KING KANGAS: Ouyen United Football Club wrote themselves into the record books last Saturday, when they won the Seniors and Reserves premierships in their first season in the Sunraysia Football Netball League.
By ADAM LUITJES
THERE were scenes of jubilation at City Oval last Saturday, as Ouyen United Football Club created history by winning the Seniors and Reserves premierships in their inaugural season in the Sunraysia Football Netball League.
Up against frontrunners Mildura, the Kangas secured the Seniors premiership with a comprehensive 29-point victory, while the Reserves made light work of Irymple by 40 points.
In the Seniors contest, AFL Victoria Country Medal winner Josiah Farrer and John Groves medalist – and captain – Brad Vallance were influential as the Kangas proved too strong for their highly-fancied opponents.
Kicking with a strong breeze in the first quarter, Ouyen United raced out to a 37-point quarter-time lead, and despite an admirable fightback by the Demons, the result was never in doubt.
“We wanted to start well, and then try and control the game,” Kangas’ co-coach Kane Munro said. “Winning the toss and kicking with the wind in the first quarter was a massive advantage, considering the weather was expected to be average later on.
“We took our shots on goal, and with accurate kicking we were hard to stop.”
Along with strong performances from Vallance and Farrer, Aron Morrish, Marc Hahnel, Marcus Healy (four goals), Henry Armour and Will Farrer (four goals) were influential for the Kangas.
“That’s been the strength of our list all season, that we are a well-balanced side,” Kane said. “The players we have are flexible and don’t just play one position.
“Aron Morrish is a ripping story. He was playing in the ruck for something new and he did a fantastic job especially in the first quarter, he was outstanding in my opinion.”
Reflecting on the Kangas’ special achievement, Ouyen United co-coach Andy Jardine said Saturday’s result meant a lot to everyone associated with the Mallee club.
“Honestly it’s only just starting to sink in what we achieved,” Andy said. “It meant a lot to everyone, especially the older generation who played in Sunraysia when they struggled.
“It’s fantastic for the community, all the towns are buzzing and I’m sure they will continue to do so.”
An amalgamation of fierce rivals Ouyen and Walpeup-Underbool football clubs, Ouyen United were formed following the disbandment of the Mallee Football League last year, and according to Andy, the merger has been a positive.
“There’s been some tough times, but that community spirit was right behind us leading up to the grand final,” he said. “Everyone is so proud and happy with what we have achieved, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from all the towns.
“Everyone gets along really well, and the football club was packed Saturday night, with the celebrations continuing Sunday for the vote count.”
Intent on being competitive in the SFNL, Ouyen United put together a squad that consisted of footballers from the Mallee, Sunraysia and Darwin, and according to Kane, getting the squad to play together “was the biggest challenge.”
“We had a ripping squad, but we knew we had to work hard to get the job done,” he said. “We were rivals last year and we had to turn around and become best mates.
“We saw the Darwin boys for two hours on a Saturday, so we had to click with them and become good mates.
“We were able to gel, and the fact it all fell into place showed great character from the boys.”
Entering the SFNL as ‘the new kids on the block’, Kane said winning a Seniors and Reserves premiership in the club’s first year was a fantastic achievement.
“If the Seniors didn’t make the grand final then four or five guys wouldn’t have been able to play in the Reserves, because they had played too many Senior games,” he said.
“Those guys stepped up when the Senior group copped injuries, so it was rewarding for them to be able to play in a premiership.
“In saying that there were guys who missed out, who were every bit a part of the journey, so that was bitter sweet.”
With what seemed like the whole Mallee converging onto City Oval last Saturday, Kane described the premiership celebrations “as unforgettable”.
“Our bus trip home was brilliant, especially because as a Senior group we don’t get to spend too much time together,” he said.
“We got to enjoy a bus trip home together as a team, have a few beers and share it with the ‘Ressies’, which was pretty special.
“The supporters were waiting for us when we got off the bus at Ouyen, and it was a memory I’ll have for a lifetime.”