By Matt Fotia
On Wednesday evening the extended AFL Outer East community came together to celebrate the season that was (or in some cases is still going) and also toast the best of the best from season 2019.
And the two apples of the League’s ( and umpires) eyes in 2019 were Woori Yallock’s Zach Monkhorst and Cranbourne’s Tara Cecil.
Monkhorst was a key figure in the Tigers relatively successful 2019 campaign, which saw them finish the home and away season in fourth.
The honour of being the league’s first ever medal winner was a bit of a surprise, despite the fact he’d been playing some amazingly consistent football throughout the year as a mobile, goal kicking ruckman.
“I guess that’s right, it was a bit of a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s a great feeling.
“It was good to play some good football and get some votes I guess,” Monkhorst said when speaking to GameFace at the completion of the evening.
The main talking point for the league this season has been the amalgamation of the South Eastern clubs into the Yarra Ranges competition. Monkhorst says that whilst the Tigers four new opponents have been hard to take on, the challenge has been one to embrace.
“The new competition has been good, it’s been a good challenge, obviously the South Eastern football teams, you know Beaconsfield, Berwick, Narre Warren and Cranbourne, they are tough teams, but that’s the standard we’ve (Woori Yallock) got to get up too.”
Another major talking point around league circles was the vastly different ground dimensions across the new competition, with likes of Wandin’s Clegg Road being compared to Beaconsfield’s Holm Park, which if you weren’t already aware, is a massive discrepancy.
But for Monkhorst learning to adapt to the new surfaces is a simple equation.
“I think it comes down to having a big pre-season, because you’re obviously covering more distance, so you’ve got to prepare for it,”
The Tigers were the only ex Yarra Ranges side to return from the South East with any points this season when they drew with Cranbourne in round 12. Unfortunately for the Tigers supporters, they were unable to go one better in the Elimination Final a fortnight ago at Doveton, with wayward kicking a major issue.
But Woori’s number 20 insists that the Tigers will only get better in years to come, such is their want, desire and tradition.
“There’s always improvement to be had and Woori Yallock is a great club that always tries to get better,”
Finally, he managed to sneak in a little jab at his father, Damian Monkhorst, who despite having a storied AFL career, was unable to win a League Best and Fairest – according to Zach.
“Nah I don’t think (he has).”
For Tara Cecil, winning accolades of this nature is becoming the norm.
The Cranbourne and Peninsula Waves defender made it five League Best and Fairest’s on Wednesday Night, adding to her Peninsula Waves 2019 VNL (Victorian Netball League) MVP Award, that she won earlier this year.
It’s Cecil’s second stint in the VNL, after she stepped back from the level a few years ago to revive her love for netball.
But now she’s back and eyeing off bigger and better things.
“I used to play VNL and then had about four or five years off before going back for the last two seasons and I think that break did me well, I was losing the love that I had for netball a little bit, so stepping away from that was the best thing for me, because I’m back and I’m loving it more than ever,”
“I’m sticking with VNL for next year and also want to give ANL (Australian Netball League) a go next season.”
Whilst she may have her sights set a little further down the road, Cranbourne will never be far from Cecil’s mind, such is her bond with the club she has called home since her early teenage years.
“I’ve been at Cranbourne since I was in under 13s, so basically my entire netball career has been there, so over time I’ve built some great relationships within the entire club and Donna Wilson (Head Coach) specifically,”
“She’s awesome, I think she’s been our coach for the last four years or so and I respect her a lot.”
The Eagles came into the newly formed league off the back of a losing Grand Final in the South East, and Cecil says that the Eagles have enjoyed the new league, with their new opponents refreshing their approach as a team.
“It’s been interesting (the league), because obviously we’re going to these games not knowing what to expect from the opposition, whereas we’ve played the same clubs for the last however many years in the SEFNL,”
“So coming in and not knowing who they are, or who they’ve got on their team, is a great experience and to play against these different teams, like Olinda Ferny Creek, the challenges have been awesome.”
Cranbourne take on local rivals Beaconsfield for a spot in the Premier Division decider on Saturday at Healesville, with the winner set to take on the undefeated Olinda Ferny Creek.
Cecil expects this weekends Preliminary Final to be an interesting one.
“It was against Beaconsfield last year to get into the grand final as well, so look we do have a bit of rivalry with those guys, and having lost to them two weeks ago we are going to come back wanting it more than ever, so it’s going to be interesting game.”
SENIOR/A GRADE BEST AND FAIREST WINNERS ;
Premier Division Senior Football – Zach Monkhorst (Woori Yallock)
Premier Division A Grade Netball – Tara Cecil (Cranbourne)
Division One Senior Football – William Smith (Doveton)
Division One A Grade Netball – Kaitlyn Black (Mount Evelyn)
Division Two Senior Football – Benjamin Wratten (Powelltown)
Division Two A Grade Netball – Stephanie McNay (Seville)