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Ash has fun as best first year player


Fitzroy-ACU forward, Ash Riddell, was awarded the Debbie Lee Medal for best first year player at the Victorian Women’s Football League Presentation Night on Wednesday.

In her first season of football, she also came second in the Division 3 best and fairest award, to Gippsland’s Sarah Jolly; an outstanding result for someone who just likes to play football for fun.

Playing 15 games in her first season with Fitzroy-ACU (13 in Division 3 and two in North West), including a narrow grand final loss, Ash gave the team plenty of pace and poise up front and kicked 36 goals for the year (26 in Division 3 and 10 in North West).

Aside from school footy, which she gave away to concentrate on basketball at age 11, Ash hadn’t played Australian Rules football for nearly 10 years when she came down to try out at Fitzroy at the request of her mate Luci Murphy.

But it appears she may have had some pointers from a pretty handy schoolmate, one Marcus Bontempelli. Then again given her achievements this season, maybe Ash taught Marcus a few on-field moves.

Apparently Ash and the Bont are quite good mates and did play footy together at Our Lady’s Primary School in Eltham, before she started playing basketball in the same team as his talented sister.

Of course Ash credits her coaches and her team mates at Fitzroy-ACU for her form and says for her, football is all about fun and the relationships. “The friendships are the thing I’ve enjoyed most this year. I don’t live in the area, so it’s been great to meet a lot of these girls and feel at home”.

The 20 year old is two and a half years into an osteopathy degree at RMIT but given the developments in women’s footy perhaps she could have another career in front of her. “I’ve always been really sporty but I do it for fun; I don’t want it to be too serious.”

Fitzroy-ACU it is then! And we’re pretty happy to have her.

Representing the Women 2 team in the North West Division, Tash Ross-Harris (Rosso), remarkably finished in fourth place in the best and fairest, having played only four of the 12 possible home and away games for the season. Given the Fitzroy-ACU team didn’t make finals, Tash certainly made her mark in just a few games. Congratulations Tash.

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Award named after women’s footy pioneer


On any Saturday afternoon at Brunswick Street Oval you might see Janet Graham helping with the merchandise stall or taking notes on the scores in the game; but always, always in the red and blue of Fitzroy.

What you probably don’t know about Janet is that she was a founding member of the VWFL in 1981 and the first person to achieve life membership of the organisation in 1985.

On Saturday night at the Redlow, the Fitzroy Football Club will honour this early pioneer of women’s football by naming the Fitzroy-ACU Women’s 2 best and fairest award in Janet Graham’s honour.

Janet played the game regularly in the early ’80s, playing approximately 30 games between 1981 and 1984 for the Scorpions, based first in Broadmeadows and then in Aberfeldie. Back then in its first season, VWFL matches were played fortnightly with just four clubs and six rounds. Later the number of rounds increased to nine and then 12, though still with only four clubs.

Janet first arrived in Australia from England in 1968 as a 10-pound Pom. Having returned to England during the 1970s, she re-emigrated, arriving in Melbourne in 1979. She has been a Fitzroy member since 1980 and started volunteering in the early 2000s, with regular stints at the Fitzroy Shop, and later as a regular at the home game merchandise stall.

She was watching a TV news item about a women’s footy team with a housemate in about 1980 and according to her housemate said, “I could do that”. In 1981 there was a notice in the Football Record seeking interest in starting a Women’s League and she responded.

Janet recalls it was quite hard to get grounds in competition with men’s and boys’ teams, which was the main reason for the decision to play VWFL matches on Sundays. Janet reckons the Scorpions, over their time in the league, would have played at five or six different ‘home’ grounds, and there was some resistance from men’s football, and the community in general, to the idea of women playing the game.

She played in three grand finals but missed the fourth, which was a premiership, because she’d returned to England for a family visit.

Ever modest, Janet says her start in the backline was because “the ball didn’t come down that way very often so I couldn’t do too much harm”. She also ventured up to half-forward flank or on the wing, and in later years sometimes in the ruck. “Women weren’t as tall in those days,” Janet says.

“I was often off the bench, not a top player by any means.” Various injuries took their toll and she retired at the end of 1984. Janet rates a mention in the recently released Play On: The Hidden History of Women’s Australian Rules Football, by Brunette Lenkic and Rob Hess.

Janet also played administrative roles, as Secretary of the VWFL from 1983 to 1985 and Scorpions Club Secretary from 1982 to 1983.

The decision to name the trophy in honour of Janet Graham comes just one year after Fitzroy named the Fitzroy-ACU Women’s 1 best and fairest after the first female director of a VFL/AFL Club, former Fitzroy Director, Elaine Findlay.

Both trophies will be hotly contested on Saturday night.

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Former Roy Boy takes top Fitzroy coaching role


Former Fitzroy AFL player, Nick Mitchell, will take on the 2017 senior coaching role at the Fitzroy Football Club, as it sets a course for a promotion to Premier Division in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA).

The 2016 co-coach was appointed by the Fitzroy Board during the week and announced as the new senior coach at the club’s ‘Redlow’ (best and fairest) celebrations on Saturday night at Rydges on Swanston.

Nick, who was on the Fitzroy Lions senior list for four seasons in the AFL in the 90s, playing nine senior games, says he’s both relieved and excited to have been appointed. He is the first former Fitzroy AFL player to take on the role with Fitzroy in the VAFA.

“I am excited because I think for the last few years we’ve been on the cusp of something special. I want this group to experience finals.”

Nick was Senior Assistant Coach alongside Michael Pickering in 2015 and co-coach in 2016. Pickering recently announced he was stepping down after five years in the role to spend more time with family.

“Finals is the aim for next season, but we know it won’t just happen. We need to keep improving and working harder,” Nick said.

“Michael and I were very aligned in our thinking, so you won’t see massive changes in the game plan but you need to fine tune, keep it fresh and find that balance between hard work and fun.

“We have a strong core group of experienced senior players in the side and seeing the kids coming through is most exciting.”

Fitzroy gained plenty from the inclusion of former Under 19 players Aidan Lambert, Max Davie and Lewis Pavlich, along with current Under 19s, Jacob Long, Aiden Burke and Will Symons during the season.

Having missed out on Premier B finals in 2016 by just two points in the washup, Nick says the key to Fitzroy’s improvement is working hard in the pre-season.

“You can’t start 0-4 like we did this year. We need to have everyone doing the hard work together from early in the pre-season and then we’ll see the improvement in our fitness.”

Fitzroy Football Director, Grant Hammond, said Nick’s passion and outstanding knowledge of the game, along with his rapport with the senior playing group, had impressed the club and they had no hesitation in appointing him.

His keen understanding of the Fitzroy history and sensibilities also helped.

“It’s like being back at home for me,” Nick said.

Not only was Nick a Fitzroy player, but his father Gus was the chairman of selectors for Fitzroy in the mid-90s and Nick says he always had an affinity for the club through his father’s close friendship with Club legend Don Furness.

Nick brings excellent playing and coaching experience to the role. He had three years as Senior Coach at Old Geelong FC (2009-2011) and Assistant Coach with St Bernard’s, where he took over the senior reins in the latter part of 2013. Nick has been Senior Assistant Coach with Fitzroy since late 2014.

As a player he was a premiership captain and best and fairest winner with St Bernard’s and regular representative in VAFA state teams. Nick was a premiership player at West Brunswick in 2014 and has played over 300 senior games.

The club thanked Michael Pickering for his outstanding work with the players as senior coach over the last five years and it is hoped he will continue his involvement with Fitzroy in future seasons.


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