Highlands FM football journey - over 7000 words!

Highlands FM football journey - over 7000 words!
"Jason Williams, this is your moment!!" The catch cry from yours truly as the talented legend sent through the winning goal to hand Diggers Rest their first Senior premiership in more than 20 years. That's the one thing I've loved most about broadcasting football on radio, living in that moment and with the emotion that comes with that moment.
I said to Jase after the game that his moment, was my greatest emotional moment on radio.. knowing his story, everything that he had endured to get to that kick, and having the outmost respect and admiration for someone like him, and living that moment with the headset on, red button that symbolically says 'LIVE', taking that momentary pause and delivering that one line as though you're in the crowd chanting 'Yes!!!!!!!!"
Since I was nine years-old, all I wanted to do was get into football media. I was the kid that spent Saturday afternoons with the Herald Sun in one hand, watching VFL on ABC and listening to the match of the day on 3AW.. this was my Saturday for many years until I got involved in Senior football doing the scoreboard at home games at the GGO.
I was the kid/teenager that kicked socks in the hall way, commentating games and then outside, kicking the ball around, using stats.. creating moments in my games, dictated by the bounce of the ball or the shot on goal.
In 2006, suggestions were made about calling games at Gardiner Reserve in Gisborne on Highlands FM, it was a pipe dream. In 2007, I had my heart broken on RDFNL Grand Final day when my co-trainer at Woodend/Hesket hired a few masseurs to take on some of the tasks with our Senior and Under 18.5s teams winning premierships, it was still heart break, the same sort of feeling I had as an Under 14s player, not being selected in the Grand Final team that won the premiership. The funny story with that was I and Nathan Stephens were left out of that squad. Just two years ago, I won the award for Unsung Hero in the RDFNL and Stevo won the league best and fairest in the Reserves on the same night at the league best and fairest awards, so life has a way of working out.
Seany Hume and I attempted to record a commentary of the Senior RDFNL prelim final in 2008 at Romsey. It didn't go as we planned. J and I followed up at the Grand Final the following week and the laptop kept letting us down for the recording. We didn't have much luck. James Petran kicked a left foot banana from the boundary line and had seven goals on the board to guide Riddell to a big win over Diggers Rest. That goal spurred me on to want to call goals like that on radio.
So we decided to make a fist of it the following year. I was still a trainer at Woodend/Hesket, but the demons of 2007 still haunted me, my heart wasn't in it. With the help of Gary 'The Magician' Mathews, Kevin 'KD' Dwyer (rest in peace old friend), J and I formed a team with Wally as head commentator and we made a play to broadcast round one at Tony Clarke Reserve, Macedon v Woodend/Hesket.
KD showed me the power of football radio, based on previous experience. He kicked a handful of businesses, and we went out to the Woodend community, returned in less than an hour and we had $150 for one game. It was effortless.
The day of the call was awesome. I was a trainer for the Hawks in the 18s, packed up and kitted out for radio preparations. It set the trend early that unless I was calling the game, I would generally take one hat off, and put another on, and this was round one 2009. Things didn't change for eight seasons.
I regretfully tossed in the trainer's gig at the Hawks and took up Saturday umpiring. With short numbers, I umpired in the Under 18.5s and Reserves.
We picked a great year to start broadcasting as the RDFNL played off in Interleague action against Southern Football League at Macedon. With connections at Sunbury 3NRG FM, we joined forces and then teamed up with Southern FM. We had three radio stations broadcasting a range that could reach as far as Bendigo and at least as far south as Cranbourne across all three stations. This was history in the making, and thanks to KD's "Just do it" attitude, I had the pleasure of planting the seed and drive it. If there is a game that has been broadcast together by three radio stations, and online that isn't the AFL, I'd love to hear it.
We teamed up with Rohan 'Ro-Dog' from Southern FM, a great man who tragically took his life this year. You meet great people in football, and he was one of them.
We broadcast a few games on and off during the home and away season, just to test ourselves.
We asked clubs to nominate guys wanting to have a crack at radio to do special comments and play by play. Guys like James House, Rhys Hannan (Scarborough medalist) and Luke Dowling were guys that helped out, and all are still mates to this day because of that involvement.
We did a game at Woodend, the hosts taking on Romsey. Just by chance, a few days earlier, Gary Moorcroft was confirmed to play for the Redbacks and we had the game. Gazz kicked three goals in the first quarter on Jesse Sheppard and finished with 8.6 for the game as the Redbacks enjoyed a win. There is only one other game that I can remember off the bat of an exact total of a player in a part of the game, and that comes later.
We spent a lot of time with Lancefield, and that set us up for Grand Final day. As the cards fell, Lancefield played a home Grand Final. We had a truck on centre wing. Future AFL boundary umpire Jordan Andrews was our star guest in his final time in Riddell umpire colours.
You never forget your first Grand Final like you don't forget your first kiss.. I remember both, well. The Grand Final had Romsey sprint out to a six goal lead and Lancefield came back to win a memorable game by 13-points. Phil Conway kicked the most important goal of the day for the Tigers.
Lancefield held a premiership celebration in the rooms that day, and as team Highlands FM, granted access into the rooms for free drinks, food and celebrations. I asked to borrow the cup from Leigh Erwin so we could take a pic with it.. it was special.
We did more trials in 2010 and my role was a tough one. I'd always wanted to do play by play, but we had good play by play guys in Wally and EJ, so I booked them to do that while I focused on special comments. I didn't realise it at the time, but I learned the art of team building, producing and leading a team, observing and getting an understanding of what makes a radio broadcast good, and how to make it better. As play by play, it's hard to focus outside of what was going on away from the ball. I built those skills and in order to do that, had to think off my feet a lot more and build relationships with those around the game.
I remember very little of 2010, a year of trials. We looked at not broadcasting on the phone line, and using the internet.
Across both trial years, I earned the credit of being able to do it all, and getting a say in things. When Brian Collins was umpire's coach at the time, I'd tell him we were broadcasting on a specific weekend. I was running doubles (field umpire in the Under 18.5s and Reserves) and scored a deal that at three-quarter-time of the Reserves, I'd run off the ground and tag in one of the Senior umpires who would run the final term for me. I was 22-23 at the time, and was running doubles because the umpire association was short on numbers. Almost organically, we promoted the RUA (Riddell Umpires Association) as a credit to that.
I'd be changed and ready to jump behind the microphone just after the 1.30pm start on Highlands FM. They were good times.
One famous occasion in 2010 was when I forgot the roof of the marquee at Riddell and the weather wasn't looking good. The phone line was ready to go, the broadcast was promoted. I had a wagon.
We had someone in the studio at the time, and this day it was Nick. During the cross back to the studio, Nick uttered the famous line, "This is country footy at its finest, the boys are broadcasting out of the back of a station wagon." I think I've seen it all in footy now, and this reminds me of Wally and I with the hand held mics, gear in the back seat, holding up the boot door with one hand as the hydraulics were buggered, and calling a game of football. Again, I've seen it all.
We broadcast that year's Grand Final, Riddell v Diggers Rest, again. This along with the 2014 Grand Final, were the worst ones I've been involved in calling. They were like the Hawthorn v Freo game, a premiership was won but nothing specifically stands out. Romsey won 2011 by less than a kick, Chris Meacham kicked Sunbury Kangaroos over the line on the siren in 2012, Riddell held off Diggers Rest in a close one in 2013, Jason Williams kicked a bag in the last quarter as Diggers fell short of Romsey in 2015 and this year, the extra-time.
In 2010, we returned the favour with Interleague by heading down to Melbourne to join Southern FM. J and I joined the boys on a big scafold on the wing. If you touched it, you got zapped. Southern won the game. Many RDFNL players pulled out, half the team was Diggers Rest. That's all I remember.
As we go through memory lane, 2011 was a major one in my life. We committed to broadcasting each and every week. We had the gear that was tested, more head set combos and the relationships with the clubs.
Most importantly, Highlands FM was drowning on and off the field. All through our quest for broadcasting matches, we were met by major naysayers behind the scenes. Horrible people who kept shooting us down, and we kept butting heads. One day, Nick went into a meeting with these people in attendance and gave them all a blast. I wasn't in the room, I didn't want to be.
Whether it was personalities, or dislike of football or both, for a community group, who had no live programs on Saturday afternoons anyway, our group of KD, Gaz, Pete and a few others, had to fight like never before in order to broadcast. We had one soulless prick, Daniel Anderson, who sat down during a Grand Final broadcast and took note of all the on-air sponsorship taggings that we didn't do right, and dobbed the station in to the governing body. This was never proven to be Dan officially, and his denial was the only contribution that indicated he was not guilty. The rest said it was.
So 2011, I sat in a meeting at KD's house, and he finished off by saying that football saved the station. We signed on with the RDFNL on a contract that with the help of grants, pulled the station out of debt and it's most certain closure and we were set.
Jess and I started going out in January that year. I reminded her that from April to the start of October, I'd be lost to football every weekend. She hasn't known of a life without me otherwise.
Wally, J and EJ had other commitments, so KD helped me build a team. Doug McIver and Ken Helmore formed that team with me. We had no play by play guy, and I had no choice but to step it up. I stopped umpiring Reserves football for memory and stuck with the 18s, dictating where I went during Michael O'Keeffe's first year as Senior coach. I had made an effort to push for Seniors the year before, getting one Senior game, but I chose calling Senior footy on radio over aspirations to umpire it from 2011, Mok's first year as coach. So I was never coached by him.
Round one was the Grand Final rematch of 2010, at Riddell. The Bombers won by 63-points, I came off a little rusty, but not put off. Jess wasn't at the game.
Round two 2011 was a game where no-one will ever forget. Jess decided to come along. Macedon challenged the reigning premiers, they even led by two points in the third term, they were in front when the game ended in the third term. Jess was being taught by KD to do some boundary riding. The pair were on the fence, metres from Riddell's Matt Sammut breaking his leg in two places, ending the game right there. Jess hearing the snap and commenting from close by, as we waited for a verdict. The ironic thing is, when the two teams met at Macedon the following year, Macedon won that game by two-points, how bizarre.
With a new team and new weekly commitment, I had goals for our team. Unless we had a function to immediately rush off to, as a radio team, we must go in to the rooms after the game to have at least one drink after we packed up. I absolutely stuck by this and did it every week. This meant that we could drink together, meet the players, coaches, who ever. We spent four hours working together, the least we could do is have a drink and enjoy each other's company in a non-working capacity.
This was a benefit early as we started doing lots of Romsey games. Mark Pederson took on the gig as coach of Romsey, one of the best people you'll meet in football. Someone very special. He welcomed our station in to the RDFNL world like no-one else did. He spent lots of time with Jess and gave her a great introduction into the football world. She came most weeks until the last few years which I loved, but it showed that if I bought anyone into the radio system, they were given great respect, that could have been because of the culture or the radio brand or both.
The other was community involvement. If there was a special guest at the club, regardless of their background, we had to get them on the mic. Still, my favourite interview was with one of the Australian's of the Year winners, Pat McGorry at Macedon. I knew his name and he had a book. I didn't know about his award or anything like that, but when the mic was off after the chat, we were mates. It was good radio and a good experience as a journalist to explore the journey.
We originally focused on interviewing both coaches after the game, where they’d get the tap on the shoulder and be asked to come over to us. It was a good chance to get to know the coaches. Mark used to bring his assistant coaches along, it gave them a voice and a chance for us to get to know them.
During the years, we faced some interesting obstacles. We had games set in place that had venue changes. My favourite one was when a Woodend/Hesket Macedon game was moved to Trentham. Chris Fleming didn't want to come out and take pics, so Gaz went from Tech Guy to photography guy.
He disappeared for five minutes to get a hot-dog. In that time, a fight had broken out in front of us. It almost joined us in the marquee. If Gaz was there with the camera, he would have got the best photos. It prompted a line from the broadcast team that we have been reminded of ever since, "It's on for young and old, we're not supposed to endorse these actions, but geez, we love it!". I remember the fight more because Gaz wasn't there, and that makes the story. It’s still one of the best fights we’ve seen in a game.
We broadcast games that were moved to Kyneton on multiple occasions. Sitting up in the Grandstand, freezing our butts off.
We did another in round two between Riddell and Melton Centrals a few years ago that was moved to Gardiner Reserve as Riddell's ground wasn't ready to play on. We had wild storms that lashed the region the previous night and did damage to our transmitter on Mt Macedon. Fortunately we had a portable transmitter at the ground, so we kept up our promise to keep delivering matches and broadcast just to those at the ground. It was the first and not the last time we did this.
Under the guidance of KD, we formed a partnership with Hanging Rock Winery. We would pick a player that would be named best afield and award with the a bottle of wine each week. They’d come across to the marquee and spend some good time with us having a chat and getting to know them, this was the plan, and reinforced by Dougy, to ask about their playing background and their lives away from footy. We’re the only community radio station to do this in the region.
The long interviews with players for the best on ground award took over long interviews with the coaches, as it did get time consuming. The format became quite simple on match days. I’d grab a chat with a player on the ground, get the song, the other presenters carried on the broadcast and then we’d vote for a player of the day.
We tried a voting system in a final at Broadford one day where we’d give 3-2-1 votes at the end of every quarter and tally them up with each presenter. If we had three of us, a player could get 36 votes at most. This bombed as a it didn’t reflect consistency. The player with the most votes was a player that led at half-time and didn’t score a vote in the second half. It was never used again.
The bottle of wine became famous. I never tried a glass of HR wine until after this year’s Grand Final, but it did become popular. Guys would give it to their girlfriends or mums, or open it up and drink it with us in the rooms after the game. It had a life of its own. Players would demand the bottle before the game.
I would eventually walk start walking into a room and start waving the bottle above my head. It would get cheers immediately and players would ask who was getting it before I targeted the winner.
One of the key things that I was happy with when it came to the award was in the rooms after the game. The tradition is that the hosting club awards a six pack to the best player on the opposition team, and then of course they’d give vouchers for their best player. If we picked one of the two, I was proud. If our player was named in the best 12 players on the ground, I was pumped.
For the record, our first winner was Mick Allen of Riddell with four goals. He didn’t get named in the best. Tom Gleeson, Brian Ruffell, Matt Davidson and I think Haydn Ross won it three times each over the five or so years we had it. I could be wrong, but Tommy did win it three times and that’s a record. Davo won it one game, he kicked a bag, I just left it next to him and didn’t bother with the interview. He won it a few weeks earlier.
Grand Final day was special. Hanging Rock decided to award the winning coach an expensive bottle of champagne in 2011. I remember it well because Romsey won the flag. Mark Pederson was given the bottle, he shook it up and sprayed it all over everyone in the song. It was gone in less than 30 seconds. It was a tradition ever since. We stretched this out to the best player in the A Grade netball, and for the first time ever, to the winning coach of the A Grade netball also.
The best winner of the award was to the winning Senior football coach last year at Romsey. Dean Helmers was going to be a dad any day, better half Nichola was due at any time. Romsey won the flag, it was a really good priced bottle. As soon as Nichola was able to start drinking, that was her first alcoholic drop. So in turn, by chance, it was a lovely congratulations present and it became much more. As I’ve said, a bottle of wine took on a life of its own. But that’s not the best bit.
I’ve known Riddell’s Haydn Ross since he was a bub. His dad’s parents were my god parents. I knew and grew up with his family at dog shows. I stopped going. After a few years, Haydn and dad Jason eventually joined Riddell.
It was fitting that he’d win the bottle of wine at some stage. In 2013, he kept the bag and went as me to Mad Monday in the ultimate compliment. That’s bloody priceless and something I’ll cherish.. you know you’ve made it in this world when someone goes as you to Mad Monday. A star at Rupertswood did the same thing, it was a wonderful gesture.
So while the wine and the early years of broadcasting radio were massive, Highlands FM was larger than life in saving someone’s life. As has been well documented this year, we lost KD to illness before the season started. I had the pleasure of having some time on the mic to interview coaches at the RDFNL season launch. Before the coaches, I gave a small speech about KD and asked if everyone in the room could clap for him. It was special. I even had the pleasure of slipping in something for the league best and fairest night this year.
KD’s motto was, “Just do it!” If it was good for the station, just do it. I was ambitious, so I pushed the envelope and didn’t set myself any boundaries.
KD didn’t either. We started broadcasting full time in 2011, at the same time that he fell seriously ill with bone cancer. For a guy of his age (found out he was in his mid 80s at the funeral), he went through hell with treatment. He couldn’t get out of bed some times on Saturday, but his desire to get to every game, even if he felt and looked like death, reflected his determination to beat cancer. Football absolutely saved his life. He should have died in 2011, but he beat cancer for five years. If it wasn’t for him, Highlands FM was gone, I would never have lived the dream of calling football. Nick gave him the nickname Lazarus.. he came back from the dead.
He was great for guys like Veitchy, Joey and a few others who got involved.
His motto reflected the need to raise the bar. We had called a number of Grand Final days where we started at 9am in the morning and call all three games. This was for the soul purpose of going with the video recording. We had a problem, if you could call it that. We didn’t see the Under 18.5s and Reserves all year unless we were getting ready, or I was umpiring.
I can’t remember when, but I made a play to broadcast all three games during the finals series. We were crazy not to. The aim back then was the aim to the end of this year, treat each game as if it is a Senior match. This single handedly put Highlands FM on the map with the community.
We interviewed players, coaches, the full sha-bang. We capped it off this year by providing full detailed stats through the call of the 18s and Reserves.
I’m glad we went down that path because I personally experienced three magical moments in football, all in the Under 18.5s. The first one came from Joyce Panuccio, mother of Matt at Riddell. She tuned in to a game at Macedon. Riddell led Sunbury Kangaroos by plenty in the first half. She stood outside the car and had the call coming out loud. Sunbury mounted a serious fight back in the second half. She had to turn the radio off.
Joyce said maybe three or four years ago, “I could see the horror on the field, I didn’t want to have to listen to it!”
The second was, in my opinion, despite what the history books suggest, the greatest match I’ve called on radio was also an Under 18.5s game. Rupertswood were unbeatable in this age group. They took on Macedon, at Macedon in a second semi-final. They should have romped it in. After a quick start, Macedon fought back into the contest. They hit the front for the first time all day late in the last term, thanks to the heroics of Seb Miletic who kicked six goals and single handedly won Macedon the game. Rupertswood is yet to lose a game since then and that was 2014. The Grand Final went to script, Rupertswood beat Macedon by 20 goals in most one-sided Grand Final on Highlands FM radio. This is why that game is better than any other I’ve felt I’ve been involved in calling.
The third magical moment, also an Under 18.5s game and featuring Rupertswood. They took on Riddell at Lancefield. Had the premiership in the bag at half-time. Riddell’s Sam Foreman gets switched from the backline to half forward in the second half and inspired Riddell to an unlikely premiership in the best coaching move I’ve seen while calling a game. We have called Rupertswood’s last two losses in the Under 18.5s.
I’ve called a lot of football, but these three stand-out for anything other than Senior games during finals across the years.
In terms of expanding the game, we really have done everything in the RDFNL. A few years ago, back before Romsey Park became what it is today, we organised to call an A Grade netball game. It was Pink Day at Romsey and the A Graders played earlier to prepare for the function. I was umpiring at the time, so I left Kenny Helmore along with one of the stars at Romsey to call the game. I didn’t have anything to do with the broadcast. But it didn’t work. Netball moved too quickly, it didn’t make for good radio. It was a bust, but at least we had a go.
We quickly went to a break, and unplugged everything and set up again over on the fence. I’d like to think we set up in world record time.
Early in the piece, we had presenters sitting in the studio and crossing over to us. We’d cross to them to play ads and give any other details. I squashed this as soon as I could, using my ‘power’. Because it was hard to attract volunteers, the days were long, I would have rather have an extra body at the ground instead of having everyone in the studio.
The upside also was that by accessing the ads from the ground, if the huddles broke early or we had a guest, I could play less ads and resume straight away. A few times the huddles rushed quickly and we took over and the game had just started. As soon we got remote access, I got my way and stamped that out. I wouldn’t want to sit in a studio all day and it was more practical. I put my foot down and as a producer, the broadcast ran smoothly.
The most funniest moment I’ve been involved with while broadcasting was at Romsey Park. We were set up on the wing, back before the current building was built. Our power lead was left dangling near the old club rooms. Gaz had set up the extension lead the night before and I was left to put it together.
With Veitchy by my side, I panicked, pulled the plug that wasn’t supposed to be in there from what I thought, and it caused a disaster. It was plugged into a jumping castle near by. I pulled the plug on it, the jumping castle immediately went down, kids were crying because they got hurt and arms were getting waved around. It was so bad that it was so funny. I think it was obvious that it was us.
The plot twist was that we had to eventually connect to their power source and had to ask them, on the back of them knowing it was us that caused the chaos. Whoops! That surprisingly went okay.
When we look at the source of po
wer, we look at the source of the internet. One Grand Final year, we had terrible reception at Lancefield. The Telstra signal was weak. We were using the same frequency as the mobile phones and the more people using their phones, the less internet speed you can get, and data. Our box uses the same internet signal as phones, to send our call back to the studio, to send to the tower to send around the area.
We were getting massive drop-outs. During the Seniors on this day, the start of the game was for me to have the studio ring a mobile phone and for me to call the game into the phone with the headset for a while until the problem was fixed. Meaning that no special comments or anything else. This feed would still go to the ground okay, but not back home. The following year we used broadband, 100s of metres of the cable, it was painful for Gaz. Lancefield as a venue slipped off the radar for broadcasting matches.
Round one a few years ago sparked a station first. If we could do something, we bloody hell would. Romsey was broadcasting its second night match, against Broadford I think. Woodend/Hesket played away to Macedon.
We pulled off the heist of the century. We had the marquee set up at Romsey with power, ready to go. We had the comfort of broadcasting under the veranda at Macedon. We needed to get on air at 5.30 at Romsey for a 6pm start.
I pushed the envelope on this one. I had a team at Romsey and a team at Macedon. Ryan Hickingbotham kicked a goal after the siren to get Macedon over the line against Woodend/Hesket in a high scoring encounter. The game went long. We pulled the pin on the broadcast at 4.20pm. I had the gear in the car at 4.30pm. I did the ‘correct’ speed limit, flying from Macedon to Gisborne, to Riddell, to Romsey because that was deemed the quickest way and had the better roads to pick up some time. I got in, set up the gear and we were ready to go at 5.30pm, while having dinner. The game was rubbish. Romsey won by 11 goals, but how we did it, defies logic.
It was the year before where the envelope was pushed by Romsey. With new lights, they organised with Broadford to play night football on a Friday night. It was an excellent experience and Highlands FM played its part. We set up early and it was nice with the dangling lights from the marquee. We had fish and chips for dinner, it was relaxing. Barry Hall played and nearly won Broadford the game off his own boot. He got yellow carded at a bad time in the game, sucked the momentum away and Romsey won a really good game of football. We doubled up with a game at Woodend/Hesket the next day.
Hall’s performance in round one that year was even more special. Lining up for Broadford at Broadford against Lancefield, we teamed up with OKR FM to broadcast the game on the fence. Seymour radio station took the rooms, but we had a great day broadcasting close to the action and we could be seen all over the place. Hall kicked 10.1. Like Brendan Fevola a few years later for Woodend/Hesket, Hall gave his time to us whenever he played, he was a great fella. After the night game at Romsey, he was one of the last to leave and shouted drinks all night.
I made reference to Seb Miletic’s performance earlier in a great game, Matt Davidson holds the best performance I’ve seen in a game for a goal kicker. Lining up in an Elimination final against Melton Centrals who just snuck into the finals, Davidson kicked eight goals in the first term and tore the Centrals apart. Moorcroft kicked eight his debut, but this was a cracker. He finished with 15 goals, Romsey won easily, no-one could top that.
Though footy, Highlands FM had the chance to do some special things. We broadcast Gisborne v Kyneton at Gardiner Reserve on Good Friday as Bendigo fans were introduced to Highlands FM football and we gave three media students an introduction to radio, which they loved.
The other special thing was the CFA v the Rest of the World charity game. Organised by the Macedon Ranges Shire, a legend by the name of Chris Moore, host a game to raise awareness for the CFA, and thank them. AFL legend Dipper would be a coach. Highlands FM would broadcast the game on the big stage on the wing with big speakers sending the sound all over the ground. Two special guests were Tom Gleeson and Charlie Pickering. The leading field umpire was Michael Partridge, a great local larrikan and legend. He was mic’d up and could be heard clearly. The format was simple and it worked.
It needed a Highlands FM presenter to lead the celebs, I was the guy. With Kenny Helmore also riding shot gun, it was perfect. It happened during the season, the day after we did a game somewhere else on a Sunday. It was the best fun I’ve had on radio. We had to monitor the clock. When the scores got close and the time was running out, the three of us held onto the clock long enough for it to be a draw, with a extra few minutes added to make it happen. We didn’t plan it, and we decided to do it as we went on. It was bloody awesome. I met Charlie at an event this year and he remembered me, he still has great memories of that day a few years later. We did a great community thing.
Highlands FM grew to power last year when we judged an award for the second best player on the ground in the Senior Grand Final, the AFL Vic Country award. Medals of that caliber were awarded across all three games this year, and we got to award the winner. It was special.
Speaking of special, there was a special stupid day out at Rockbank during one finals day. With the marquee set up on the train line wing, the wind was blowing into us all day. We had guys trying to tie the marquee to the fence, it was a nightmare. We were going through a war zone and it was causing us headaches. Jess decided to come down much later in the day. She pulled down the back wall from the top, down.. the wind blew straight through us, we didn’t have any more problems. The male gender, no matter how smart some claim to be at times, showcased how stupid we were on that day.
It wasn’t the only hiccups we’ve had over the journey. We’ve lost power in regular intervals at matches, lost internet signal, had gear not work or left gear at home, the transmitter at the ground kept dropping out. There were times when I was the tech, producer, interviewer, play by play and stats at the same time where fixing tech issues was a super problem. We would have been forgiven for closing off some broadcasts in the past, given how bad it got, but we kept pushing through.
My favourite match was broadcasting the interleague game at Tatura as their locals took on our locals. It’s one of my favourite weekends.
Doug, Shayne, Jess and I went up the night before. We had accommodation in Shepparton but headed to the ground, first on a Friday night. We had a look around the ground. Locals from the Tatura club showed up, Dougy, being Dougy, introduced himself and we helped them set up. A few other RDFNL guys showed up as the night kicked in, and thanks to Dougy, we were locals already.
Gaz, his wife and family also came up for the weekend. We lazed around for dinner, went to the game the next day. Teamed up with a local journo over there called Sam and had a blinder of a day. RDFNL won by 77 points, James Wright won the wine.
We went back into the rooms while the MCDFNL game was played. We sat on the balcony drinking beer with team RDFNL and again being friendly with the Tatura club. We went out for dinner that night. It was great.
We had Alberton come up for interleague a few years ago and their local journo Jimmy Brosnan was part of the team. We interviewed anyone and everyone from both leagues while calling the 18s and Seniors, it was fun. This year I went down to Inverloch to join the Alberton radio station guys in a simulcast. I met up with those that I saw the previous time.
I enjoyed being on radio with the local radio station at 8am at the ground. When they finished, the Under 18s started to arrive. I helped out to be a runner with fellow Hawk Jaidyn Owen. Left at three-quarter time of that game to join the other two guys on radio. It was a ripper of a day. I drank with the RDFNL lads and mingled more with the locals at Alberton. As a whole, these interleague experiences were my favourite games as a collective. I felt part of both leagues at every chance.
So now to the big one, best Senior Grand Final. There are two obvious choices; extra time this year or the 2012 win by the Sunbury Kangaroos.
Looking back, the Sunbury Kangaroos was one of the most indifferent experiences one can have in their lives. Romsey coughed up a four goal lead at the seven minute mark of the final term. The Sunbury Kangaroos came back. Phil Romeril was tackled and he dropped the ball. Sunbury Kangaroos coach Chris Meacham has the ball. His team has not been in front all day. He is a first year coach. He’s 40 metres out on an angle, team down by a few points and had never won a Senior premiership. The siren sounds as the ball sounds through for a goal. Meacham has won the game for his team.
Supporters are filled with jubilation and dead set anger at the umpire who paid that decision, one that was unpopular with that group of fans all through the year. Fights nearly broke out, while other fans joined in on the celebrations.
It’s a shame really that Meacham’s moment, Sunbury’s moment was ruined by the action of others. With or without the drama, the moment would still be the pinnacle of everyone’s football dream. So that game alone, is something special for many reasons in 2012.
Fast track to 2016. Diggers Rest has lost many Grand Finals, to its opponents Riddell. Diggers had lost the last three Grand Finals, two against Romsey. Finished minor premiers. Were the team to beat all year.
The game is close against Riddell. Both teams lose players to yellow cards at major stages of the game. Riddell look destined to win, cough up the lead. Mick Kilty was yellow carded for Diggers one quarter and levelled the scores the next, or put his team up by a point, or so he thought.
Steve the ops manager of the league checked with us during the quarter to see if the scores were wrong, they were, by a point. The scoreboard didn’t change for a while. People not at the ground, listening in at home, ringing people at the ground, saying that the radio is saying the score is out. Eventually it gets sorted after the Kilty’s second goal.
Diggers flood their backline, run down the clock and the siren sounds. Many did not look at the scoreboard change. Tom Gleeson had the ball for an eternity before the siren sounded. He thought the team was ahead.
The siren sounds, we have extra time. Tom Gleeson takes the greatest mark I’ve called during a game before. Jason Williams kicks the winning goal to end the 23 year premiership drought.
Which game is the best? You couldn’t separate it. I’ve called one draw before, Macedon v Melton Centrals, but that wasn’t half as good of as game as this one.
While they’re separated by a bridge that goes over the Calder Freeway on the geography front, Diggers Rest and Sunbury Kangaroos cannot be split for the best games in my book.
So while the journey of Highlands FM has come to an end, the dream of calling football hasn’t stopped. It’s just the beginning. I wish to do what I can to achieve that dream of one day calling AFL football.
It’s thanks to guys like KD, Louise, Shayne-o Ro-Dog, Jason Barber, Dougy, Gav, Ken, Gaz, Wally, EJ, James, Richard, Ethan, Joey, Morgan, Veitchy, Nick, J, Geoff, Milton and Brayden that have been part of the team in some capacity that the Highlands FM broadcast team has been a home to great friendships, family and memories that will forever last many lifetimes.
It’s thanks to these guys, and of course, Spunk, that a station such as Highlands FM can do more than be just calling a game of football, but to be part of the fabric, the 23rd man of every team.
A special thanks to Shayne-o, Gav, Doug, Kenny and Gaz who have sacrificed so much for so long for the team, words of appreciation don’t exist.
Thanks to the clubs who have embraced us, just like the footballers and netballers who have given their time to us to promote the game, for people listening overseas, to Tommy Gleeson who listens to Diggers Rest in Europe on Highlands FM one year in a Grand Final, and plays in a Grand Final with them the next, thanks for the ride!

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Congratulations to Diggers Rest Seniors and Reserves on winning RDFL grand finals  



Video highlights from jmacmedia

2018 season home and away

2017 season home and away

Ladder - Seniors

2018 Ontime Delivery Solutions Seniors
1 Rupertswood 56
2 Riddell 52
3 Diggers Rest 48
4 Wallan 48
5 Macedon 44
6 Romsey 36
7 Woodend-Hesket 32
8 Sunbury Kangaroos 24
9 Melton Centrals 24
10 Lancefield 12
11 Broadford 4
12 Rockbank 4

Ladder - Reserves

2018 Melton Toyota Reserves
1 Diggers Rest 60
2 Riddell 56
3 Wallan 52
4 Rupertswood 50
5 Macedon 40
6 Woodend-Hesket 40
7 Romsey 28
8 Melton Centrals 22
9 Sunbury Kangaroos 16
10 Lancefield 12
11 Broadford 4
12 Rockbank 4

Ladder - Sidebar

2018 Buffalo Sports U19.5
1 Wallan 62
2 Rupertswood 54
3 Riddell 52
4 Macedon 44
5 Broadford 36
6 Melton Centrals 32
7 Woodend-Hesket 24
8 Sunbury Kangaroos 10
9 Diggers Rest 6
10 Romsey 0

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