Fitzroy Football Club: Great football, Great community, Great culture.

Senior Men's 2021 season review


By Senior Men's coach Luke Mahoney

After the cancelled season of 2020, there was a fair bit of optimism and excitement when pre-season training resumed in November. Training before Christmas is usually well attended, but the numbers for this year were huge. Not only was pre-season a good chance to get out kicking a footy around again, it was a good way to sharpen up our COVID safe practices with QR codes and sanitizers the new normal.

Post-Christmas, the numbers were growing even more as we continued to welcome new players, returning players and our lockdown players (the term used for new players who trained in 2020 but who still hadn’t played a game for the Roys).

Our pre-season was running along fairly smoothly with only the one-week lockdown interrupting our plans! There was no camp, but there were still opportunities to bond and lay out our plans for the 2021 season. The biggest disappointments were the long term injuries suffered in pre-season training to our captain Julian Turner and in the first practice game to Will Zaghis and new player Luke Minahan. Two intra club matches and three practice games gave us a solid platform to launch into round one, and had the coaches excited by the new talent that had arrived.

Finally in the first week of April, football was back and round one at Brunswick Street Oval against the flag faves in Uni Blacks was the perfect way to return. The pre-match preparation was longer than usual with six players given their first jumper in the Seniors. We started the game well and matched it with Uni for a long part of the game before they took over in the last quarter. The performance gave the group a lot of confidence that we could match it for longer with the better sides in the comp. A trip to Parkdale followed with our biggest win of the year recorded with an 18 goal second half providing a 110-point win. We finally sang the song again!

The following week we were frustrated by AJAX who choked us down and scratched out a narrow win in a low scoring game. It was a disappointing loss and the team were keen to avenge against another quality side in De La Salle who had been relegated from Premier. In a similar story to the Blacks game, the team took it up to them for a good period before a dominant 15min patch was enough for DeLa to etch out a 5 goal win.

After a season that was promising so much, we were now 1-3 and playing away against Old Haileybury who had recruited very well over the off-season. Things weren’t looking great half way through the second quarter when we still had not registered a score and OH had 45 points on the board! A couple of quick goals before the half to our new ruck/forward Jack McKay sparked the side and we slowly started to chip away at the margin. With 5 minutes to play, we were within a goal, but unfortunately our gallant effort was too late and we suffered another defeat. While the loss was disappointing, again we were given hope that we can mix it with the top sides.

Our reward for that effort was to go and visit Beaumaris where our happy memories from round 18 in 2019 were still well and truly vivid. The boys got on the bus and were welcomed by a strong, northerly breeze making it difficult to score at the clubroom end. This day however, was not a memorable one as we were comprehensively beaten in what was our most disappointing performance of the season so far. We were now 1-5 and all of a sudden were desperate to find that winning feeling again.

Enter what everyone now remembers as the ‘’Don Toohey game’’ against St Bedes Mentone Tigers. In what was a first for the men's side, we played under lights at BSO with a large crowd present. Both sides were evenly matched throughout the first half before the opposition found themselves with a handy break at three quarter time. Our boys continued to fight out the game and were gradually wearing them down, it all looked lost with the ball buried away in our forward line for the last two minutes. As we all know, the rest is history, the composure from Bill Clayton to centre the ball to Ross who remarkably spotted Don hanging around the 50-metre arc. For the record, I always knew he would kick it!

It was clearly our most memorable moment for the season and the reaction was a great reminder of how good footy can be for the club and its community. To go from that high to the news that we were back into lockdown was a bitter blow for the group. The confidence was restored after the win and with fixtures coming against the two teams around us in Williamstown CYMS and Carey, I can’t help but think we had a bit of momentum halted.

Luckily we got back under way a month later in strange circumstances with no spectators allowed to watch our away game to Uni Blacks. Maybe that was a good thing as we were clearly outplayed on the day by an experienced and ruthless opponent. History repeated the following week when we welcomed Old Haileybury who again got out to a lead that was too big to cut back.

At 2-7, it was fair to say our season was on the line when we travelled to Albert Park to face AJAX again. The performance in the end was super as we applied a high level of pressure that eventually broke the game open in the third quarter. Remarkably our season was halted again with a mixture of a two-week comp bye and another lockdown meaning we missed our return leg against DeLa.

We did get one more in against Parkdale, again no spectators but a lot of dog walkers! The team won well doing what they had to do to get another four points and leaving us at 4-7 and jumping to 6th on the ladder. With the current lockdown going past our last scheduled game our season has been confirmed as finished. At the time of writing, our Reserves and two Thirds sides are still hopeful of having an opportunity to play finals.

While our year came to an abrupt end, there are still so many positives in 2021 to give us a lot to look forward to in 2022. In 11 games, we played 43 players in the Seniors, 16 made their Senior debut with the Club. Of our 11 games, six of those were against the top four, with five against three sides in the bottom half of the ladder. While we were competitive against the top four at times, we clearly have some work to do to be in the games for longer and turn these honourable losses turn into wins. We must be more consistent from week-to-week, and ensure that the gap between our best and worst days is closer. The development of our younger players and our new players playing more football together will be instrumental in that.

As a Club, we should all be very proud of our players and the way they represented Fitzroy. Despite the lockdowns, despite the restrictions, despite the setbacks they kept turning up in numbers and having a crack at training and in games. This year was a huge challenge for all involved to keep motivated going through a stop-start season.

Thank you to the Board for everything they did throughout the season in what was a truly unique year. Our volunteers and sponsors were also vitally important this year in a season that required all hands-on deck to get our teams on the ground. Thank you also to our coaches who also put in a fair bit to ensure training and games were COVID-safe.

Let’s hope that this year was the precursor to things getting back on track and we come back bigger, stronger, faster in 2022 with 18 games plus! Look forward to seeing everyone back at the footy soon.

Go Roys!

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