By Phil Skeggs
2022 will be forever remembered in this club’s history as the season when our senior men’s team finally broke its premiership drought.
The club hadn’t won a senior premiership since 1969, despite eight grand final appearances.
The 2022 Division 2 premiership was the club’s ninth senior flag since foundation in 1910.
The Men’s Thirds team also won the 2022 Division 4 premiership just two years after joining the competition.
Season 2022 began on April 2 with five Ivanhoe teams taking the field in a day-nighter at the club, promoted as a Festival of Footy.
The club was fortunate to secure the services of Tim Brain as club umpire, officiating in the reserves matches throughout the season.
Both Ivies teams opened their accounts with good wins over Brunswick, while the Men’s Thirds also got up over Glen Eira.
Reserves veteran Joe Mazzocca played his 250th game for the club in the seconds match, earning best-on-ground in a hard-fought win.
The men’s seniors were against old rivals Old Paradians, who were touted by the VAFA scribe as an early flag fancy.
The seniors kept Paradians goalless for three quarters and won by 86 points under lights. Playing coach Ash Close top-scored with seven goals to lead the competition goalkicking table. The Hoers went straight to the top of the ladder with a healthy percentage.
Early optimism was dented when the seniors lost a top-of-the-table clash with MHSOB in Round 2 at the school oval. Significantly, Close was unavailable to play in the first half due to work commitments with Collingwood. He arrived for the second half and got six goals, but MHSOB won by 12 points and we slipped out of the four.
Fiona Tansley ran out for her 50th game in Round 2 against Hawthorn, becoming the first Ivies player to reach this milestone. The Ivies White team (reserves) had to forfeit because they were unable to muster sufficient players.
Round 3 saw the seniors take on West Brunswick under lights at ‘Hoe Park. Star recruit Scott Selwood debuted and was a drawcard for a reunion night attended by more than 120 people plus about 100 players from our teams. The Hoers led throughout to win by 41 points.
The Men’s Thirds played eventual grand finalist Old Brighton and copped a 72-point thumping.
The Ivies White (reserves) forfeited to St Bedes-Mentone Tigers and Ivies Black (seniors) struggled for firepower, going down to St Bedes by 31 points.
Ivies original Georgia Aanensen played her 50th game in Round 4 and celebrated a 20-point win over Richmond Central. Ivies White forfeited again and subsequently dropped out of the Premier C Reserves competition.
A percentage-boosting 112-point win at Power House in Round 4 got the seniors into second spot. Milestone players were Gerrard Williams (50 games) and Adam Pipakis (50 games).
The seniors faced a Round 5 showdown with Brunswick (formerly North Old Boys), who were undefeated on top of the ladder and considered by the VAFA scribe as a likely finalist after coming down from Division 1 in 2021.
The Hoers rose to the challenge on home turf, keeping Brunswick goalless in the first half to win by 14 points. Aaron Marks and Fonda Kyriakos played their 50th games.
The Men’s Thirds were in fifth spot after a 104-point win over Monash Blues.
Ivies (Black) celebrated a 13-point win over North Brunswick and got into fourth spot.
The club was rapt to learn on May 13 that former Ivies star Fede Frew was one of four players in Essendon’s unbeaten VFLW team to be offered contracts to play in the Bombers’ inaugural AFLW team later in the year.
In Round 6, the reserves won a 5-point nail-biter against Yarra Old Grammarians at Doncaster. Club secretary and website editor Ross Toogood came out of retirement because we were short on numbers and starred with two goals in tricky conditions.
The seniors maintained their winning streak, rolling Yarra by 32 points. Viv Blackmore-Moore put on a show, snagging five goals, while Billy Drake, who was also rookie-listed with Viv at Collingwood VFL, bagged four.
The Thirds were in third spot after their biggest win of the year, defeating Whitefriars 19.15 (129) to 0.5 (5). Three Ivanhoe players – Ben Cococcia (14 goals), Flynn Bergman (13), and Jack Keyhoe (10) were among the competition’s leading goalkickers.
The Ivies were in fourth spot after a 16-point loss to Parkdale Vultures.
The Hoers hosted Aquinas in Round 7 and Sam Criscione played his 50th game in the reserves. The reserves did it for Sam, winning by 13 points. The seniors got up by nine points, James Course topscoring with five goals.
The Ivies lost to St Bedes-Mentone by 95 points. Tessa Vandergriff was among our best and became only the third Ivies player to clock up 50 games.
In Round 8, the seniors demolished Manningham Cobras by 145 points. Viv Blackmore-Moore and Ash Close kicked seven goals each.
The reserves also had a big day out, kicking 22.22 to 0.0. They had 11 goalkickers, including a promising young debutant Ben Imbesi – a protégé of seniors assistant coach Wayne Schultz. Tim Constantinou also played his 50th game.
The seniors returned to the top of the D2 ladder and the reserves were fifth. The Thirds were in second spot, the Ivies were fifth.
By Round 9 – the halfway mark of the season – the VAFA scribe was so impressed by the Hoers’ seniors that his headline in the Amateur Footballer declared: “Ivanhoe AFC for top two. Lock it in Eddie”.
The seniors demolished Bulleen-Templestowe by 110 points in Round 9. Small forward Nick Godfrey had a big day out, top-scoring with four goals and earning votes as BOG. The reserves flogged the Bullants by 168 points, with Anthony Dickinson best-on with 10 goals.
Round 10 between top two teams Ivanhoe and Brunswick was touted as a potential grand final preview by VAFA scribe Joe Pignataro. It was Ash Close’s 100th game for the club and the Hoers were tipped to win.
After rolling Brunswick by 35 points, the seniors were installed as premiership favourites by Pignataro. The headline on his Round 11 preview page stated: “Ivanhoe AFC: It’s theirs to lose”.
The senors downed another finals aspirant MHSOB by 30 points at Ivanhoe Park in Round 11. Billy Drake topped the goalkicking with seven majors in the absence of Ash, taking his season’s tally to 30.
Ivanhoe was now on top and two wins clear of second-placed West Brunswick. Midfielder Connor O’Brien had impressed and was featured on the front cover of the Amateur Footballer on July 2, becoming only the sixth Ivanhoe player to make the cover in 25 years.
The Ivies lost to Brunswick by nine points in a low-scoring affair. It was captain Emilia Bisogni’s 50th game. The Thirds lost to finals aspirant Old Brighton by 28 points, but stayed in second spot.
Round 12 saw Fede Frew return to Ivanhoe Park to be guest speaker at a pre-match luncheon for the Ivies. With more than 20 guests in attendance along with the current Ivies, Fede spoke about her footballing journey. Fede later joined the Ivies in the rooms to celebrate a 1-point victory over North Brunswick. The next day Fede starred in a premiership for Essendon’s VFLW team and finished the season as the competition’s top goalkicker.
Key defender James Course played his 50th game at Aquinas in Round 12 (July 2). Ash Close kicked eight goals in the Hoers’ 58-point win and was on top in the competition’s goalkicking.
The club mourned the passing of Hall of Fame member Brian Flynn, who died at Rosanna Views on July 12, aged 86. Brian’s sons played for the club during the 1970s, 80s and 90s and he had been the club’s trusty legal eagle. His funeral was well attended by past players and club officials.
Connor O’Brien and Nick Vines played their 50th games against Yarra Old Grammarians in Round 13 (July 16). The seniors got up by 72 points and Ash Close was on fire, kicking eight goals. It was also another demonstration of just how strong our back half was going, with defenders Mike Doyle, Nick Geary, Nick Carter and James Course named as our best four.
The reserves also showed plenty of ticker, defeating Yarra by 67 points. The Ivies ran over the top of Richmond Central to win by 12 points. The Thirds claimed a big scalp, holding out top side Old Camberwell to win by 10 points and cement second spot.
With everyone a winner, the club’s Big Draw held in the clubrooms that night was a huge success.
In a first for the club, the VAFA live-streamed our Round 14 seniors match against Old Paradians from the Garvey Oval. There was plenty of interest in this blockbuster game because the Hoers were on an 11-game winning streak while third-placed Paradians had won their last eight.
Viewers got their money’s worth. It started as a shootout but there were no goals kicked in the second term. The Hoers dismantled Paradians in the second half, storming home with 11 goals to one to record a 72-point win. Ash Close bagged nine goals and Billy Drake got three.
The reserves were in fifth spot after getting up by 22 points, the Ivies were also fifth after losing by 9 points to Hawthorn, and the Thirds were fourth after a 74-point drubbing from South Melbourne Districts.
Round 15 (July 30) was memorable for the show put on by young seniors power forward Billy Drake, who kicked 13 goals against Power House at Ivanhoe Park. His haul was the equal-second highest for a senior player in the club’s history. The seniors won by 164 points, the reserves got home by 45 points and moved into fourth spot, the Thirds drew with Glen Eira and were still fourth. The Ivies didn’t make finals after winning six from 14. Seniors defender Nick Geary and reserves stalwart Reilly Connell played their 50th games.
West Brunswick ended the seniors’ 13-game winning streak in Round 16 (August 6). The Hoers were missing Ash Close, Scott Selwood and ruckman Wes Mayne in the 33-point loss at Ransford Oval. Our offensive firepower was further diminished when brilliant half-forward Nick Ring suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Hoers remained on top – one game clear of West Brunswick in second spot. The reserves lost by 28 points in James Pititto’s 50th game, but were clinging to fourth spot by percentage. The Thirds booked a spot in the preliminary final after downing third-placed South Melbourne in the semi-final by nine points.
The seniors had a chance to stitch up the minor premiership when they were pitted against second-bottom team Manningham Cobras in Round 17 (August 13). The Cobras were kept to one goal in a 72-point demolition. Billy Draketop-scored with seven and was named BOG. He was equal top on the sharpshooters’ list with Ash Close, both having scored 56 goals.
The reserves won by a forfeit and missed out on valuable percentage to shore up fourth spot, slipping to fifth.
The club hosted a Life Members’ Luncheon on August 13 and it was a full house. Four new life members were announced – veteran player Billy Jackson, former treasurer Kate Drapac, past player and former treasurer Ben Joyce and former player and chairman of selectors Vin Sammartino.
Committeeman and former playing coach Doni Valkanis was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame alongside media officer Phil Skeggs.
The Thirds romped home by 40 points in the preliminary final against Old Camberwell at Whitefriars College Oval. Final scores were 12.10 to 5.12. Div 4 top goalkicker Ben Cococcia bagged six of our 12 goals.
Round 18 (August 20) saw the Hoers journey to Ted Ajani Reserve to play old rivals Bulleen-Templestowe. The Bullants took it up to us and the seniors led by just two goals at the final change. The Hoers only got one more goal to secure a 10-point victory and it came from Drake with a minute to spare. That goal put Drake in front of Ash Close by a goal to secure the competition goalkicking award with 59.
The reserves won by 146 points, delivering sufficient percentage to return to fourth spot and earn a finals berth.
The senior club hosted a joint training session under lights with the Ivanhoe Colts on August 18. The Colts later heard a presentation from senior coach Ash Close, who was Collingwood’s forwards development coach, about his playing philosophies and his journey from Ivanhoe Juniors.
Collingwood’s midfield coach Scott Selwood spoke about why he was playing for Ivanhoe and what he loved about the club. Hoers young gun Viv Blackmore-Moore also discussed what it’s been like playing VFL for the Magpies as a rookie-listed player. The trio emphasised the value and potential rewards of sticking tight and joining the senior club in coming seasons.
The Thirds knocked off minor premiers Old Brighton by 28 points in the grand final at Elsternwick Park on August 21. It was tight in the first half, but the Hoers gained control in the midfield and converted from their opportunities going forward, scoring six goals to two in the second half. Final scores were Ivanhoe 12.11 (83) to 8.7 (55). Ben Wiggins top-scored with three goals and was named best-on-ground. Other top players in a magnificent team effort were Declan Cremasco (2 goals), Luke Keyhoe (2 goals), Jeremy Mahar, Liam Ward, and Jack Gravell.
The seniors booked a grand final berth after defeating West Brunswick by 58 points in the second semi-final at the Garvey Oval on August 27. The Hoers took control after half time, scoring 10 goals to West’s one in the third term. Ash Closewas unstoppable, booting eight goals. Wayne Schultz and Billy Drake also got two each. Schultz was BOG, with Doyle, Svarc, James Course, Selwood and Jones among our best.
Final scores were 17.7 (109) to 8.3 (51). Victory meant the club would be promoted to Division 1 at season’s end. But the win came at a cost. Ruckman Wes Mayne and defender Luke Course were injured and would miss the grand final. Aaron Marks was also a scratching after being injured at training during the week. Viv Blackmore-Moore had copped a hip injury playing in a curtain-raiser for Collingwood VFL on the MCG. But he recovered in time to line up for the Division 2 grand final.
On August 28, the reserves were beaten by Old Paradians in the semi-final at Williamstown Oval, 6.8 (44) to 6.3 (39).
The Colts (1) team won their grand final against Surrey Park on September 4. In front of hundreds of supporters including many seniors players at Ford Park, the Colts stormed home to win by 25 points, 11.12 (78) to 7.11 (53).
The Div 2 grand final against West Brunswick was played at the Trevor Barker Oval at Sandringham on September 11. It was live streamed by the VAFA and the Ivanhoe Army turned out in force to support the lads.
The seniors wore black armbands in the grand final as a mark of respect for life member Ian Anderson, a member of Ivanhoe’s legendary 1956 A-grade premiership team, who died during the week, aged 88.
The Hoers won the grand final by a point after trailing for most of the game. Final scores were Ivanhoe 9.9 (63) to 9.8 (62). Luke Svarc snapped the winning goal that put the Hoers in front with less than two minutes left on the clock.
Ash Close top-scored with five goals. Other goalkickers were Adam Pipakis, Connor O’Brien, Nick Godfrey and Svarc. Wayne Schultz was named best-on-ground, along with Nick Carter, O’Brien, Close, Selwood, and Jordan Andonovski.
After presentations of medallions and the premiership cup, Ash invited all supporters and past players to join the team in forming a giant circle in the middle of the oval for a magnificent rendition of the club song. It was so loud that it was heard from three blocks away.
Celebrations continued during the night back at the clubrooms, where the live stream video was replayed on a new big screen before a roaring packed house.
Ivanhoe’s drought-breaking one-point grand final win attracted plenty of media attention. Headlines appeared online via Leader Local Sport and the Herald Sun. The legendary Coodabeen Champions also regaled their listeners with the news. The Sunday Herald Sun also followed up with an article about the Selwood brothers and how Scott Selwood finally had a premiership medallion.
Two players who finished on top in competition goalkicking – Billy Drake (59 goals, Men’s Div 2) and Ben Cococcia (52 goals, Thirds Div 4) were presented with medallions at the VAFA awards night on September 21, along with Wayne Schultz who won the Div 2 B&F Fullerton Medal for the second year in a row.
There was a full house of about 150 people for the club’s presentation night in the Ivanhoe Park clubrooms on September 22. The Hec Rutherford Medal for best senior men’s player went to Connor O’Brien (97 votes). Ash Close was acknowledged with the Best Finals Player award. The Ida Marcon Medal for best women’s player went to Rhiannon Campbell (105 votes), who was also the Ivies leading goalkicker.
The Colin McDonald Medal for best men’s reserves player was awarded to bustling onballer Michael Walsh (93 votes), who had scored 15 goals. The Thirds B&F was won by gutsy onballer Liam Ward (98 votes).
Reserves player Jim Leahy received the John Miles award (best clubman) for his help with off-field roles. Sponsorship manager Aimee Trew was recognised with the Tim Robinson award (Inter-club liaison).
Seventeen players who achieved significant games milestones were also presented with medallions.
On October 12, four senior players were selected in the VAFA’s Div 2 Team of the Year. Jordan Andonovski was named at centre-half back, Wayne Schultz (centre), Billy Drake (centre-half forward), and Ash Close was coach and full-forward.
Premiership captain Danny Jones was also recognised by the Black & Whites with the annual Harry Award at a dinner on October 19.
Two Ivies were named in the VAFA’s Premier C Team of the Year on October 20. They were Emilia Bisogni on half-forward flank and Kate Moorhen (interchange).
The club mourned the passing of life member and 1969 premiership player Graham Linley on November 6. His 1969 teammate Euan Logan, who was also a life member and a state player, died on March 19.
On November 28, the club announced that playing assistant coach Wayne Schultz would replace Ash Close as senior coach for season 2023. Close had accepted a coaching job with Eastern Ranges women’s NAB Cup team, but committed to remaining as a playing assistant coach for Ivanhoe in Division 1. Nick Carlyon bowed out as seniors assistant coach after four years in the role, citing family reasons.
Ian Callahan committed to coaching the Ivies again and a replacement was sought for playing assistant coach Rhiannon Campbell. Thirds premiership coach Steve Kingston also locked in for another crack in 2023.
The club was also seeking a reserves coach after duo Karl Kaldawi and Jacob Healy stepped down.
There was positive news at the AGM on November 29. Pete Rawley put his hand up for another year as club president, with Mark Centofanti (vice-president), Ross Toogood (secretary), Liz Valkanis (treasurer), and Doni Valkanis (general committee/ food & beverage manager). Dual premiership player Nick Godfrey joined committee overseeing a new role of HR, Processes & Strategy. Aimee Trew continued as sponsorship manager. The 2022 season financial statement showed the club’s bottom line was the strongest it had been in many years.
The men’s seniors last competed in Division 1 in 2018. A lack of forward firepower was one of the big reasons the club finished bottom and got relegated then.
Let’s hope the club is much more competitive in the higher grade in 2023. Good luck to all our teams.