-season training began in early December 2016.
In other off-field developments, club president Luke Blackwood appointed Leigh Cole as senior coach and Peter Rawley as reserves coach. Former North Melbourne player Ross Henshaw was appointed as under 19s coach, but lack of numbers ultimately undermined efforts to field a team in 2017 and Henshaw would assist Cole.
The club held its first-ever unisex training session at Ivanhoe Park on February 15, with 55 players including a dozen women going through their paces.
While the senior men’s teams would struggle to make serious headway in Division 1 in 2017, the development of the women’s team was impressive to say the least.
The Ivies achieved their first big milestone on Saturday April 22 when they won their first game – a grading match under lights against Yarra Old Grammarians at Doncaster Reserve. The final scores were 5.5 to 4.7 and the Ivies celebrated by trying to belt out the club song with mixed results and great hilarity.
The Ivies recorded their second grading win a week later, defeating Melbourne Uni 5.7 to 4.7 at Ivanhoe Park.
With a total of 40 women’s teams, the VAFA formed five divisions. Despite a 57-point defeat from UHS-VU in their third grading game, Ivanhoe was slotted into Women’s Development Division 2.
Heating firm Gastek became the Ivies major sponsor and the women soon had their own jumpers.
The Ivies would face fresh challenges as the season panned out, with injuries taking a toll as players learnt to protect their bodies in the contest. Emerson would later pay tribute to the way the Ivies successfully networked to attract recruits to fill the ranks.
One of those recruits Tahlia Day proved to be a star in the ruck and pretty handy in front of goals when she debuted in a thriller against top side Old Camberwell on May 20. This was also a triple-header, with the Ivies playing the early game before the reserves and seniors.
In a further affirmation of club unity, it was great to see many of the male players helping out running water and supporting the Ivies. Many women players and their family and friends also stuck around to support the men’s teams.
The Ivies went on to outmuscle second top side Collegians in a defensive scrap to win by seven points under lights at Harry Trott Oval late in the season. They booked a finals berth with their eighth victory – a 26-point win over Yarra Old Grammarians at Ford Park on July 29.
Their semi-final opponents were Old Carey, whom they had drawn with on June 3.
The final was at Carey Sports Complex on August 6 and the Panthers were fortunate to win the toss and kick with a strong northerly wind. Three unanswered goals in the opening quarter gave the home side the perfect start. The Ivies battled gamely, but missed a few opportunities to convert. Day (two goals) was the only multiple scorer in the 9.6 to 3.8 defeat.
The reserves also made it to the finals, but lost the first semi to St Mary’s Salesian by 13 points, 10.9 to 8.8 at Elsternwick Park. Rawley retired as coach.
It had been a frustrating season for the seniors. Several experienced senior players had retired at the end of 2016 and the team suffered poor form at the start of 2017.
Cole debuted 11 players in the seniors including former Colts Charles Robinson and Sam Wright and another Under 19 Tim Hardinge. The team started to jell by mid-season and the seniors put together six wins to get out of the relegation zone and finish seventh. Highlights included spirited wins over top sides St Mary’s Salesian and Preston Bullants.
One of the big positives was the fostering of closer ties with the Ivanhoe Colts. Many of 2017’s Colts trained with the seniors during induction nights. Under 19s recruiter Jack McDonald was tireless in his efforts to ensure the club would have an under 19s team in 2018.
Cole was reappointed as senior coach for 2018, with Henshaw as assistant coach. Emerson also recommitted for another season as Ivies’ mentor. And Leighton Pearce was appointed as Under 19s coach.
At presentation night, the inaugural Ida Marcon Medal for the Ivies best and fairest was won by Tahlia Day, while onballer Sarah Kerr was runner-up and centre Georgia Scarce third. Day also picked up the goal-kicking medal for her tally of 10 goals. Emerson awarded the coach’s medal to hard-working ruck Fiona Tansley. Peter Marshall was recognised with the John Miles best clubman award. Rawley was elevated to the IAFC Hall of Fame.
Midfielder Reuben Blackmore-Moore won the senior club’s best and fairest, with defenders Reece Cotter and Liam Jacob runners-up. Skipper Mitch Lovell picked up the Ron Smith Medal as leading goal-kicker with 38 goals – the same haul as in 2016. The coach’s award went to veteran Bill Jackson.
In other developments in 2017, the Ivanhoe Sporting Club Inc was formed as a joint body with co-tenant clubs under the chairmanship of past player Tim Donohue, with a view to raising funds to furnish the new clubrooms and build an electronic scoreboard.
Season 2018 was one of the most challenging in living memory for the club.
It started pre-season with an exodus of the club’s leading senior men’s players, several accepting big dollars to play for a country club.
Several more players switched clubs or retired after it became known that Lovell and another popular teammate were heading overseas for most of the season. Rover Danny Jones was handed the captaincy by Cole, with James Morrison as deputy. In a further blow, Luke Blackwood suddenly resigned the presidency.
When it looked like the club would struggle to form a committee at the AGM, a special meeting was convened and many committee roles were enthusiastically taken on by Ivies players and a few stalwarts. It is fair to say that the Ivies helped save the club in its darkest hour.
But the committee was unable to find a replacement president and eventually opted to split the role between vice president of football operations and chairman Bill Emerson and vice president business and finance Ben Joyce.
Thankfully, it was business as usual with key sponsors Nelson Alexander Real Estate of Ivanhoe back on-board, along with Baar’d and Total Physiocare among others.
The other big plus was that the Under 19s were back on the park for the first time since 2015. The recruitment drive spearheaded by Jack McDonald also helped fill senior ranks too.
Another key recruit was ruckman Sam Tansley, brother of club secretary and Ivies captain Fiona Tansley. Sam brought a couple of mates to the club, including James Course, son of Team of the Century legend Tony Course, which was a bonus for the seniors.
At the club’s first-ever life members’ luncheon at the start of the season, life membership was convened on Luke Blackwood, Leighton Pearce, veteran players Ben Fleming and Daniel Adams, who had also done a brilliant job of overseeing the recruitment of trainers and providing physiotherapy services for several years. Blackwood became the fourth member of his family to receive life membership, spanning three generations.
The Ivies enjoyed an amazing hot streak on their way to a minor premiership and the Division 1 grand final. They had forged a tough, uncompromising brand of football renowned for physical pressure and teamwork.
But the seniors and reserves were at rock bottom, on the receiving end of some serious hidings with a lengthening injury list. After losing 12 senior games in a row, the club’s faithful were rewarded with a rare quadrella of wins from all four teams in Round 13.
The Ivies cemented top spot by beating their nemesis Hawthorn in a nail-biter. The 19s notched their fourth win in a row, downing Old Scotch, and the reserves and seniors got up comfortably over Brunswick-North Old Boys. The club song was belted out with great gusto as several first-year seniors beamed elatedly in the middle of the change rooms. That joyous vibe continued on into the night for a memorable club fundraiser.
The club’s name was also up in lights with a full-page spread in the Heidelberg Leader sports section and the Herald Sun Local Sports online.
It proved to be the only senior win for the season and the club finished bottom and was relegated to Division 2. Coach Cole stepped down at season’s end.
The Under 19s finished a creditable sixth, with several promising players earning games in the seniors and reserves during the year. One of these young guns, Ben Ramage, finished fourth in the Under 19s competition B&F. Joint training sessions with Ivanhoe Colts were held again this year, and its hoped many will be on-board for what promises to be a big 2019 season.
The Ivies secured a home semi-final but their 10-game winning streak came to a halt after Hawthorn won by 15 points, 6.7 to 4.4.
There was happier news during the VAFA vote count during the week, with midfielder Georgia Scarce winning the Division 1 best-and-fairest award with 21 votes. Teammate Sarah Kerr was equal third with 17 votes. The recognition was especially sweet for Scarce, who had narrowly missed the cut for the state squad earlier in the season.
The Ivies downed St Bedes-Mentone Tigers by 11 points – 4.4 to 2.5 – in the preliminary final at Elsternwick Park. They earned promotion to Premier B and set up a grand final showdown with Hawthorn.
But the big dance was never going to be a waltz in the park, especially with the Ivies missing a couple of prime movers in the on-ball department.
In some of the worst weather of the season, the Ivies stuck with the Hawks for three quarters in a tough, low-scoring affair. The Hawks led by seven points at the final change and eventually ran out winners by 24 points, 4.8 to 1.2.
The presentation night was held at The Centre, Ivanhoe and Sam Tansley won the seniors’s B&F, with 24 votes in 11 games. First-year player Lachie Bown and Stefan Zervides were equal second. Georgia Scare won the Ivies’ B&F, with Tahlia Day runner-up. Fede Frew was given the coaches award. Fonda Kyriakos was the Under 19s B&F, with Viv Blackmore-Moore runner-up. Ben Joyce (treasurer) and Tessa Vandergriff (sponsorships) were joint winners of the John Miles best clubman award. Jack McDonald was also recognised with the Tim Robinson award for senior-junior club liaison. Leigh Cole was also a deserved recipient of the Black & Whites’ annual Harry Award.
At the club’s AGM, Rob Pearce took on the presidency for a third time and immediately quashed speculation of a merger. Several fresh faces were recruited to committee and by mid-October a new senior coach Mario Bandera, a former Ivanhoe juniors and Diamond Valley league champion, had been appointed.
Leighton Pearce will coach the Under 19s again, Bill Emerson is coaching the Ivies for a third season, and past player Adem Shemshedin is reserves coach again.
There’s been good turnouts at pre-season training, with a sprinkling of new and old faces replacing a handful who chose to move on or retire. Under 19s photographer Howard Aitken and media officer Phil Skeggs were also shortlisted in the annual VAFA media awards in December.
New light towers and an electronic scoreboard were expected to be installed at Ivanhoe Park in time for season 2019. Let’s hope it’s a razzle-dazzler!