Excited and optimistic is how Senior Coach Nick Mitchell describes himself going into Round 1 of the VAFA season.
There is plenty of pride on the line as Fitzroy goes into battle with Parkdale at the Gerry Green Reserve this Saturday to retain the Norm Johnstone Trophy, which is on the line each time the teams meet.
The Roys have not relinquished the cup since being in Premier B and this will be a big test with a young team on the park. There are likely to be eight new faces in the side, with prodigal sons Max Ellis and Nathan Jumeau being named.
There will also be some bitter-sweet memories for the Roy Boys, who defeated Parkdale in the final game of the 2016 season, only to miss out on finals thanks to other results on the day.
Those memories are not likely to affect the five Under 19s players who will step up into the senior side.
“There is a lot of opportunity for the young guys,” Nick said.
“They are bound to make mistakes but if they have a go every week and play the way we want to play in terms of effort, set ups and ball movement, then I will be happy.
“All I want to see this week is a huge effort. There are bound to be some nerves in the first round, but this is a winnable game.”
Nick said the focus in the pre-season had been on fitness given Fitzroy’s poor starts in recent seasons. The heavy workload has proved beneficial but Nick says there is a difference between fit and match fit. “It might take a while to gel with so many new players but the youth and enthusiasm is great.”
Hipster Cup moves into a brand new era
It might have had just a short life, but already the Hipster Cup has taken on some significant meaning and will feature in the very first round of the VAFA’s Wilson Women’s Premier competition.
VAFA Foundation Clubs and local rivals, Fitzroy-ACU and the Brunswick Renegades will meet in Round 1 at the Gillon Oval on Sunday 9 April, meeting for the second week in a row and this time for the trophy.
The brainchild of the Renegades, the trophy between the local teams is held by Fitzroy-ACU (see Alice and Alexa right from 2016) who plan to keep it under new coach Mick Symons.
In last week’s practice match, the Roy Girls looked pretty slick and wayward goal kicking aside would have had a comfortable victory over the Renegades. This week they know a lot more is on the line and are very, very keen to get off to a winning start in the new era of VAFA women’s footy.
And according to the new captain of the women’s team, we have the winning formula - Esther Harris's homemade vegan cashew cheese, Emilie Goegan's hair and those incredible Roygirl beanies (not to mention the can play a bit of footy). The Roygirls are confident they can keep the Cup at Fitzroy. We’ll have to trust them on that formula!
Captains named at season launch
It was a genuine mix of the established and the brand new, when the Fitzroy coaches named their 2017 captains and leadership groups on Saturday night at the season launch at the Fitzroy Victoria Bowling and Sports Club.
Nick Mitchell named an extended leadership group which reflected the mix of experience in the senior squad, with Rory Angiolella taking on the captaincy role solo for 2017. The leadership role is nothing new to Rory, who has been captain for the past five years.
Tom Cheshire and Corbin Stevic are the vice captains, with Max Davie, Jules Turner and Aiden Burke rounding out an extended leadership group.
Mick Symons, Fitzroy-ACU Women 1 coach, announced Gemma Minuz would be the first woman to captain Fitzroy-ACU’s team in the new VAFA competition – you can read more from Gemma below. The Women’s Squad elected a leadership group of Hilary Grubb, Emilie Goegan, Luci Murphy and Mish Booth.
Mish, who was the inaugural winner of the Janet Graham Perpetual Trophy for the Fitzroy-ACU Women 2 team last year, will be captain of the Women 2 team.
A big thank you to Alexa Madden who has captained the women’s team through its first two seasons and has spent much of the pre-season training with Box Hill.
Reserves captain is Jack Atkinson who started with the Club as an U19 in 2008.
Trent Coleman announced Jared Shaw will lead the Fitzroy Thirds team.
Tim Bell announced that James Butler (both pictured left) would retain the captaincy of the Under 19 (1) team, after an outstanding year in the role last year. Tim selected his captain last year but said it was a credit to James that the players had backed him in for a second year in the job.
Under 19 (2) coach Greg Coleman will wait to see how the newest Fitzroy team shapes up before deciding on the team leaders.
Gemma Minuz is not keeping a lid on it!
When she first arrived at Fitzroy as one of the inaugural Fitzroy-ACU team members, Gemma Minuz had played just three days and four uni games worth of football and that was more than plenty of her team mates.
On Sunday, she will lead her team out in the premier division of the largest community women’s football competition in Australia – a first for the VAFA – and she says her happy team has the opportunity to set the standard.
“Being a foundation club we have an amazing opportunity to really set the standard in the competition this year.
“We have a huge number of new faces in the squad this year, but with a solid pre-season behind us I expect that both teams will come out strong right from the start. I have real confidence in the depth of our squad, the knowledge of our coaches and our commitment to skill development and expect both teams to set the bar high in the competition (that's keeping a lid on it right?!).
“I think right from the beginning we have had a really strong identity as Roygirls which is something that will continue to develop with this new squad. Being a Roygirl means that we play a particular brand of footy but ultimately that we play for each other, and that has been a real strength of ours over the last two seasons, and no doubt will continue into 2017.”
The opportunity to play football in a partnership between Fitzroy and the Australian Catholic University could not have worked out better for Gemma.
“From 2011-2013 I looked after Sport at ACU, which included heading up the mighty Whooping Birds (ACU's footy team) at uni games. We were always blessed with having an amazing group of girls in the team and Mark Young (then national director of sport at ACU) and I always dreamed of having an ACU women’s side competing in the VWFL. Luckily for me, I kept in touch with the Whoopers and was absolutely stoked when, two years after I graduated, I heard the news that Fitzroy and ACU had joined forces to make the dream a reality,” Gemma said.
It is no surprise that Gemma and her team mates are absolutely thrilled with the success of the AFLW competition this year, with the reaction ‘about time!’
Gemma said going to her first ever game of AFLW was an experience she will never forget. “I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve! My highlight from the night was seeing two young boys, of about 10 or 11 years old, yelling at the top of their lungs "GO BLUE GIRLS" as the girls ran onto the ground – they were cheering just as hard as they would for their men’s team and the game hadn't even begun.
“I'm so excited that this is the way that our future generations are going to grow up, seeing both men and women playing the game we all love and having young boys recognising the strength and skill of women, just as young girls have been identifying this within AFL footballers all of our lives.”
Speaking of which, as a Carlton supporter Gemma grew up loving the likes of Kouta, Craig Bradley and Steve Silvagni. “I still remember admiring their skills without ever dreaming that I would be playing the game one day too! I'm a massive fan of Kade Simpson and proudly wear the number 6 for the Roys as a salute to him; he's such a beautiful kick on both feet, and very rarely misses a target (something I definitely aspire to!). And of course Bri Davey who absolutely dominated the AFLW this season; I have so much admiration for her ability to read the play and her hardness at the contest.”
Gemma says she was very honoured to be voted in as the Fitzroy-ACU captain by a fun, strong and hardworking bunch of women. With a narrow miss in the grand final last year and an increase in the depth of the squad, the team has come a long way since they celebrated Lauren Atkinson's point to get the Roygirls on the scoreboard for the first time back in 2015.
With her leadership perhaps they can go one step further. “I think being able to recognise the strengths of others, and utilising those strengths is one of my best assets as a leader.
“Our squad is full of intelligent, capable and highly skilled women who are all able to bring new perspectives and expertise to our team. Being approachable and willing to listen puts me in good stead to be an effective link between players and coaches, but hopefully overall I can lead by example both on and off the field in my commitment to the club and the team.”
Book Now! Royal Derby Game - Senior Coach to feature at first home game lunch
It’s time to book for Fitzroy’s pre-game lunch for the first home game of the season on 22 April.
As is tradition, the Fitzroy Senior Coach, Nick Mitchell, will be the guest speaker and it will be interesting to see how he is going about shaping this new, young team with heaps of potential and enthusiasm.
A new feature at BSO this season will be three rounds brought to us by the Major sponsors of the club.
Round 2 will be the Royal Derby Game, thanks to the team down at the Derby and we’re keen to have a big crowd along to help boost the community feeling at the game.
If you’d like to book in for lunch and catch up with the Fitzroy faithful on Saturday 22 April, please book now online.
The pre-game lunch cost has remained the same and the start time is 11.45 for 12pm. Please RSVP by Wednesday 19 April.
Rainbow laces with a special message from the Fitzroy family
If you see some of our players running around with rainbow coloured laces this weekend, it’s because they have put their support behind a campaign called Lace Up for the Love of Sport, which is designed to raise awareness of LGBTI prejudice in sport.
Fitzroy-ACU player Loz Field brought the campaign (sponsored by sports clothing manufacturer Skins) to the attention of the club and encouraged her team and club mates to get behind it.
The Women’s 1 player said she was motivated to get the Fitzroy family behind the day. “I guess as a friend of the LGBTI community I thought it was important to make sure everyone feels welcome and included,” Loz said.
“In this day and age, prejudice in sport is just not acceptable and the rainbow laces allow us to show our support and not only what the Roygirl spirit is but what the whole Fitzroy football club and community does in having a very inclusive and welcoming feel for everyone.
“So let's rise up and lace up in support of the LGBTI community and show everyone just how great the Fitzroy family is.”
The player-led initiative, which is supported by a number of high profile sports teams from around Australia, also received the support of the Fitzroy Board which agreed all players across all teams could wear the laces in Round 1 in support of the cause.
Tom Roper on the mend
You may miss seeing the smiling face of Tom Roper behind the bar in the community rooms this year, but nothing can keep him away from Brunswick Street Oval.
Tom, who may of you will know as the former Victorian Minister for Transport, had a significant stroke in January but is recovering well and by all reports has made it as far as The Royal Derby in his new electric wheelchair.
Tom is the husband of Fitzroy Board member, Anita Roper, and a fantastic contributor off field at Fitzroy, getting involved in everything from game-day lunch organisation to the club raffle, a bit of behind the scenes negotiating (you can’t stop these politicians) and of course pouring the reds and whites behind the bar for the post-match functions.
He is currently in rehab as an in-patient at St Vincent’s Hospital, which also played a major role in Anita’s own recovery last year. For those BSO regulars, it was wonderful to see Anita in such great health down at the pre-season games against Monash and at the season launch on Saturday.
Tom is pretty determined to make it to some home games this year, so keep an eye out for him.
He and Anita wanted to pass on their thanks to those who have been for a visit this week and for all the well wishes.
Golf Day a success
Congratulations to the winners of the Fitzroy FC Golf Day, Dan Hasenkam and Rich Kelly, who returned a round of 77, narrowly ahead of Fitzroy's Senior Coach, Nick Mitchell and his partner, Angus Hamilton. Thanks to everyone who played and to Golf Fitting Hub - Golf's Premium Club Fitting Experience and The House of Golf - Melbourne, who supplied the prizes. A big thank you also to Fitzroy Vice Captain, Corbin Stevic, who ran the day.
Max Ellis looks nearly as good approaching the 15th green at the Growling Frog Golf Course as he does in the Fitzroy backline!
We need you!
Do you have a head for stats and a passion for footy? We have the gig for you! We’re very keen to identify some volunteers for the game-day stats roles, to help us get the best out of our brand new stats package. This could be a useful experience if you are interested in similar roles in the VFL or AFL in future. If you're keen and available on Saturday afternoons, please contact Sharon Torney by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have a range of volunteer roles still to fill across our expanding club – from helping with events to game day roles (physical and non-physical) and everything in between. If you think you have some time to offer please register your interest here or speak to one of the Directors or coaches of the club.
For a young person keep for some extra work experience to add to the CV, this could be a valuable and fun way to spend a few hours on a Saturday.
This week's games
Parkdale Vultures vs Fitzroy Thirds – VAFA Premier B Thirds – Gerry Green Reserve, 9.20am, Saturday 8 April
University Blacks vs Fitzroy U19 (1) – Holmesglen U19 Section 2 – Crawford Oval, 11.40am, Saturday 8 April
St Bernards vs Fitzroy U19 (2) – Holmesglen U19 Premier Reserve – St Bernards College, 11.40am, Saturday 8 April
Parkdale Vultures vs Fitzroy Reserves – VAFA Premier B Reserves – Gerry Green Reserve, 11.40am, Saturday 8 April
Parkdale Vultures vs Fitzroy Seniors – VAFA Premier B – Gerry Green Reserve, 2.00pm, Saturday 8 April
Brunswick Renegades vs Fitzroy-ACU Women 1 – VAFA Wilson Women Premier – Gillon Oval, 2.00pm, Sunday 9 April
Brunswick Renegades vs Fitzroy-ACU Women 2 – Women’s Grading Group 1 – Gillon Oval, 11.40am, Sunday 9 April.