Top five sports stories of 2021

Mitch Bonuda of Olinda Ferny Creek. 173275_12

2021 saw disruption and cancellations of sports leagues around the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley, though there still managed to be some great stories come out of a difficult year for sports clubs.

Football clubs will pay their respects

The clash between the Bombers and the Brookers won’t be the only great battle this weekend, with an Anzac extravaganza involving a flyover of warbirds, 100 pigeons and a cannon-fire planned for Saturday’s game.

With the help of generous sponsors, Emerald RSL and Emerald Football Netball Club have collaborated to organise an Anzac ‘weekend’, beginning with a pipes and drums band marching the seniors players onto the battlegrounds at Chandler Reserve oval on Saturday 24 April.

An Anzac service is set to take place before the game kicks off around 2.30pm. The great clash will begin with a bang, with President of Emerald Football and Netball Club Mark Pedder confirming a cannon will be fired shortly before the starting bounce.

“That will be shortly followed by a flyover of nine warbird planes,” Mr Pedder said.

With reserves coming off the ground around 2pm, the Anzac commemorations, which also include a show of 100 pigeons, are expected to take place before the game kicks off at half-past.

Milestone for Bonuda

By Frank Seal

Olinda footballer Mitch Bonuda notched up his 300th senior game in unique circumstances on Sunday 20 June. Bonuda said the 300th game came as a “relief” after having the big occasion delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The return of community sports saw spectators locked out of local grounds meaning friends and family couldn’t be there on the day for Bonuda.

“I’ve had a lot of people contacting me from all the competitions and teams I’ve played for throughout the years, it was a really nice experience and shows how far reaching the football community is,” He said.

“It was a funny one, a real strange buildup to the game. People told me to have a couple weeks off to get the crowds back up, but I just wanted to get it out of the way.”

High performance

By Taylah Eastwell

The Basin-bred Tyson Bull has been crowned the first Australian male to make an artistic gymnastics Olympics final, having secured his chance to compete in the decider at Tokyo.

Bull finished fifth in the horizontal bar event last Tuesday night (3 August), and while a slip off the bar cut short his dreams of a medal, just getting there will see him remembered in history books long into the future.

Speaking to the Star Mail, Bull’s mother Christine said the family were overwhelmed with pride watching their boy compete on the world stage.

“It’s just overwhelming to see all of his hard work that he has put in over many years coming to fruition,” she said.

Christine said the Olympics were always a dream for Tyson, who quickly established himself as a notch above the rest when he began “kinder gymnastics” at just five years of age.

“We have three boys, Tyson is the youngest. We started them all at gym for coordination and balance but Tyson just loved it and kept going. He couldn’t get enough of it,” his mum said.

Tyson did gymnastics at Knox Gym until age 10, when his coaches told his parents they’d need to take him to the high performance centre in Prahran due to his skill level being beyond his age.

“We were travelling to Prahran five or six times a week at that stage,” Christine said. “The Olympics were always a dream of his.

We took the kids away in 2000 to Stradbroke Island in Queensland and we were watching Cathy Freeman win her gold and I think that’s just always been his inspiration, he’s always wanted to win gold and bring home a medal,” she said.

Having placed in the top eight at the 2019 World Championships, the thought of winning gold has been on Tyson’s mind for almost two years, with the long 10-day break between the Olympic qualifier and final only adding fuel to his fire.

But it just wasn’t to be at his first Olympics, with the 28-year-old local falling off the bar during his routine and receiving a score of 12.466 – short of his qualifying score and personal best of 14.4333.

Grand Final fever

No two AFL teams have experienced more premiership droughts than Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs making it a tale never to be forgotten.

While, yes, the Western Bulldogs have since brought that drought to an end, 57 years have ticked by since the Demons’ last flag in 1964. Dedicated Demons’ fan Debbie Brasher, 55, from Montrose has been waiting her whole life to experience the excitement of a grand final win.

But Ms Brasher’s Demons’ spirit runs deeper than that and every inch of her house she could possibly decorate has been covered in blue and red. “Everyone knows I go all out, so this is just another all-out thing,” she said.

Having bought 1500 metres of red and blue ribbon, Ms Brasher’s picket fence has been transformed into the colours of the Melbourne flag.

Inside, the theatre room has been decked out with balloons, streamers and Melbourne Football Club flags.

Her house isn’t the only thing that has been decorated though, with Ms Brasher donning her Melbourne socks, jacket, jumper and scarf every day since the preliminary final win.

Olympic journey

By Shelby Brooks

In 2021, Emerald’s Amy Lawton was the youngest hockeyroo to wear the green and gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was a blessing for Amy who was only new to the Hockeyroos at that stage.

“Before Covid postponed the Olympics, I knew I was on the brink of selection but it gave me an extra opportunity to try and sharpen up on different things to put myself in the best position for selection this year,” Amy said.

“Opening the email and seeing my name on the list was a huge relief and so exciting to be going to pinnacle of our event but at the same time I felt so hurt for all the girls in our squad who didn’t make that list.”

Being selected for the Olympic side meant Amy, along with her fellow teammates, did extensive heat training in Darwin to prepare them for the humid Japanese summer in what is traditionally a winter sport.

Once in Japan, the Olympic Village was a highlight for Amy.

“It was just so crazy,” she said.

“You walk past so many athletes- you might not know who they are or what sport they are doing but you know they are elite at it.

“It was a really cool feeling that the best athletes in the world are all living in this little village and seeing some of the Aussie legends like Sam Kerr and Ash Barty was awesome.”

Despite the Hockeyroos having a roaring start by winning all five of their round matches, the first time in Olympic history for the Aussie girls, the team suffered a surprising and devastating loss against India in the finals.

Amy returned to Perth where she is based while playing for the Hockeyroos and has set her sights on next year’s Commonweath Games.