Across the leagues

Dolphin joins brothers after accident

Lorne’s Chris Smartt, right, joined brothers Sean, left, and Kane in the Dolphins’ come-from-behind win against Alvie.

WATCHING their sons play their first game of senior football together had special significance for Lorne’s Brett and Janet Smartt.

Chris Smartt, 22, joined twin brother Sean and younger brother Kane, 18, in the Dolphins’ come-from-behind win against Alvie in his first senior game since recovering from a car accident five years ago.

Chris was a backseat passenger in a car involved in a fatal crash near Barwon Downs in 2006, which kept him from playing sport for more than 12 months.

“I didn’t really expect to return to senior football,” Smartt said.

“After the accident Mum and Dad were pretty keen for me to stop playing footy but I thought ‘I’m 18 years old, I’m not giving up on sport yet’,” he said.

“I still probably haven’t fully recovered, I have a few issues with concentration and memory, shoulders and my spine plays up a bit but I’ll keep playing.”

Will and determination had the Dolphins’ junior premiership player return to the sport and take out Lorne’s reserves goalkicking award and win a cricket grand final with Aireys Inlet in years following the accident.

And Chris, a fully-qualified landscaper with Lorne Property Care, played his role in the Dolphins’ forward line on Saturday to help his side defeat Alvie 15.18 (108) to 7.12 (54).

It was not his first senior game, he had played a handful of senior games during his junior days, but it was his first alongside Sean and Kane.

“I was pretty competitive with Sean growing up because obviously he was my age – Kane was the younger one so he always lost,” Smartt said.

“But it was good to come away with the win with them on Saturday, the boys hadn’t sang the song for a couple of weeks so it was good to be involved,” he said.

Spokes celebrates 300th game in style

Simpson netballer Suzanne Spokes marked her 300th game with a C Grade win at Simpson on Saturday.

by Lachlan Cowlishaw

SIMPSON netballer Suzanne Spokes loves playing for the Tigers.

The former A Grade coach celebrated her 300th game in style with a C Grade win against Irrewarra-Beeac, 48-32, at Simpson Recreation Reserve.

Spokes, 42, said premiership success, coaching success, and a love of her mates filled her 18-year career with the Tigers.

“I just love the club, it’s a great club, it’s a family club, and I just love playing there,” she said.

Spokes stepped aside from A Grade netball three years ago but continued playing with close friends in Tigers’ C Grade.

“I knew it was time, the old body was letting me know and I went back to C Grade because I wanted the young girls to play B Grade,” she said.

“I didn’t want to step on the toes of any of the kids – their future is more important than mine.

“A few friends of mine – Annie Watson, Yolanda McVilly, and Karen Duynhoven – have come back to play.”

The former dairy farmer and mother of three started with Simpson in the Heytesbury-Mount Noorat Football League in 1993.

Simpson moved to the Colac and District Football Netball league in 2003.

Spokes said she counted two Tigers’ premierships during the Heytesbury era as important achievements.

She said she enjoyed watching players she had coached have success.

“Just to see where the girls are today, they head off to uni, they are playing Geelong netball and Hampden netball and that takes a bit of pride with me,” she said.

“I’ve been able to watch those girls blossom now and it’s been good.”

The veteran of 251 A Grade games, one B Grade game, and 48 C Grade games said she would know when it was time to retire.

“I’ll keep continuing until the body says enough is enough,” Spokes said.

Birregurra to rest ruckman

by Aidan Fawkes

BIRREGURRA will wrap first-choice ruckman Tom Grayling in cotton wool, potentially for the rest of the home-and-away season.

Grayling is likely to enter finals not having played for more than a month after reinjuring his troublesome groin against South Colac at Joiner Reserve.

The Saints were swaying against selecting the athletic big man but they took the risk given the magnitude of the clash – the minor premiership was essentially on the line.

But the gamble failed to pay off, with Grayling going down in the first half, forcing Jack Moorfoot to shoulder the ruck load against Clay Brewer and Ash Cole.

Birregurra coach Paul Lynch said Grayling was likely to miss the Saints’ remaining four matches, although he could play a part in round 18 against Colac Imperials to find form.

Lynch said he had no concerns about Grayling being underdone in finals.

“When it comes to fitness, he’s a lunatic. He’ll jump straight back into it,” he said.

“He’s a triathlete, he loves that stuff. I’m not concerned he’s not playing for a month.”

Country’s best in curtain raiser

by Aidan Fawkes

PITTING the best from the country against the best from the city as an AFL curtain raiser in front of a bumper crowd.

That’s what South Colac coach Stephen Hammond wants to see when the Victorian Country Football League and the Victorian Amateur Football Association clash in two years.

Hammond was an assistant coach of the VCFL One squad which suffered a one-goal defeat to the VAFA, 13.8 (86) to 13.14 (92), at Shepparton’s Deakin Reserve on Saturday.

The clash followed the country seconds and under-19 squads posting wins against the amateurs.

The biennial fixtures will be at a Melbourne venue in 2013 and Hammond called for all three matches to remain at the same ground.

But he said the spectacle could also improve if officials went down a different path and one of the three matches was a curtain raiser to an AFL match.

Such a match would attract a decent crowd, something that was missing at Shepparton, he said.

“We thought there would’ve been a bigger crowd to see the best from the country and the best from the city,” Hammond said.

“The game of football was unbelievable,” he said.

“Two years’ time they should really promote it so more people come. I hope they keep it three games in one day.

“But it’d be great for something like this to be a curtain raiser for an AFL game. To play in front of a good crowd and get a great atmosphere.”

VCFL football operations manager Brett Connell said the scheduling of the 2013 clashes rested with the VAFA.

Mr Connell said the VCFL had a preference for all three games to be at the same location, which would mean using a metropolitan venue with lights.

With regards to a match being an AFL curtain raiser, he said “any chance to get onto an AFL stage we’d jump at it”.

“Whether we put our under-19 game because that’s more of a promotion, we’d have to have these discussions,” he said.

But the concept appears unlikely.

AFL curtain raisers were commonplace in the 1990s but are a rarity these days as stadium managers place more emphasis on turf maintenance and look after AFL clubs.

“They have commitments to their AFL clubs and the competition comes first,” Mr Connell said.

AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said experience showed curtain raisers failed to attract any more fans than matches at suburban grounds.

Reserves premiership race blown open

by Lachlan Cowlishaw

BIRREGURRA’S stunning victory against South Colac has blown the race for the Colac and district reserves football premiership wide open.

The Saints’ eight-goal thrashing of South Colac was the Roos’ first loss of the season and puts a dent in the confidence at Joiner Reserve about September.

The Roos and Irrewarra-Beeac have been the form teams this season but Birregurra’s win brings it a game behind the leaders alongside fourth-placed Forrest.

Otway Districts staked its claim as a top-five contender with an upset win of its own against the Bombers in round 11, while Simpson is still in the finals picture.

The run home has the Roos play a blockbuster against the Bombers, which looms as the minor premiership decider.

Birregurra and Alvie are battling for top spot in under-17s football and the undefeated Saints reign supreme in the under-14 competition.

Meanwhile, B Grade netball has mirrored A Grade with Irrewarra-Beeac undefeated in top spot.

A rejuvenated Western Eagles side sits second while a quartet of teams – South Colac, Colac Imperials, Otway Districts and Simpson – will battle for the remaining finals places.

The Bombers have a dream run home with a bye followed by three lower-placed teams in the remaining five rounds.

Colac Imperials have a one-game lead over Alvie in C Grade and Simpson leads a closely-fought contest with Otway Districts in 17-and-under grade. South Colac and Western Eagles lead the 15-and-under and 13-and-under grades respectively.

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