Local Footy: Berry leads Victorian teammates on merry dance

The Australian Country Football Championships can be a serious affair. Over the first two days, the seven teams play six games of 17-minute halves. After a day’s rest, a full-scale game is held between the top two teams to decide the winner.

This year’s championships were in Canberra. The Victorian major-league team (there was also a Victorian team comprised of players from the minor leagues) had a policy of no drinking until the carnival was over.

Amid such demands, you need some levity. Justin Berry was the player to provide the levity in Victoria’s major-league team.

Berry once competed with Stephen Milne to be the small forward at St Kilda. Milne got the nod and Berry was delisted after the season.

Berry went on to play 100 VFL games with Frankston before returning this season to his home club, Cranbourne. And he loves it. Cranbourne is sailing along on top of the ladder in the Casey Cardinia division of the Mornington Peninsula league.

Berry’s general joy was heightened early last week when his girlfriend Rachael (subs OK) said yes to his proposal. A few days later, he received approval on the sale of a house.

By the time the country championships started last Thursday, Berry was flying. On bus trips to and from venues, the 29-year-old sang along with various songs on the radio. A couple of times, he broke into a dance.

Berry yesterday took a break from his task of concreting steps at a school to answer a few questions. “I’m a bit of a class clown,” he said.

The Victorians struggled to play with cohesion on the first day of the championships; their three games included a loss to the ACT. On the second day they clicked.

The match to decide the championships winner was between Victoria’s major-league team and South Australia at Manuka Oval. Berry started in attack and kicked the first goal. He later went into the midfield. His final goal tally was three.

“I missed a few, too,” he said. “I should have kicked five or six.”

Victoria defeated the Croweaters by 85 points. In being named Victoria’s second best player, Berry enhanced his reputation as a big-game performer.

“I don’t what it is,” he said. “On big occasions, I just seem to play better, to play … big.”

Victoria’s strength was its evenness. The coach, Hawthorn great Peter Knights, and his selectors named Corowa-Rutherglen midfielder David Clark as the best player in the final match. The umpires voted for Redan midfielder Jarrod Edwards.

Guy Campbell, a centre half-back from Rochester, was named Victoria’s best player over the carnival, while captain Joe McLaren, a former St Kilda and North Melbourne player, was praised for his leadership.

McLaren, 32, is the playing-coach at Koroit. A Koroit teammate, Simon O’Keefe, was named on a wing in the All-Australian team.

Eight Victorian major-league players, including Berry, were named in the All-Australian team. One player from Victoria’s district-league team, Kalkee midfielder Steve Schultz, also made the team.

On Sunday night, Berry was in the thick of the action as the Victorians celebrated their victory. Everyone was dancing with him.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Daff – I hope you punched the Age sub-editor responsible for the heading over your article in Wednesday’s Age. This one is a lot more digestible.

  2. Richard Jones says

    AND Grant ‘Weeka” Weeks, the 21-year-old wheat farmer from Colbo, snagged 17 goals in the carnival and was therefore named at FF in the All-Aust. team.

    He got 5 in the 23.15 to 9.12 grand final win over the Crow Eaters.

    Another one from country footy for u Daff. The Bendigo FL has fired up the Hall of Fame and Team of the Decade celebrations for the end of October this year.

    For the HoF induction, it will mark the 3rd group of people to get the BFL nod. This time the group could include coaches, administrators, umpires and even media people as well as players!
    It’s all part of the Bendigo FL’s 130 celebrations (1880-2010).

  3. Can’t be much of a comp Daff.

    I didn’t notice any mention of Tassy teams.

  4. Rocket Rod Gillett says

    Good to see Koroit’s Simon O’Keefe mentioned in despathches.

    He won the Kelvin Templeton medal for best afield in the 2008-09 Middle East AFL GF when playing for the Muscat Magpies. He was ostensibly in Oman for a training program…Brilliant player, exquisite skills. A delight to watch.

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