Westy's top 20 sports stories of the year

Over the past month, sports reporter Luke West has counted down his top 20 sports stories of the year. Here's the list in full.

20 – WEDDERBURN WINS AGAIN: Talk about timing your run to perfection.

After 12 rounds of the North Central Football League season, Wedderburn wasn’t even in the top four.

But after a tardy first 10 games when they won just four, the Redbacks powered home in style, winning their last nine games to capture the premiership.

They finished fourth after the home and away season, before defeating Wycheproof-Narraport (36 points) and St Arnaud (89) in cut-throat finals on the way to a 12-point grand final win over Charlton.

The victory was particularly noteworthy for two reasons – not only did Wedderburn win the flag as the lowest-ranked finalist, but it was the Redbacks’ third in a row for the first time in their history.

19 – BEHRENS BREAKS RECORD: I had the good fortune of being at Harry Trott Oval on October 12 when star Bendigo United batsman Heath Behrens created a piece of Bendigo District Cricket Association history.

With a cover drive for four off Strathfieldsaye’s Cory Devanny, Behrens brought up his 25th first XI century.

Wayne Walsh had been the long-time holder of the BDCA centuries record with 24. That was until Behrens equalled the record in January this year and then owned it outright with his 115 n.o. against Strathfieldsaye.

As is his usual way, Behrens didn’t celebrate with any fanfare, but there was a nice touch later in the night when he was toasted by his team-mates at the Brougham Arms Hotel.

18 – HAWKS ON GRAND STAGE: To borrow an old line from TV personality Rove McManus – Huntly playing in the Heathcote District Football League grand final… WHAT THE?

That would have seemed laughable only two years ago when the Hawks had just claimed their 10th wooden-spoon in a row.

However, from the easybeats tag that plagued the club for a decade, the Hawks, along with power team Lockington-Bamawm United, were the  HDFL pacesetters this year.

They met in the grand final at Elmore on September 14.

While the Hawks didn't win the flag - they lost the grand final by 58 points - it was remarkable watching the Hawks on grand final day considering it wasn't that long ago they'd be back page news simply for winning a game. 

17 - MARTIN'S MICHELSEN: After 36 years, a ruckman finally took out the Bendigo Football League's Michelsen Medal.

Sandhurst big man Tim Martin won the Michelsen when he polled 23 votes, becoming the first ruckman since Kyneton's Graham Clark in 1977 to take out the top honour.

Martin was a dominant force in the centre square and around the ground, with his Michelsen win a fitting reward and one for the big men of the BFL.

16 - NAVARRE - NOT CARISBROOK - WIN MCDFL FLAG: Take nothing away from Maryborough-Castlemaine District Football premier Navarre.

However, I still consider the fact Carisbrook - after winning all 16 home and away games by an average of 115 points and the qualifying final against Lexton by 132 points - didn't even make the grand final my sporting shock of the year.

Having said that, Navarre's 100-point grand final romp against Lexton was utter domination.

15 - PRINCES PARK DUG UP FOR GOLD: Of all the stories I've written for the Addy over the years, this one is the most bizarre.

Believe it or not - I certainly didn't at first - Maryborough's round three BFL game against Strathfieldsaye was at risk of being moved after Princes Park was dug up by a gold prospector.

The prospector - a 37-year-old man from Queensland - dug about 80 holes on the ground.

Not surprisingly, the prospector - who produced a Miner's Right when confronted by Central Goldfields Shire parks staff - didn't find any gold, and instead was issued with a $282 penalty notice for wilful property damage.

For the record, the game went ahead at Princes Park and the Storm thumped the Magpies by 74 points.

14 - LAST TO FIRST IN ONE SEASON FOR THE EMUS: What a remarkable turnaround it was for Emu Creek in the Emu Valley Cricket Association.

The Emus finished on the bottom of the ladder in the 2011-12 season after winning just three games.

But an active recruiting campaign paid the ultimate dividend when the Emus won the 2012-13 flag in March.

Twelve months after their wooden-spoon, the Emus defeated reigning premier Mandurang by four wickets in the grand final.

Led by Tim Hobbs (80), Brad Rowe (67), Anthony Collins (4-55) and captain Daniel Chamberlain (3-42), the Emus answered the Rangas 236 with 6-238 to cap a fairytale season.

13 - BENDIGO'S FLAG AT LAST: On the same day Emu Creek won its flag, another great sport story unfolded on the bowling green.

Bendigo won its first BBD division one pennant for 33 years in an epic grand final against Bendigo East.

Having lost its previous eight grand finals, Bendigo won 92-88 in what was a long overdue victory.

Snapper Jodie Donnellan's photos that appeared in the Addy of Bendigo skipper Andrew Brown celebrating what proved to be the match-winning shot captured the emotion spectacularly.

12 - BFL STAR POWER RAIDED: has the Bendigo Football League ever experienced the loss of such star power as what it has over the past 10 weeks?

At last count, 11 of this year's inter-league team has officially left the BFL, and that still doesn't include the likes of Darcy Richards, Mitch Hough, Darren Farrugia, Jake Ward, Ricky Symes, Rhys Ford, Matt O'Toole... the list goes on.

The exodus started on October 11 when Mount Pleasant fired the first major recruiting shot by luring Kain Robins and Matt Gretgrix from Eaglehawk.

And from there, it has been a domino effect of big-name departures, with the district league clubs now proving they can get star BFL players in their prime, rather than just in the twilight of their careers.

Surely, the BFL and its clubs are asking why such talent has left in one hit and not simply blaming money.

11 - CATS' TRIPLE TREAT: Lockington-Bamawm United enhanced its status as a district footy powerhouse with its third HDFL flag in a row.

The Cats pulled away from Huntly after half-time to win by 58 points, 15.13 (103) to 6.9 (45), in the grand final at Elmore.

Adrian Dohnt was a clear-cut winner of the best on ground medal for his sublime game for the Cats, who during their three premiership years have won 49 of 54 games.

To add to the party at Lockington, the Cats also won the reserves flag.

10 - STRATHDALE SHINES AGAIN: the Suns added another chapter to their Bendigo District Cricket Association dynasty with their third flag in a row against Eaglehawk in March.

In a grand final where the state of the QEO wicket was the biggest talking point, the Suns answered Eaglehawk's 100 with 7-149 before stumps were pulled early on day two.

The soft pitch was a nightmare to bat on day one and it was no surprise when Suns' captain Linton Jacobs bucked the trend and bowled first.

What followed was 16 wickets falling on day one for 185 runs, with the Suns' Ben DeAraugo the main benefactor with 6-55 in his third-straight grand final man-of-the-match performance.

But if DeAraugo had his way, he would have batted first. Not sure why.

Highlighting just how tough the conditions were for the batsmen, only four players made more than 20, with the Suns' Nick Baker's 35 n.o. the highest score.

9. BRILLIANT BRIDGY: the Loddon Valley Football League grand final between Bridgewater and Bears Lagoon-Serpentine in September was a beauty.

The Bears led by 27 points at quarter-time, before the Mean Machine kicked into gear and by the 10-minute mark of the last quarter were 35 points up.

But just as the game looked over, the Bears kicked the last four goals before Bridgewater clung on to win by eight points. 

In the end, Bridgewater's Alex Collins (seven goals) was the difference in what was the Mean Machine's fourth premiership in a row.

8. FAREWELL SHARELLE: the curtain came down on one of central Victoria's greatest sporting careers in July when Bamawm netballer Sharelle McMahon announced her retirement.

From humble beginnings on the netball court at Lockington Primary School, McMahon went on to play 118 games for Australia, win two Commonwealth Games gold medals and two world championship gold medals among a stellar career.

A superstar on the international netball stage, McMahon has never forgotten her central Victorian grassroots.

7. SIX WON'T GO INTO FIVE: there was intrigue all through the Bendigo Football League season as six sides jostled for the five spots in the finals.

Eaglehawk, Gisborne, Golden Square, Sandhurst, South Bendigo and Strathfieldsaye were the BFL's big six this year, but there was only room for five of them in September.

Four of these teams sat on top at some stage, including South Bendigo.

The Bloods occupied top position at the halfway mark of the season, but faded to end up being the team that missed the finals after losing by 103 points to Eaglehawk in the final round.

Such was the logjam heading into the last round, had the Bloods beaten Eaglehawk, they would have finished third, yet the loss ended their season.

While Strathfieldsaye finished six points clear at the top, just six points separated second to sixth.

To give that some context, over the previous 10 years there had been an average of 24 points separating second and sixth.

6. SELWOOD'S SUPER YEAR: how exciting was the Brownlow Medal night as Geelong's Joel Selwood went toe-to-tie with former team-mate Gary Ablett.

Selwood looked like joining Greg Williams as a Bendigo Brownlow Medal winner when he led the count until, on the final vote of the night, Gold Coast's Ablett polled three votes to pip Selwood by one vote.

Selwood may not have won the Brownlow, but how's this for a season of accolades - Geelong best and fairest, All-Australian captain, plus being voted best captain and most courageous in the AFL Players Association Awards.

5 - TIGERS LOSE THEIR ROAR: The jungle drums started beating last December that Kyneton was going to struggle to field a senior team in the Bendigo Football League this year following a mass exodus of players.

And despite the best efforts of the committee through January to find the numbers for a senior team, the decision was made on February 1 to withdraw from the senior competition.

A town the size of Kyneton and based between Bendigo and Melbourne not having the numbers to field a senior team - how did it get to that?

The common theme in the aftermath of the decision was "culture", while 10 years mired towards the bottom of the ladder didn't help either.

Hopefully, the decision is looked back on as the wake-up call the club needed and with Mark Adamson at the helm as coach, the Tigers head into 2014 with a fresh slate and renewed optimism.

4 - DELLY DRAFTED: Working for the Addy, I never thought I'd be covering NBA stories.

But thanks to the exploits of Maryborough's Matthew Dellavedova - a former Bendigo Brave junior - NBA coverage has become a regular in the Addy sports pages this year.

What a magnificent achievement by Dellavedova to earn a spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA roster in October.

And he did it the hard way. After he was overlooked in June's NBA Draft following a standout College career with St Mary's, he impressed for the Cavaliers' Summer League team and in eight pre-season games for the club to earn his spot.

Great effort Delly, but how will you go when you're on the floor against me and my Chicago Bulls in NBA 2K14 on the Xbox?

3 - SQUARE'S FANTASTIC FIVE: Those at the QEO on September 21 were witness to a phenomenal achievement as Golden Square became just the third team in BFL history to win at least five senior flags in a row. 

The Bulldogs kicked away from Strathfieldsaye in the second half of the grand final to win by 21 points, 14.18 (102) to 12.9 (81).

It wasn't decided by an after-the-siren kick like the previous year's BFL grand final, but it was an enthralling contest that was still up for grabs entering time-on of the final term.

It takes a team effort to win a grand final, but Nalder medallist Jack Geary's third quarter in the midfield for Square was as good a 30 minutes of footy I've seen from a player.

The question now is can Golden Square next year equal Sandhurst's BFL record of six flags in a row?

I reckon the Storm and Dragons may have something to say about that.

2 - ESSENDON SUPPLEMENTS SCANDAL: OK, so this isn't local, but when I look back on 2013, the sorry saga of the Bombers is what will immediately spring to mind.

You couldn't escape the story - which needs no introduction - once it broke on February 5 and even now is still on the front pages. 

The supplements scandal took the focus away from what was happening on-field and the game certainly lost some of its innocence because of it.

For us Bomber fans, it was the year from hell as the club we love continued to be shrouded in controversy and uncertainty, all of which it brought on itself with its "lack of governance". How many times did we hear that term this year?

But I'm sure you're sick of reading about it like me, so enough on that.

1 - SUPER SPIRIT SALUTES: Bendigo: national champions - it has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

In March, that's exactly what the Bendigo Spirit became when it won the WNBL championship with a 71-57 grand final win over the Townsville Fire at the Bendigo Stadium.

It's a mighty achievement considering just over 12 months earlier the Spirit were facing financial hardship and on the brink of going out of business, let alone the club was only in its sixth season or the fact Bendigo as a regional city is only a minnow compared to the rest of the WNBL's cities.

Well done Spirit - Bendigo's sporting story of the year.

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