Sport

Historic decade for Finley Cats | Team of the decade

By Southern Riverina News

The 2010s were for the Finley Cats in the Murray Football League, with historic wins and grand final appearances throughout the decade.

The Cats showed plenty of promise in 2010, bouncing back from two winless seasons in 2008 and 2009 to climb their way up the ladder.

Finley managed 10 wins for the season, just missing out on finals with a seventh place finish.

The Cats went one better in 2011, finishing the home and away season with 11 wins to sit fifth on the ladder.

It was a historic season for Finley as the club claimed its first finals win since 1993, defeating Rumbalara in an elimination final, as well as beating Mulwala in the semis, before bowing out in the preliminary final against minor premier Cobram.

The Finley rebuild continued in 2012 with the Cats finishing fourth on the ladder and winning their way to the grand final.

Unfortunately they were unable to claim their first premiership since 1988, defeated by Nathalia in the decider.

The Cats remained in the hunt in 2013, finishing third on the ladder only to be knocked out in the preliminary final.

The 2014 season was again a big success, with Finley finishing second on the ladder and making their way to another grand final.

After a strong start to the decider the Cats were unable to hold off a strong finish by Rumbalara, pipping the Cats by five points when the final siren sounded.

Finley tumbled down the ladder in 2015, finishing eighth with seven wins, but the Cats managed to bounce back in 2016 to claim the minor premiership and make another grand final appearance.

It was another thrilling decider but it was once again heartbreak for the Cats, going down to Nathalia by just three points after leading the majority of the game.

A mass exodus of players saw the Cats go from grand finalist to wooden spooner in 2017, but their time at the bottom was short lived and in 2018 they finished third.

They were unable to make the most of it though. with a straight sets exit from finals. The Cats closed out the decade with plenty of promise, fielding a young side that finished ninth in a 14 team competition to just miss out on finals.

President Ashley Haynes, who led the club for the whole of the 2010s, said the decade has been ‘‘a very productive one for the the FFNC’’ off the field as well.

‘‘Off field, a stable committee has been able to complete some major projects and in collaboration with other Recreation Reserve User Bodies redeveloped the facility. Hosting the MFNL Eagle i Grand Final was a highlight.

‘‘The club has worked hard to create an inclusive environment that ensures each player who represents the Cats gets the opportunity to be their best.

‘‘Selecting a senior football team of the decade has been a difficult task. We have been fortunate to introduce some very talented players to our local list with positive results.’’

The Finley team of the decade is as follows:

B: Lachlan Small (C), Doug McLean, Marcus Jackson

HB: Jordan Daniel, Mark Hawkins, Cameron Robertson

C: Tim McKenzie, Ryan Bongetti, Paul Massingham

HF: Reid Crowe, Ed Barlow, Robb Jewell

F: Matt Jackson, Tom Seccull, Luke Moore R: Tim Robertson, Levi Middleton, Ned Morrison (VC)

Interchange: Shaun Kable, Ollie Ford, Kyle Russell, Lachie Hawkins

Coach: Rob Daniel

Team manager: Michael Archer

Supporter of the decade: Victoria Smith

Team profiles are as follows:

Lachlan Small: Probably the most courageous player in the last decade. Was a great leader and player with a ferocious attack on the ball, which he would normally win.

Matt Jackson: Talented, smart, has great skills, is a good mark and kicks plenty of goals. In the twilight of his career but still keeps finding the ball.

Robb Jewell: Athletic, strong, courageous and never shirks an issue. Has played everywhere and always gives his all.

Ed Barlow: Big, athletic and smart. Played with great endurance and probably covered more ground than anyone else on the ground. Picked up possessions with ease. Played with passion and left no stone unturned for team success.

Paul Massingham: Smart, experience, moves well and versatile. Has played his role in the back line or forward line with aplomb. Career might be coming to an end soon but still doesn’t lack any competitive qualities.

Jordan Daniel: Great skills by hand and foot, hard-working, fit and versatile. Reads the game with ease.

Marcus Jackson: Hard running defender with smarts. Never wasted the ball by foot or hand and always beat his opponent.

Lachie Hawkins: Continues to get better every year. Hard-working ruckman that provides onballers with first use. Marking, ruckwork and protection for onballers are a few of his talents.

Reid Crowe: Crafty, talented agile and competitive are all stand out qualities that have served Reid well. Knows where the goals are and often troubles the scoreboard.

Luke Moore: The ultimate team onballer who brings others into the game by handball or kicking instinctively. Still young and keeps getting better every year. Good skills and kicks goals.

Levi Middleton: Standout onballer who gives a massive effort for the loose ball. Strong low to the ground and never overruns it. Competitive and consistent onballer who is still young.

Doug McLean: Reliable defender who had the best fist in the business. Took on the opposition’s talls and was equally at home playing fullback or centre half back great clubman.

Mark Hawkins: Man Mountain who could play multiple roles forward, back or in the ruck. Very strong and had a great pair of hands.

Cameron Robertson: Freakish defender who was unbeatable in his day. Good one-on-one defender who read the play extremely well and was an outstanding mark.

Tim McKenzie: Smooth mover who made the game look easy whether he was roaming far and wide on a wing or in the engine room. High possession winner who ran all day.

Ryan Bongetti: Dual O’Dwyer medallist. Very professional, hard running onballer who was dangerous when resting forward as well. A great user of the footy who racked up possessions with ease.

Tom Seccull: Hard working fearless high flyer who at 6’5 had a great tank and was extremely hard to match up on. Ran the opposition talls ragged and dominated smaller defenders in the air, comfortable at full forward centre half forward or even up on a wing he was unstoppable at times.

Tim Robertson: Hard working versatile very consistent tap ruckman with a great leap who was very athletic for his size. Capable of playing multiple key positions as well he was a valuable contributer over a long period of time.

Ned Morrison: O’Dwyer Medallist. Hard running diminutive onballer who only had one gear, flat out. Ran all day bursting out of stoppages driving the footy forward time after time great leader.

Ollie Ford: Hard uncompromising onballer who gave 100 per cent every time he set foot on the ground. Strong pair of hands for his size and always put the team before himself.

Shaun Kable: Reliable hard running wingman who covered a lot of ground great mark for his size and a magnificent long penetrating kick. Great clubman who always had the footy club’s best interests at heart.

Kyle Russell: The man who made things happen, magic hands exquisite skills could make the opposition look silly at times. Capable of playing just about any position on the ground much loved by his teammates.

Rob Daniel: Talented former premiership player at FFNC with an innate ability to jel footballers together to produce their best in a team environment. Twice lifted his team into grand finals in 2014 and 2016, losing both by slender margins. He developed a positive rapport with all on his playing list.

Michael Archer: The go to man at the club during this period. Be it in the secretaries office on game day or in the water carriers outfit, has filled most roles around the Cattery. A tireless clubman and wonderful support to many.

Victoria Smith: Vicki’s contributions span longer than the past decade. She has ‘‘mothered’’ many of the players and always has the players’ best interest at heart. Vicki’s duties include coordinator of the afternoon teas (voted No1 in the MFNL) and plenty of nights spent making banners to celebrate milestones and finals appearances.