Maddy Toms

SOUTH Mildura A Grade netball best and fairest Maddy Toms knows the side is in transition, but is excited for the future.

The captain, who turns 25 on Thursday, was handed the 2021 award over the weekend, with former South junior and returning player Mikaela Saunders the runner-up.

The mid-court star was one of only three players from the 2019 A Grade side still playing by the of the of the cancelled 2021 season.

Toms hopes more talented juniors coming through the ranks will put their hand up to play at the top level next year.

“It was a bit of a rebuilding year for us, I think from the last season we played there was only Demelza Henry, Georgia Chase and myself still part of the team, it was new look line up,” she said. “My sister Rhianna also got injured early in the season.

“Hopefully a few more girls will put their hands up to play A Grade next season, I’m not sure if we’ve got many recruits as yet, but we’ll work with the players we have on board.

“It was great to see a few girls play A Grade whose families have been part of the club for a while.

“Next year there will already be a few changes with Demelza retiring and Loretta Thompson taking a step back from coach. She’ll still be around with her daughters playing but it’s obviously sad we won’t have her on the bench with us.”

Toms, who represented Sunraysia in interleague netball in May against North Central, said the club was excited about the move to their new home at the Mildura Sporting Precinct in 2022.

“I don’t think the netball courts are finished yet but hopefully they will be for next year, it’s something we’re all really excited about,” she said.

“We’ll have a few functions during the summer there which will be good, and I know the footballers have been training there already.”

While it was a different A Grade side in 2021, Toms said some of the new additions have already made themselves at home.

“Brianna Scullino really stepped up this year after having mostly played B Grade, the Telfer girls, Lara and Sarah, were really important and Aimee Ryan as one of our new recruits slotted in well,” she said.

“It was great to have Mikayla Saudners come back to the club, and Morna Naquto who was part of our Under-17s has a really bright future.

“We’re still building that team dynamic but we’re excited about a new season.”

Story and photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily

Tyler Curtis

SOUTH Mildura ruckman Tyler Curtis hopes the addition of some bigger bodies can help propel the Bulldogs towards a Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) finals berth in 2022.

The 28-year-old, widely regarded as one of the best big men in the competition, won the club’s 2021 best-and-fairest award, with midfield recruit Jackson McEwen runner-up.

It marks back-to-back awards for Curtis, who also won in 2019, with the 2020 campaign cancelled due to COVID-19.

Curtis admitted it took some time to readjust to playing on-ball after spending most of the previous season up forward.

“After that it went pretty well, although it was probably a bit too much ruck time, which we’re trying to fix if we can get another ruckman into the team to help split that role,” he said.

“Being around the ball was good though. Having Matthew Min come into the side allowed me to play further up the ground.”

Curtis believes young forward Kevin McDonald can take a further step forward next campaign, while another forward-ruckman could help straighten their spine.

“We are probably still waiting on Kevvy Mac to come on a little bit more. When he has a good game he kicks five or six but when it’s not his day he doesn’t get a lot of it,” he said.

“He’s only 20 years old but in our team he’s probably got the highest potential because of his athleticism and height. He’s going to be a very good player.

“We have to patient with those guys. I think he’ll come along nicely next year.

“We also had a heavy reliance on Mitch Undy to help out in the ruck.”

Curtis said Undy hadn’t played a lot of football.

“He’s come from a basketball background. So having him come and do ruckwork is a pretty big ask.

“He’s very good as a centre half-back type of player because of his fitness, he can run with a centre half-forward.

“So that extra player could push him back up there and give us extra backline coverage. It would help us really build that spine a bit more.”

Under coach Ben Dalton, Curtis said there was plenty to be excited about at the kennel in 2022, including a new home at the Mildura Sporting Precinct.

“Everyone is pretty excited. It’s a big oval,” he said.

“Even a few blokes who I’ve spoken to from previous years have said they’re going to come back, even run around in the twos to help build that depth.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure on any recruits as yet, but we’ve been able to retain most of our players, especially the younger guys who are a year older with another 12 games under their belt.

“We’ll be pushing for finals, especially you’ll be turning 29 like me, finals are definitely the aim.”

Story and photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily

Dalton in charge of the kennel again

SOUTH Mildura Sporting Club coach Ben Dalton knows the field well.

When you’ve been brought up around football, and raised on the sidelines, it’s only natural.

“I was at local football every weekend from a baby,” the 28-year-old told Mildura Weekly recently.

“Coming from a sporting family who was heavily involved in our local club, and also being the youngest of four children, I started in Auskick at six years of age.”

Dalton, who was born and raised in Warrnambool, moved to Brisbane for five years for University, before returning back to his hometown, and then moving onto Mildura.

“I moved to Mildura from Warrnambool in June of 2019 with my wife Rachel to start our business F45 Training Mildura,” the personal trainer said.

Dalton played all of his junior football with South Warrnambool in the Hampden Football Netball Leauge and played his first senior game with the club at 17.

“When I was 19, I moved to Brisbane to play for Morningside in the NEAFL/QAFL for four years before returning back to my home club South Warrnambool in 2018,” he said.

“I missed season 2019 with moving to Mildura mid year, before signing with South Mildura.”

Dalton signed with South Mildura during the 2020 preseason, but with the season cancelled due to COVID, he didn’t play his first game with the club until Round One of 2021.

“There was a nice sentiment in coming to South Mildura from South Warrnambool,” he said.

“I joined South because I saw it as a club that I could have a real impact on.

“It was a great fit for me and where I was at that point in time of my football.

“I have been lucky enough to play in successful football sides, so I really wanted to be able to give back and pass on things I had learnt over my football career.

“I also was very welcomed by the playing group.

“The leaders of the club had started training at my gym, which made it really easy decision to go to South after they became great mates.”

Dalton plays off the half back line for the Bulldogs, believing it assists in controlling the structures of the team.

He said it is the best position for a playing coach as you can see the game unfolding.

“In previous seasons I would say my strengths would have been my attack and skill coming off the half back line,” he reflected.

“Now as a coach, my role has changed and it would now be more about leadership on the field, helping to set up team structure and communicating amongst the playing group.

“I think I have brought a fresh set of eyes to the club with different ideas.

“A big thing I have looked to implement at the club is lifting the standard each player holds themselves to; both on and off the field.”

Next season Dalton said he is looking forward to continuing to see the development in the group and improve on their 2021 season.

He said the club seen huge improvement from the list last season and they will continue to develop that so they are more competitive each week.

“We are looking forward to winning more games of football and getting South Mildura back playing finals football,” he added.

“We want to continue to bridge the gap between South Mildura and the best teams in the competition.

“I will always take team success over any individual performance so that will be my main focus for next season.”

Story & photo courtesy of Mildura Weekly

Round 14 – Done and Dusted


The Roos spoiled South Mildura’s going away party at Sarah Oval to record a 22-point victory over the Bulldogs to stay within a game of Mildura in fourth place.

It was a back and forth contest that was even at half time, and South holding an eight-point buffer at the final change, but a 6.2 to 1.2 final term allowed the visitors to run out 12.10 (82) to 9.6 (60) winners.

Roos coach Wade Hancock kicked four majors and big man Damon Tually finished with three, while Kaine Behr, Nick Jensen and Jack Cottrell were all impressive.

A season that started so brightly for South is now done as they have the bye next week.

A bright spot for them was young forward Kevin McDonald kicking five goals, while defenders Jayden Cogan, Ben Notting and Deklan Loveridge all rated a mention in their best players.

Story & photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily


Bye Bye Kennel

SOUTH Mildura Sporting Club president Kevin Burke admits it will be a bittersweet moment on Saturday when the final siren sounds on their Sarah Oval tenure.

The Bulldogs, who have called the Mildura Recreation Reserve No.3 Oval home since 1945, will be making the move to the new Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP) in 2022.

Their final home game on Saturday against Wentworth has been robbed of a capacity crowd under Victorian outdoor sports restrictions.

The match was meant to take place last week but was delayed with the most recent shutdown.

Sarah Oval has been the site of four senior Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) premierships since the end of World War II, and three A Grade netball flags since 1991.

Burke said it would be tough to say goodbye to the club’s home of 76 years, however they are looking forward to embracing a new era at the new purpose-built venue.

“We don’t get to play in front of our home crowd which is a bit disappointing, but in saying that we can only do what we can do under the circumstances,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to the move out to the precinct, everyone is pretty buoyant about it and obviously there have been some issues that have been documented but we’re working through them with council at the moment and we can’t wait to get out there.

“As a club we can see the direction we’re moving in with Ben Dalton as senior football coach and the future is looking good with some kids coming through.

“We’re looking forward to moving out to the precinct and starting a new era out there and hopefully we can garner some success.”

The Bulldogs’ senior football side sit fourth on the ladder, two points ahead of Mildura and six ahead of Wentworth, however this is their last home-and-away match as they have the bye next week.

Burke said the fate of the side was in their own hands against the Roos.

“We need to win against Wentworth to keep our finals hopes alive, and hopefully one of the other teams will do right thing by us and beat Mildura in one of the other games and we’ll be playing finals,” he said.

“There’s a couple of games we should have won and that’s put us in the position we’re in: hoping other teams lose.”

South Mildura will also be key promoters for the TAC Road Safety Round, which was scheduled to run three weeks ago before the latest round of COVID shutdowns.

“It’s important that we’re safe on the road and, like a lot of regional and country clubs and leagues, there’s a lot of travelling involved and we want to make sure the players and supporters who do travel, especially looking at clubs like Robinvale Euston and Ouyen United who travel most weeks, get home safe to their families,” Burke said.

Story & photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily

Round 13 – Dees close gap on Dogs

THE clash between South Mildura and Mildura was much anticipated as both teams continue to harbour finals aspirations.

To the uninitiated, a South win at home would have been a logical pre-game tip. Those that studied the form more deeply would have recognised the Dogs have struggled to replicate their early season form and Mildura have played some great team football of late.

However, even the most ardent Demons punter would not have expected a dominant Mildura display that would see them run out 43-point winners.

Mildura showed from the outset that they were willing to hunt the ball in numbers and then once in possession were prepared to share the ball with precise use.

Marcus Healy was instrumental as the lead-up half-forward providing the link that enabled a plentiful supply of forward-50 entries and while the final connection was not always clean, the supply meant Mildura looked more capable in the forward half.

South Mildura, by comparison, struggled to string enough clean possessions together that allowed their forwards the opportunity to compete one-out. More often the Dogs were sloppy and indecisive by foot and regularly turned the ball over.

Mildura have shown since the enforced break that they are prepared to work as a unit. A team-defence attitude mixed with an ability to share the ball and an understanding of when to pull the trigger and take the game on have them playing an attractive brand of football.

Reflective of the team-defence mentality was the fact the Demons were able to keep South Mildura to just one goal per quarter for the first three terms. The key to this was not only the cohesion of Mildura’s back six but the pressure the midfield was able to put on the Dogs players when they were in possession.

The ruck duel was intriguing. South Mildura’s Tyler Curtis has been one of the in-form big men in the competition, but he did not have it all his way against Mark Whitehead, who made his senior debut for Mildura. Curtis probably took the honours in this battle, but Mildura would have seen enough in Whitehead to suggest he will be a serviceable acquisition as they strive for a top-four spot.

While South may have marginally held the advantage in the ruck, they were well beaten through the midfield.

Mildura had many contributors. Ben Camilleri worked hard and hit the scoreboard, finishing with three goals. Josh Dean was strong around the packs and provided fellow onballers in Carmelo Lando and Zac Nelson with first use which supplied the forward line with their opportunities. Nine separate goal-scorers demonstrated Mildura had enough winners forward of the ball to capitalise on the chances.

South Mildura were disappointed with the loss as it means they now have a fight on their hands to retain their top-four spot.

South’s coach Ben Dalton said after the game: “We let ourselves down, didn’t execute our skills and turned the ball over at bad times and in bad areas.”

Dalton also noted that 11 different players took the field in this encounter as opposed to the round 4 clash when they defeated the Demons, and this turnover in personnel had exposed their depth.

By contrast, Mildura were very even across the board and, with recent inclusions, have added to their depth.

Post-game, Mildura co-coach Ilario Cavallo said: “This is the first time in a long time we have had 22 contributors, everyone played their role.”

MILDURA 13.14 (92)



Mildura: B. Camilleri 3, J. Bower, A. Matthews 2, C. Lando, B. Rowles, A. Spencer, M. Healy, C. Kiel, B. Christodoulou.

South Mildura: P. Minniti, M. Min 2, T. Curtis, A. Gauci, B. Dalton.


Mildura: B. Camilleri, J. Dean, C. Lando, K. Dawson, M. Healy, Z. Nelson.

South Mildura: T. Stevens, T. Curtis, J. Cogan, D. Loveridge, N. Nolan, D. Scheele.


MILDURA are making a beeline for South Mildura’s top four position in the run home to the SFNL finals.

The Demons did the job against the Bulldogs at Sarah Oval today to the tune of 43 points, 13.14.92 to 7.7.49.

While the Dees come up against heavyweights Imperials and Irymple in their next two matches, they have bridged the gap between themselves and South to just two points.

Utility man Ben Camilleri kicked three goals in an impressive display, while experienced on ballers Josh Dean and Kane Dawson led the charge for Mildura

South young gun Taj Stevens and ruckman Tyler Curtis put in good stints for the home side, as did defender Jayden Cogan.

Hayden “Cooks” up 300 games

SOUTH Mildura Sporting Club (SMSC) veteran Hayden Cook says getting to his 300th club game this weekend is an “absolute privilege”.

Cook says it was “ending up at a training session in 2002 and never leaving” that has seen his longevity and loyalty to SMSC span almost 20 years.

“There were a few connections between South and my previous club at Loxton North,” Cook said.

“Through those networks, I ended up at a South training session and never left.

“Very few of the original players are still around but Denny Fox, who I played with then and over the years, is pulling the boots back on to take the field this weekend with me.”

After eight seasons with Loxton North, Cook made the permanent move to Mildura in 2002 and the rest is history.

“I have played 16 or 17 seasons in the seniors, and am into my fourth season in the reserves,” he says.

“We played in a few finals over the years, but didn’t have any luck with winning a flag in the seniors.

“But in 2018, it was great to get hold of an unexpected premiership in the reserves.

“I’ve had a great football journey at South Mildura and luckily I have had very few injuries.”

When it comes to memories that stick in his mind, Cook says breaking the South Mildura senior club record tops the list.

“It was a real honour to play the game where I broke the South Mildura senior club record,” he recalls.

“It was my 224th game, we lost by seven points against Mildura at Mildura but it was a special game nonetheless.

“I’m sure this record will get broken by some of the younger players coming through, like Dom Scullino, who has been playing senior football from an early age. It will be great for the club to have some more milestone players.”

But Cook admits not all of his football memories are pleasant.

“I have had many inspirational coaches over the years at South, probably 10 or so,” he says.

“But Tony Berry was the toughest.

“I remember we lost a game over at No.1 Oval. I don’t even think it was by much, but he made us train for an hour afterwards in the dark over at No. 3 Oval – I’m sure we won the following week,” he said with a laugh.

Cook says the aim was now to play next season with his son.

“I would like to think that I could possibly play with my son next year but we will see how things unfold,” he said.

“Otherwise, I will enjoy to continue to be involved with the club after I finish playing and help out with the juniors.

“It’s good to be involved in a sporting community – there are many families that we have become very close to over the years.

“All of the kids grew up together around the club and now the kids are involved playing and it’s enjoyable watching them develop their love for sport.

“It’s been a privilege to be able to play all these games and I’m looking forward to playing my 300th at home.”

Story and photos courtesy of Sunraysia Daily


Henry sees end of the playing line

AFTER more than 20 years in blue and white, South Mildura’s Demalza Henry says she’s ready to wrap up her netball career and take a step back.

The three-time premiership club legend, who will play her 250th A Grade game on July 10 against Mildura, says she’s been lucky to escape serious injury on the court and will see out the 2021 season before wrapping up her impressive netball career.

“I started with South in 1998 and initially started off as a goalie, but in my first few years with the club I sort of played anywhere because we didn’t really have a lot of numbers,” Henry said.

“I pretty much played wherever I was needed, mainly as a goalie right up until we won our first premiership (2009), then I changed to the wing and have stayed there since,”

Henry attributes her longevity to remaining “relatively injury-free”.

“It’s a long time retired, so I figured I’ll continue to play while I can … but I’m definitely looking at this being my last year,” Henry says.

“Both my husband (Mildura Heat playing coach Calvin Henry) and I are playing basketball, and we’ve both said this will be out last year in sport.

“I think it’s time for the younger ones to make their way through and give them a chance.”

Henry admits the juggling act between sporting commitments, work and family isn’t always easy.

“The older kids are good, they can pretty much look after themselves,” she said with a laugh.

“Both older girls play netball, so they help us out when I’m playing, looking after their younger sister, and they all just sort of follow us wherever they go … to trainings and games.

“Thursdays in our house are pretty full-on, with Calvin and I both training and me going straight from basketball to netball training.

“Calvin does the daycare pick up of our youngest, then we meet and do a swap-over. We’ve got the schedule pretty down-pat.”

Henry says the flexibility offered by South has been a contributing factor to her returning for the 2021 season.

“Because I’ve been at the club for so long, they were willing to be that bit more flexible and try and work in with my schedule, which is great and really supportive,” she says.

“When you’ve been a part of a club this long you really do build those life-long relationships and friendships and they end up being your family in a way.

“Both my basketball and netball coaches and teammates have been so supportive and flexible for me to do both (sports).”

Speaking about her most memorable moments, Henry says interleague games and winning premierships are at the top.

“Getting to play with all the girls who are normally your opposition is always a highlight, these are the best girls in the league and so that’s always memorable,” she says.

“The younger ones coming through now definitely show a different style of game to what we used to play, so that’s good.

“The game goes through those phases where it changes and it’s nice to be able to be a part of that progression.

“We’ve got some talented young girls coming through the ranks, but for me, the rest of the season will be us plugging away, hopefully making that finals position.”

Story and photo courtesy of Sunraysia Daily

Round 12 – Bulldogs survive late scare

SOUTH Mildura coach Ben Dalton’s three-quarter time address was all about finishing off the job and building percentage to ensure the Bulldogs could strengthen their hold on a top-four spot.

But he forgot to tell Robinvale Euston about those plans, as the Eagles found new life in the final quarter to almost pull off an unlikely victory at John James Oval.

The Eagles piled on the last five goals to cut a 33-point margin to just three points, and with the ball in their forward line as the siren went.

Dalton, however, was still happy that the hard work by his troops early was enough to bank the four points.

“A win’s a win, and you’ve got to win ugly sometimes. That’s the important part of starting a game well.” Dalton said.

“Each team had times where their momentum swung their way, and with a three to four-goal breeze going across the ground we probably utilised that better earlier in the game to put ourselves in a position to win.

“It was nice to hold on and get the four points.”

Fears that losing gun recruit Matthew Spencely back to Waikerie would hinder the Bulldogs’ finals hopes appear to be diminished, with Dalton entrusting local talent to fill the void.

“The biggest improvement has come from the blokes already at the club who have gone through the hard times, with Nathan Nolan, Jayden Cogan, Deklan Loveridge, Tyler Curtis and (the injured) Dom Scullino all playing career-best football,” Dalton said.

“They’re probably the ones who have driven (the rise up the ladder) this year as well.”

Cogan’s phenomenal work to nullify Ricardo Liparota’s scoreboard impact was crucial in helping South Mildura build their buffer; so much so that Liparota was moved into the midfield in the final quarter.

While not throwing in the towel was a major positive, Eagles assistant coach Vince Iudica echoed the heartbreak and disappointment of the group, lamenting what might have been if earlier turnovers and scoring inaccuracies did not occur.

“We didn’t take the opportunities early on, we missed a lot of goals clearly right in front, and we turned the ball over out of our back half a couple of times.” Iudica said.

“You add all that up, there’s probably anywhere from three to six goals that we’ve either leaked or we haven’t kicked that we should have.

“That forces you to chase backsides all day, and although it was good that the boys didn’t put the cue in the rack and we finished with a wet sail, not too many teams are good enough to continually miss open shots at goal and then recover from it.

“It leaves you with that thing where ‘oh, we just missed’, which put ourselves in a horrible position.”

Iudica sang the praises of reserves ruck turned seniors full back Noah Foster, who was superb in shutting down Bulldogs spearhead Matthew Min.

Min’s two goals did not come from any one-on-one contests with Foster, and it was the first time he has failed to kick three or more in a game since round 1.

“Noah’s has had a fantastic past month for us,” Iudica said.

“He’s played on the best forward every week, and you’ll be lucky to find if he’s had five goals kicked on him in that time.

“We think we’ve found someone in him, and he’s our gem in the rough, because five weeks ago he wasn’t in contention of playing seniors.”

SOUTH MILDURA 10.11 (71)



South Mildura: K. McDonald 3, M. Fitzgerald, M. Min, N. Fitzgerald 2, J. McEwen.

Robinvale Euston: J. Mezzatesta, M. Bowden 2, M. Zappia, J. Neyland, P. Kuma, J. Calvert, E. Gill.


South Mildura: J. Cogan, T. Curtis, N. Fitzgerald, N. Nolan, D. Loveridge, L. Wood.

Robinvale Euston: N. Foster, J. Neyland, J. Mezzatesta, M. Zappia, J. Calvert, R. Middlebrook.

Story & photos courtesy of Sunraysia Daily


Round 10

IRYMPLE 24.16 (160)



IRYMPLE: N. Pezzaniti 11, M. Roads 4, C. Mensch 3, J. Healy, M. Christensen 2, B. Phipps, D. Coghlan.

SOUTH MILDURA: M. Min 3, T. Curtis, A. Gauci, K. McDonald.


IRYMPLE: N. Pezzaniti, M. Christensen, M. Roads, P. Power, D. Coghlan, B. Phipps, J. Tulloch.

Despite trailing by 63 at half-time, South came out of the blocks and only lost the third term by a point, however Mee made it a point to his troops at the huddle that they couldn’t be complacent and reminded them of their expectations.

The result? A 10 goal to one final-quarter blitz that dealt a body blow to the Bulldogs’ percentage.

“We had a little lapse in the third quarter,” Mee said. “Well, it probably wasn’t really a lapse, we’ve just got expectations on ourselves to be better and we were able to come out in that fourth quarter and put the foot on the throat.”

It was a dirty day for the Bulldogs who were missing a number of their key players, with Nathan Nolan, Haydn Kiel and Dom Scullino among them.

Min finished with three majors from few opportunities and Tyler Curtis was clearly their best player in trying circumstances.


Story and photos courtesy of Sunraysia Daily