By Phil Skeggs

We went into 2019 season with eyes wide open and full of hope for a turnaround in the club’s fortunes.

New light towers and an electronic scoreboard were installed. Our major sponsors pledged their continued support.

Photo – Phil Skeggs

The senior club returned to wearing its historic black and white jumpers in 2019 – a decision warmly welcomed by supporters and past and present players. James Course was promoted to club captain.

2019 Captain James Course leads out the Seniors in the Black & Whites Stripes! Photo – Connie Williams

The Ivies retained most of their grand final players and picked up some recruits to have another crack in Division 1.

The VAFA had not promoted the Ivies to Premier C in 2019 because of a new stipulation that all Premier division women’s teams had to have reserves as well.

This meant that Old Scotch, which didn’t have a reserves team, dropped to Division 1 and proved unbeatable in 2019.

There weren’t too many bright points for the men’s seniors, despite playing in a lower division (D2).

Seniors coach Mario Bandera attracted some recruits and Nick Carlyon’s appointment as his assistant coach was also a positive. But several players didn’t warm to Supa Mario’s brusque style and left.    

Ivies coach Bill Emerson was replaced on the eve of the season by Leighton Pearce.

Ruckman Wes Mayne was best-on in Round 7 at MHSOB and his performance impressed the VAFA so much they ran his photo on the cover of the following week’s Amateur Footballer on June 1. Wes was invited to train with the state squad (Premier B – Div 4) but missed the final cut. He became only the fifth Ivanhoe player to feature on the cover of the footy record.

On August 3, the club hosted a reunion of its 1969 B grade premiership team. Organised by Don Blackwood and Russell Knight, it was virtually a full house as old teammates and their coach Syd Neale shared classic stories from a golden era.

1969 Premiership captain Bill McWhinnie and coach Syd Neale at the 50-year reunion of the 1969 premiership team at Ivanhoe Park in 2019. Photo – Phil Skeggs

Late in the season, the Ivies’ finals hopes were dealt a blow when top defender Hannah Slaughter departed after Round 13 to take up a two-year teaching appointment in Phnom Penh. Hannah’s experience was sorely missed but she left with everyone’s blessing, knowing she was also pivotal in helping establish women’s AFL footy in the Cambodian capital. The Ivies finished in fifth spot.

After 13 rounds, the men’s seniors were locked in a battle with Hawthorn Amateurs and Powerhouse to avoid relegation. A 51-point away win over Hawthorn in Round 14 was our fourth victory and ensured we would stay in Div 2. Lachie Roberts was chaired off the ground after clocking up his 150th game. The seniors finished seventh with five wins.

Viv Blackmore-Moore, 20, picked up the senior’s B&F, becoming one of the youngest to do so in the club’s history. He was also selected in the D2 Team of the Year. Ivies B&F Georgia Scarce and runner-up Rachel McLean were selected in the Div 1 Team of the Year.

Georgia Scarce won the Ivies B&F in 2019. Photo – Phil Skeggs

In other milestones:

Ivies onballer Fede Frew made it onto Essendon’s VFLW list in early 2019, becoming the first Ivies player to graduate to a major league team.

Fede Frew made it onto Essendon’s VFLW team in 2019. Photo – Alastair Knox

Billy Zagontinos clocked up his 100th club game in Round 5, Mitch Rees notched his 100th club game in Round 9, Pat Lagreca played his 100th club game in Round 16.   

Post-season Rob Pearce was elected unopposed as club president, with Hall of Fame member Peter Rawley and treasurer Kate McKendrick as vice-presidents.

Popular reserves team manager Andrew Marks was honoured with the Harry Award at the Black & Whites dinner.

Andrew Marks was recognised with the Harry Award in 2019. Photo – Phil Skeggs

There was great excitement about the appointment of Collingwood VFL player Ash ‘Moose’ Close, 27, as a playing senior coach for the 2020 season. Ash was returning to the club where it all began for him as a young goalkicking ace. Nick Carlyon was retained as assistant coach, with Leighton Pearce as Ivies coach and Ross Toogood appointed as men’s Reserves coach.

As 2020 season loomed, there were three big news items from the club’s perspective.

The first was that Ash Close had been busy on the recruiting front. Chief among the new faces was his former teammate from Northcote Park, Wayne Schultz, who was an inspired choice.

The Ivies had so many women wanting to play for them, including many ex-Ivanhoe juniors, that they had formed a reserves team to play in Division 4.

Heidelberg Leader trumpets news of the Ivies growing to two teams on March 24, 2020. A global pandemic halted the season soon afterwards. Photo – Phil Skeggs

The club had also secured three home games under lights for the first four rounds – a first in club history.

In late March, the VAFA announced that the club’s long-serving media officer Phil Skeggs would be recognised with a Certificate of Merit. He became only the ninth Ivanhoe volunteer to receive this prestigious award.

Phil Skeggs, VAFA Certificate of Merit recipient in 2021. Photo – VAFA

But the VAFA had to postpone the awards presentation and its annual season launch amid tough new health restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020 season was subsequently cancelled as the state went into lockdown for many months. That didn’t stop Close and Schultz from encouraging players with online tips via social media on how to maintain fitness.

In late October, our coaches had all recommitted for the 2021 season and Rob Pearce stayed at the helm of committee, adding Dom Mitchell as a vice-president in place of Peter Rawley.

As season 2021 approached, lockdowns were still possible and the VAFA had adopted a long list of health restrictions and requirements from the AFL in order for footy to resume safely.

There was no shortage of people wanting to play footy. The club accepted an approach to field a men’s Thirds team in Division 4.

Men’s Thirds celebrate a goal in the opening round in 2021. Photo – Phil Skeggs

The Ivies went ahead with fielding a reserves/development team Ivies White to be coached by Ian Callahan. The Ivies seniors were called Ivies Black. And this time they were playing in Premier C – a big jump in standard.

The night games for the men’s seniors were scheduled and Round 1 (April 11) proved to be a huge hit with players and supporters. Beginning with the Thirds in the morning, five matches were played at home on the same day for the very first time.

By the time the men’s seniors ran out under lights, the clubrooms were packed and supporters were vocal. The Hoers got up by two points over West Brunswick in a thriller. Footy was back and it was an unforgettable night!

After four rounds, the men’s seniors were sitting in third spot, having won three out of four. The Thirds were in second spot, having won every game so far. There were also positive signs for the Ivies, with Ivies White in third spot and the Blacks sitting fifth.

There were some big milestones in Round 4. Reserves coach Ross Toogood played his 250th game – only five other Ivanhoe players had played more games in the club’s history.

Ivanhoe reserves coach Ross Toogood with daughter Jasmine on the sidelines during his 250th game on May 1, 2021. Photo – Phil Skeggs

Ruckman Wes Mayne also ran out for his 50th game since joining the club in 2017. Coach Ash Close was leading the Div 2 goalkicking with 16 majors, while Ben Cococcia was on top in the Men’s Thirds with 22. Sophie Callahan led the women’s Premier C reserves with six goals.

Another major milestone was achieved when the committee approved a new honour board dedicated to our women’s teams. The board, named in honour of Ivies foundation coach Bill Emerson, was proudly unveiled on May 15.

Ivies foundation coach Bill Emerson (left) unveils the Ivies honour board with Rob Pearce in 2021. Photo – Paddy Kealy

In another first, Ivies player Rachel Ware was named as the women’s Rising Star nominee for her best-on performance against North Brunswick in Round 6.

Another snap lockdown caused play to be cancelled in Round 8 and there was a special no-crowd ruling for resumption of competition in Round 10.

Will Emerson played his 100th club game in Round 10 against Power House and was chaired off by reserves teammates.

Will Emerson played his 100th game in Round 10, 2021 against Power House. Photo – Phil Skeggs

The club inducted four new life members at a luncheon on June 26. They were veteran players Lachie Roberts and Conor Mitchell, and club stalwarts Robert Moszkowicz and Dave Reilly. The latter pair have the unique distinction of being life members of both the footy and cricket clubs at Ivanhoe.   

Covid continued to be the reason for a no-crowds ruling in early August. Round 14 ended up being the last games for the men’s teams after the VAFA was forced to abandon the remainder of the season on September 2. The Hoers finished fifth, winning six of 11 games.

Both Ivies teams reached the finals. Ivies Black lost the 1st semi-final to Mazenod at Central Reserve on July 31. Ivies White lost the 2nd semi-final to Aquinas on a boggy Manson Reserve.

The women’s season was cancelled before Ivies White got to play a preliminary final at the pristine Sandringham ground.

The Thirds finished fourth, winning eight out of 11 games. The men’ reserves finished eighth with three wins.

Ash Close was runner-up in the Div 2 goalkicking with 38, Sophie Callahan topped the Premier C Reserve sharpshooters with 16, and Ben Cococcia headed the table in the Men’s Thirds Div 4 with 41.

On September 15, Wayne Schultz was awarded the Jack Fullerton Medal as the Division 2 B&F, polling 15 votes in 10 matches.

Schultz was the oldest player on our list at age 39, but his superior fitness, great skills and fantastic attitude made him the umpires’ favourite. He became the fourth Ivanhoe senior player to win a competition B&F since the club joined the VAFA in 1934.

Wayne Schultz won the D2 B&F in 2021. Photo – Phil Skeggs

Schultz, Danny Jones and Ash Close were all named in the Division 2 team of the year – Schultz chosen as honorary captain. Midfielder Rachel McLean and forward Emily Jane Johnson were selected in the women’s Premier C team of the year.

The day before the club’s presentation night at East Ivanhoe Bowls Club on November 27, Close announced that former AFL star and Collingwood midfield coach Scott Selwood had agreed to play for the Hoers in 2022.

Men’s seniors co-captain Danny Jones was awarded the B&F, Rachel McLean was Ivies B&F, Brad Dawson reserves B&F, Charlotte Williams Ivies White B&F, and Thirds B&F went to Thomas Gibson. The John Miles Award for best clubwoman went to committee member and Ivies foundation player Tess Vandergriff.

Club president Rob Pearce and Ivies coach Leighton Pearce gave heartfelt speeches as they announced they were stepping down from their roles in 2022.

The club’s games record holder and Hall of Fame member Peter Rawley was installed as president at the AGM on November 29. Outgoing vice-president and treasurer Kate Drapac confirmed that the club’s finances were back in the black. Liz Valkanis stepped into the treasurer’s role, while former junior club president Mark Centofanti replaced Dom Mitchell as vice-president. Reserves coach and website editor Ross Toogood became secretary.

Kate’s fantastic four years’ service was recognised with the Harry Award at the Black & Whites dinner.

Kate Drapac receives the 2021 Harry Award on December 3, 2021. Photo – Phil Skeggs

There was more good news on February 16, 2022, when 2019 men’s B&F Viv Blackmore-Moore was added to Collingwood’s VFL list as a development player. On February 24, Karl Kaldawi and Jacob Healy were announced as joint men’s reserves coaches. Ian Callahan continues as head coach of the Ivies. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about season 2022. Watch this space.

Viv Blackmore-Moore, who won the club’s B&F in 2019, was added to Collingwood’s VFL development list in 2022. Photo – Phil Skeggs