Berwick in the midst of greatness
By David Nagel
Berwick is in the midst of its greatest era of football after a ruthless 51-point victory over Narre Warren in the 2018 SEFNL Grand Final at Edwin Flack Reserve.
For just the second time in club history, the Wickers won back-to-back flags, joining the great teams of 1977-78.
And they became the first team from Berwick to win three premierships in four years, with Stewart Kemperman’s successes adding to Rhys Nisbet’s premiership of 2015.
The Wickers were completely dominant on grand final day, having 33 scoring shots to 12 on their way to an 8.25.73 to 2.10.22 triumph.
Travis Tuck, the son of Hawthorn-legend Michael, completed a strong first year at Berwick by winning the AFL Vic Country Best on Ground Medal.
Berwick president Glenn Gambetta was a proud man during the post-match celebrations.
“I hadn’t even thought about the three out of four to be honest, I’d only thought about the back to back, but that only further demonstrates a great period for our footy club,” Gambetta said.
“Last year was just pure relief after not losing a game all year, but this one I think we all got to enjoy a little bit more.”
Berwick had long-held the reputation as the sleeping giant of the competition before emerging from the ruck in 2015. The inclusion of some great players like Ash Smith, Michael Riseley, James Magner – and Tuck this year – and no doubt helped their cause, but Gambetta believes a more professional approach has infiltrated the club in recent times.
“We’ve just stepped things up a bit and tried to move with the times and become a professional football club,” he said.
“Just little things like financial management, sticking to budgets, strategic planning, those sorts of things just weren’t a high priority at any football club in the past.
“This is no disrespect to anyone, but we’ve got managers working for the football club now instead of people who just gave their all and wanted to work hard.”
Gambetta was quick to praise many members of the club, starting with Kemperman the coach.
“He’s a superstar, he’s disciplined, he’s strict, and he’s basically a kid in coaching terms with just two years of experience under his belt, “ Gambetta said.
“He’s still learning the caper. People say he’s been handed the keys to a Ferrari, but other clubs have Ferrari’s as well but you still need to know how to drive them.
“Stewart Kemperman has been a wonderful addition to this football club.”
And the players?
“I’m proud of them as footballers, but even more proud of them as people – they’re just ripper kids,” Gambetta said.
“It’s easy getting out of bed every day and putting in the hours that we do, to support the players, when they’re such good people. If they were all peanuts we wouldn’t do it. We have a no-peanut policy at the club and I just love this playing group.
“As I said before, their footballing prowess is one thing, but it’s the quality of people they are that sets them apart from the rest.”
The Gambetta family has a strong connection with the club, with Glenn’s mum Maxine and brother Darren ‘Carrots’ Gambetta both life members at Berwick. Carrots had the honour of presenting this year’s premiership cup.
“I was trying to think who could hand the cup out today if we won and my brother was made a life member of this club when he about 30 and has had a long association,” Glenn said.
“He had two knee reconstructions and probably missed five years of football, and would have been a 300-game player for the club given his years of dedication to the place.
“I had a tear in my eye when I saw him up there handing out the cup today. My mum was also made a life member in 1993, she was secretary and treasurer at the same time. Today is for people like that and there are plenty of similar stories floating around here as well.
“We’ve been blessed as a footy club to have so many great people walk through our doors.”
The premiership president wanted to sign off with a thank you.
“From a personal point of view I have to thank my wife Leah, she’s been such a great support and understands the sacrifices that all of our committee and hard-working volunteers have to make to be successful,” Gambetta said.
“To our committee, we’ve only got a committee of eight and we bat way above our average, they have been absolutely outstanding. We’ve got great support from the coterie group, the members on the coterie group have been fantastic, they have so much energy and passion and just love this footy club.
“Overall that’s the difference I think, we have great people and great volunteers that now run a very professional football club.
“It’s a great place to be a part of.”
2018 SEFNL GRAND FINAL SCOREBOARD
BERWICK 2.2 5.10 5.19 8.25.73
Narre Warren 0.5 1.5 2.7 2.10.22
Best on ground: Travis Tuck (Berwick)
Narre Warren 2.2 2.3 2.5 3.8.26
CRANBOURNE 1.0 6.2 6.4 8.4.52
Best on ground: Nick Darbyshire (Cranbourne)
BEACONSFIELD 3.2 4.3 7.5 10.8.68
Berwick 0.0 2.1 2.4 4.5.29
Best on ground: Cody Weightman (Beaconsfield)