Melbourne FC ended the AFL’s longest premiership drought last Saturday, beating the Western Bulldogs by 74 points to win the 2021 AFL Grand Final.
Four of the 23-man-squad were once young South Metro Junior Football League (SMFJL) players who would close their eyes and imagine the feeling of one day holding the premiership cup.
Last Saturday evening these boys were the envy of the AFL world.
They stood proud on the premiership stage, grins on their faces and tears dripping down their cheeks as they rejoiced their victory and held tight onto that premiership cup.
Angus Brayshaw was once a dedicated Hampton Rovers gun who played 54 games as well as featuring in multiple interleague games during his time with the SMJFL.
Brayshaw was a key component in the Dees third quarter comeback. In this quarter alone Brayshaw had nine disposals and a courageous diving mark followed by a textbook goal taken from a difficult angle.
Brayshaw was hardworking throughout the game, even though he didn’t have a huge impact early on and this showed in his second half efforts.
Brayshaw finished the game with 25 disposals, 413 meters gained and played a huge role all season to get Melbourne to victory.
Alongside the former mentioned Brayshaw, Christian Salem was a goal machine for the Hampton Rovers as a junior. Between the ages of 13 and 15, Salem scored a massive 101 goals in just 29 games at SMJFL level.
Salem was also one of the seven Demons named in the initial 40-man AFL All Australian Squad.
In the biggest game of Salem’s football career he showed up and had a huge first quarter. Stacking up a cool nine disposals, five inside 50s, four intercepts, three tackles and 100 per cent kicking efficiency.
Salem showed why he was a first round pick in the 2013 AFL Draft, proving himself to be damaging in his half-back flank position.
Salem finished the game with 27 disposals, 22 of them kicks, and gained his team 639 meters.
While the defender seemed to drop off a little towards the end of the game, he finished strong with a late goal.
Salem was among Melbourne’s best overall performers in season 2021.
Ruckman Max Gawn has become Melbourne’s first premiership captain since Ron Barassi in 1964.
Standing at 6’8 ft tall, Max Gawn is currently the best ruckman in the competition and was named All Australian captain this season following another tremendous year.
Gawn played his junior football with the Ormond Monders and has shown his fondness to his junior side by previously coaching the Under 16 Division 2 sides.
While Gawn’s Grand Final performance fell short of his iconic preliminary final, his effort and support for his teammates never failed.
After a very controversial call was made in the second quarter denying Gawn a goal, Melbourne’s captain seemed a bit off.
Still, Gawn stood strong, with 21 disposals and had 13 hit-outs to advantage. He also showed up in both the forward line and backline to give Melbourne a marking presence.
After the game concluded Gawn was all class when walked up to the podium to accept the premiership cup.
Gawn turned his attention to the locked down fans in the eastern states.
“Everyone we left back home, families, friends. Everyone in the eastern states who supports the Melbourne Football Club, this is for you,” he said.
“After 57 years of pain, it’s coming home,” he finished off.
Debuting in round 20 of this season, 19-year-old Jake Bowey had only played six AFL games, each one of them ending with a win, before celebrating a Grand Final victory.
Bowey comes from a proud footballing family, winning multiple premierships with the Highett Bulldogs during his SMJFL career and was coached by Jake’s father, former St Kilda FC player Brett “Bowser” Bowey.
Bowey showed that he deserved his medallion. He totaled 17 disposals and was involved in multiple vital plays down back, he played his medium defender role well.
Bowey’s AFL future looks very bright, and he is definitely one to keep an eye on.
The SMJFL congratulates Angus, Christian, Max and Jake on their well-deserved championship. These stars have proved themselves as role models of the sport – going from SMJFL juniors to AFL victors.
Photo: Getty Images
To read more about these previous SMJFL stars and their teammates click here.