Video: 2012 south-west sports hits and misses

THE Standard sports journalists AIDAN FAWKES and JUSTINE McCULLAGH-BEASY cast an eye over south-west sport hits and misses of 2012, plus share their thoughts on 2013.

JUSTINE McCULLAGH-BEASY

Sporting highlight of the year:

CAMPERDOWN'S Josh Hose winning paralympic gold.

Hose's Paralympic debut followed a fairy-tale script.

The Australian wheelchair rugby team went through the London tournament undefeated, collecting gold for the first time.

The Steelers defeated Canada in the gold medal match, 66-51.

Hose's story was one of courage and persistence.

He sustained serious head, chest and spinal injuries when he and three mates were in a car that rolled near Port Campbell on Australia Day 2005.

Hose, who turned 26 earlier this month, decided he wanted to become a wheelchair rugby player.

He chose the sport, formerly known as 'murderball', because of its physicality and quickly rose up the ranks, culminating in Paralympic success.

Sporting lowlight of the year:

WARRNAMBOOL Mermaids withdrawing from the 2013 Big V competition.

The Big V division one's women's competition will be without its reigning premier after a lack of numbers forced Warrnambool basketball officials to pull the plug on their Mermaids' program.

Skipper Holly Greene, rising star Darcy Saunders and reliable veterans Kate Sewell and Katie O'Keefe were the main omissions and it was thought a lack of depth would make it hard to compete.

Warrnambool basketball officials hope the Mermaids can resurface in 2014 but once a club withdraws from a top-tier competition it is always hard to come back.

I for one hope the Mermaids can re-enter the competition, as they complement the men's Seahawks program and the more high-level competitions the south-west is involved in, the more chances players have of moving up the ranks, be it at state, national or international level.

Who flew under the radar?

BOOKAAR clay target shooter Penny Smith.

Smith, 17, has her sights set on the world junior championships in Chile next year after a strong 2012 reaped her a number honours.

The South-West Academy of Sport member won the Victorian Clay Target Association's schools student final in September, becoming only the second female to do so.

Smith was named in Australian International Shooting Limited's (AISL) shadow squad for January's Australian Youth Olympic Fesitval competition in October.

She was a one-in-four chance of making the team in the shotgun discipline before international teams opted against sending competitors and forced Australia to withdraw its entry.

Earlier this month, Smith won gold at the AISL youth nationals in Sydney in the 17-20 years girls' trap event.

The King's College student's next challenge is the Australian Clay Target Association ISSF open national titles in Brisbane in January.

Smith's sporting future looks bright and she's sure to attract more attention in 2013.

Headline you will see in 2013:

"COLLINGWOOD mature-age rookie Sam Dwyer makes the most of AFL chance".

After eight seasons plying his trade in the VFL, Warrnambool-raised Dwyer was thrown an AFL lifeline in December.

The Magpies selected the Port Melbourne premiership player with pick 28 in the rookie draft.

At 26, Dwyer must make his mark at the Westpac Centre quickly if he wants to replicate the efforts of mature-age trailblazers like Geelong's James Podsiadly and Fremantle's Michael Barlow.

I expect to see Dywer in Collingwood colours early in the 2013 season.

Essendon draftee Martin Gleeson might have to wait longer for his AFL debut.

The classy Koroit defender joined the Bombers via the AFL national draft in November but is seen as a long-term project player.

Headline you won't see in 2013:

"CRICKET season gets to Christmas break without controversy".

If the start of the 2012-13 season is anything to go by, it is highly unlikely Warrnambool and District, Grassmere and South West cricket associations will have blemish-free starts to next season's campaign. Already this season, Merrivale, Russells Creek and Panmure Bulldogs have found themselves under investigation. The Tigers forgot to name James Fary on a team-sheet for an A grade game against Nirranda and were fined, Creek was stripped of its Twenty20 win against Nestles for fielding ineligible player Kyle Humphrys and the Bulldogs faced the tribunal late last night about the alleged ineligibilty of two of their one-day grand final players.

Hopefully clubs and the associations are learning from these errors and oversights and they can be eliminated in future seasons.

Who will become a star in 2013:

TERANG Mortlake footballer Lewis Taylor.

The Geelong Falcons rover will enter the 2013 TAC Cup season as a highly-touted AFL draft prospect.

Fast, elusive and creative, Taylor's impressive performances for Vic Country at the AFL under 18 national championships this year as a bottom-age player would have attracted recruiters' attention.

Taylor, all going to plan, will line up for the Falcons again in 2013 and his development should be fast-tracked through the AIS-AFL Academy, where he will receive elite training and advice from past greats such as Sydney premiership forward Michael O'Loughlin, West Coast Eagles defender Glen Jakovich, Western Bulldogs' 300-gamer Brad Johnson, Geelong premiership ruckman Brad Ottens, Sydney's successful Irish experiment Tadhg Kennelly and Essendon sharpshooter Matthew Lloyd.

Unfortunately for Terang Mortlake, Taylor won't be making too many, if any, appearances for the Bloods next season but his development is a credit to the Hampden league club.

We'll be talking about:

HOW Hamilton Kangaroos and Portland adjust to the Hampden league.

The league's newcomers will breath life into the competition.

Eight teams is not enough for a major league and expanding to 10 will add more interest, for both players and supporters.

Portland and and the now defunct Hamilton Imperials made finals in the Western Border Football League last season.

Whether the Tigers, under the tutelage of Jarrod Holt, and the newly-formed Kangaroos, led by Jake Myles, are up to Hampden league standard will be a major talking point of season 2013.

AIDAN FAWKES

Sporting highlight of the year:

MARC Leishman winning the $6 million Travelers' Championship at Connecticut.

Leishman finished 2012 as the only Australian winner on the fiercely-competitive US PGA Tour.

A stunning eight-under-par final round gave him 14-under for the tournament and a one-shot win.

The win helped him finish the year 41st on the money list with more than $1.9 million in earnings.

Leishman, 29, is one of the hardest workers in Australian golf and deserves every success he gets.

He is one of Warrnambool's most well-known sports stars and is helping put the coastal city on the map.

But, most importantly, his presence alongside golf's elite provides budding youngsters from the region an idol to look up to, one who never forgets where he came from.

Sporting lowlight of the year:

DENNINGTON suffering heartbreak in WDFNL preliminary final.

Panmure supporters would disagree, but you couldn't help feeling sympathy for Dennington after the Warrnambool and District league senior football preliminary final.

The Dogs entered the finals series in fifth spot and were the underdogs throughout - for their elimination final win against Merrivale and semi-final triumph against Allansford.

But the football fairytale fell agonisingly short in the preliminary final when Luke Duncan's 50-metre set shot after the siren fell short, handing Panmure a two-point win.

Rubbing salt into the wound, the Bulldogs - which went on to win the flag - trailed by 22 points at quarter time won with less scoring shots - 17.4 (106) to 15.14 (104).

Darcy Lewis had his men firing at the right time of the year and the likes of Alex Pye, Chris Keilar and Shane Graham were great to watch.

There's every chance they will bounce back in 2013.

Who flew under the radar?

WARRNAMBOOL Ranger Dylan Johnstone.

Heard of Johnstone?

Unlike highly-talented teenagers playing football at Hampden league clubs, Johnstone failed to receive enough credit for his exploits on the soccer field.

The speedy wingman was just 17 during the winter but played a pivotal role in the Rangers' Ballarat and District Soccer Association division one triumph.

Coach Luke Mackenlay could not have asked for more from the player who won man-of-the-match honours in the 3-2 final triumph against Sebastopol Vikings.

There remains plenty of upside to the teenage goalscorer, but the Rangers' task is to hold onto him - and the rest of their list - as they attempt to go back-to-back.

The Rangers could also be said to have flown under the radar.

The Jones Oval team defied its status as a soccer club in football territory and Ballarat-based rivals with more players to choose from to execute a raid on the flag.

Headline you will see in 2013:

"NO falls in Grand Annual Steeplechase".

The 2011 edition delivered high drama - Banna Strand's now-infamous leap into the crowd at Warrnambool Racecourse called the future of jumps racing into question.

The New Zealand jumper's leap into history meant the 2012 edition had to finish with no falls - and it did, as Awakening Dream claimed a memorable win.

Jumps racing is constantly under pressure from animal activists and proponents have done as much as they can to make it safer.

I'm predicting that will be enough and the spotlight will be on the sport for the right reasons.

Headline you won't see in 2013:

"JUNIOR football numbers stable".

Regional football officials are tackling the issue of player numbers in juniors head-on.

Unfortunately, I don't see the issue going away any time soon.

A combination of teenagers having too many sporting options, the demands of study and the lure of earning money on weekends means clubs will again battle to fill teams.

It's a disappointing situation, but one no-one can take the blame for - societies change, and Victoria is experiencing a population shift to bigger cities.

Full credit must go to those at the forefront of the problem - league officials such as Justin Balmer and Bob Guiney right down to the coaches and parents at bush clubs.

I urge you not to give up the fight. But I wonder what the solution will be.

Who will become a star in 2013?

WARRNAMBOOL basketballer Maddy White.

Not that the 18-year-old isn't already making a name for herself - White is a former state junior basketballer and represented Australia's under 19s last year.

But her debut with the Australian Gems came in the Oceania qualifiers for world championships in Lithuania in July.

All going well - White recovering from a car crash which has sidelined her until February is central to the story - she will head to Europe to make her mark on the world stage.

Fancy that - a Warrnambool teenager taking on the world in, of all places, Lithuania.

Credit must go to White, who shifted to Geelong this year to complete year 12 and further her career with South East Australia Basketball League club Geelong Supercats.

It takes dedication to uproot one's life and move away from family and friends to follow a dream.

Let's hope that dream comes true.

What we'll be talking about:

THE Victorian state election isn't due until November, 2014, so don't expect any surprise funding announcements soon.

So footballers, netballers, cricketers and other uses of Warrnambool's Reid Oval must continue to make noise to have the ageing facilities upgrade.

The State Government committed $200,000 to new netball changerooms and courts in September this year.

Warrnambool City Council, among other organisations, also put up cash and the initiatives are welcomed.

But a lot more is required if the Cramer Street reserve is going to compare well with the likes of Deakin Reserve at Shepparton, or Queen Elizabeth Oval at Bendigo.

How will Warrnambool attract VFL football or other high-profile matches when the facilities remain like they are?

The signs inside the scoreboard - asking people not to use it as a toilet - say everything.

Visit standard.net.au/sport to see a video wrap of the south-west's 2012 sporting hits and misses.

justine.mc@fairfaxmedia.com.au

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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