THERE was a tremendous air of anticipation in the room at the All Seasons Quality Resort at the end of October last year.

Not only were 10 new people for the BFL’s Hall Of Fame to be inducted, but also the Team Of The Decade for 2000-2009 was to be unveiled.

Members of the BFL’s board of management were joined by players, umpires, club officials and family and friends of the potential inductees.

When Derrick Filo was named as not only the team’s centreman but additionally as its captain-coach he was acclaimed by everyone seated around the venue.

Filo has been involved in playing, coaching and as a regular interviewee in the media for three decades in central Victoria.

His time at Kyneton in the mid-1990s wasn’t under the microscope for this particular side, but his time at Kangaroo Flat and Eaglehawk certainly was.

With more than 400 games to his credit Filo not only took the Roos into the finals before leaving for Canterbury Park, but coached Eaglehawk’s Two Blues to two flags among four grand final appearances in the Noughties.

IMMEDIATELY it was announced, the term “star-studded” was applied to the side of 22 players who made up the Team Of The Decade.

Eighteen of the 22 were at the All Seasons in what Filo described as “a fantastic initiative by the league.”

“It was great to be picked in that side. There are great players in the team right across the board, so it was a big thrill to be part of it.

“You wouldn’t mind coaching a side like that. You’d be fairly confident you would be able to make the finals and do well.”

Around eight of the 22 will still be pulling on their club jumpers in 2011.

And three of them — Filo (Kyneton), half-forward and Team vice-captain Luke Saunders (Gisborne) and wingman Matt Aston (Maryborough) — are coaching their BFL clubs this year.

Aston was named as Maryborough senior coach less than three weeks after the All Seasons function.

A few other Team Of The Decade members such as John Hardinge, Brady Herdman, Jason Griffin and Kain Robins will be involved with clubs in and around Bendigo.

Rick Andrews is coaching Clunes in the Central Highlands League this year.

NO FEWER than seven members (who have taken home eight gongs between them) are Michelsen Medallists.

They include coach Filo (1991), Matt Aston (2002), Matthew Fitzgerald (2003, 2007), Simon Elsum (2004), vice-captain Luke Saunders (2005), centre half-back Kain Robins ((2006) and half-back Shannon Milward (2008).

Innumerable appearances in the Blue and Gold guernsey of Bendigo rank among their achievements while there’s no shortage of BFL premiership medallions among the trophy cabinets and drawers at home.

In the backline key defenders Malcolm Borchard and Kain Robins provide plenty of height. And Robins is such a mobile player he has filled positions as diverse as the wing and centre half-forward.

That’s the beauty of the Team Of The Decade for coach Filo. Gisborne’s premiership-winning coach and player Marcus Barham could be moved to centre half-back if needed.

Kieren Nihill, Rodney Sharp and Shannon Milward could be used closer to goal or, in Milward’s case, on the ball.

Sharp’s booming long kicks which break open the lines are another asset.

Wingmen Matt Aston and Mark Lloyd are similarly versatile. Aston played close to a best afield game for Bendigo against Bellarine in an inter-league game at Skilled Stadium.

He started as the permanent back pocket that day.

Lloyd has blistering pace and regularly carves up opposition defences with scything runs through centrefield.

THE forward line isn’t short of marking power.

With Ben Sexton, the two Steves  — Oliver and Reaper — and Simon Elsum, opposing backmen would face an enormous challenge in keeping the big men from marking anything which came their way.

Elsum has possibly the most prodigious leap seen in the BFL in recent years. He can soar from virtually one step to take a “hanger”.

Then there’s Two Blues 2010 skipper Brady Herdman who could be called on to bolster the front half. Long kicking is a prime asset of Herdman’s and he also takes a great mark. Crumbing small forward Darren Farrugia is without doubt the best in the league in his position.

I saw him manufacture four goals out of nothing in a beaten Gisborne side at Eaglehawk last year.

His ability to bounce through majors — a la Stephen Milne, Alan Didak or Stevie Johnson — is breath-taking.

Darren Walsh’s raking left footers could also be used from half-forward or from centrefield. He was a noted goal scorer for the Square and a courageous ball-winner in the front half.

And of course Team of the Decade vice-captain Luke Saunders is simply devastating. Burst leads and fingertip grabs, huge pack marks, goals bent around the corner:  all are just part of Saunders’ outstanding repertoire.

South’s 200-game player John Hardinge would lead the rucks superbly and with ball-winners Ollie Messaoudi, Matt Fitzgerald, Rick Andrews and Jason Griffin at ground level the Team Of The Decade would be well served at the centre breaks.

Team Of The Decade, 2000-2009:-

B: Kieren Nihill (Sh), Malcolm Borchard (Sh), Rodney Sharp (Gis).

Hb: Marcus Barham (Gis), Kain Robins (Eh), Shannon Milward (KF, Eh).

C: Matthew Aston (Mrb), Derrick Filo (c-c) (KF, Eh), Mark Lloyd (GS).

Hf: Simon Elsum (Kyn, Gis), Ben Sexton (Sh), Luke Saunders (v-c) (Gis).

F: Steven Oliver (Cm), Steven Reaper (Kyn, Gis), Darren Farrugia (Gis).

Foll: John Hardine (SB), Ollie Messaoudi (Gis), Matt Fitzgerald (Gis).

Inter: Darren Walsh (GS), Brady Herdman (Eh), Rick Andrews (Mrb, Sh), Jason Griffin (SB, GS).

LEGEND: Castlemaine (Cm), Eaglehawk (Eh), Golden Square (GS), Gisborne (Gis), Kyneton (Kyn), Kangaroo Flat (KF), Maryborough (Mrb), Sandhurst (Sh), South Bendigo (SB).

Richard’s tips for Round 7: Kangaroo Flat , Golden Square, Sandhurst (at Huntly), Strathfieldsaye, South Bendigo.

Progress tally: 22.

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