GNFL season review: A look back at what went right and wrong for the clubs

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Rovers are the 2022 GNFL champions.
Camera IconRovers are the 2022 GNFL champions. Credit: Arctic_Moon_Photography

A fortnight after the 2022 GNFL season came to a close, we take a look back on a season full of ups and downs, and how each fared. In this season review, we also examine what does each club need to work on for next year, and what the fans can look out for in 2023? .

ROVERS: Finished in a blaze of glory winning six in a row to claim the flag from fourth

Ian Comben has coached in 12 grand finals across his career but described this season as “one of the hardest he’s had as a coach”.

It says a lot about this year’s premiers who after the bye were in real danger of dropping out of the top four and missing finals.

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But the GNFL season is a marathon not a sprint and there is such a thing as timing your run which the Demons did perfectly.

Their turning point was their round 14 victory over the Brigades and they didn’t look back from there.

While the premiership is always the pinnacle those two last-quarter performances in the semi and preliminary final are some of the best football you’ll see.

Chris Scott became the fifth Demon in a row to win the JJ Clune and Gabriel Parfitt had one of his best-ever seasons while there is optimism for young stars coming through.

Jy Thurston has been a revelation and when plagued with injuries and absentees, colts like Clay Azevedo stepped up and will have gained valuable experience in league which should hold them in good stead going forward.

BRIGADES: Perhaps the best team overall, but fell short when it mattered

The Brigades had an outstanding year and for much of the season, it looked destined they would head to the grand final to face Railways such as the two teams’ dominance.

They cracked 100 points on four occasions led by Dayle Williamson who continues to be the most dominant forward this competition has ever seen, while Kristerfer and Jamie Ryder formed a dynamic duo with Kris’ mark to go down in GNFL folklore as one of his best ever.

They are one of the more experienced sides going around and big names like the Schofield brothers should have them towards another flag tilt next season.

But they need to find some more avenues to score outside of Williamson and Ryder and it was no more clear to see in the final as they were the only goal kickers for the Hawks compared with the Rovers’ six.

RAILWAYS: Another great season, but no flag as their finals curse continues

Railways continue to be the benchmark of the competition — they passed the hundred mark five times and averaged a staggering 92 points a game.

Jack Cocking had a breakout year stepping up into the senior side with 34 goals and is a long-term prospect, while Jesse Adamini had a career-best year for the Blues and with Mitchell Boyle and plenty others, they will again be toward the top of the table.

They will lose club champion Kyle Watts to retirement but the biggest thing against them is themselves as they just cannot get it together for finals.

Their finals record now sits at 5-15 in the past decade, they should be far better than that with the players they have and will be hoping they can break the curse soon.

NORTHAMPTON: Great recovery from a poor start

The Rams were staring down the barrel early in the season losing four of their first five games but recovered well with highlight back-to-back wins over Brigades and Railways and jumped Rovers to finish in third.

They went past 100 points twice and were only one goal down at the three-quarter-time in the semi before conceding eight as they were blown away in the final quarter.

Nathaniel Mourambine was key up forward once again with 43 with Trent Simpson the next closest on 25. Flynn Dillon had a terrific year before breaking his leg.

They have the tools to be thereabouts again and will be hoping to find more consistency against the top sides.

CHAPMAN VALLEY: A strong finish, with eyes on 2023

The Royals won one game in their first six games as they struggled to field competitive sides with a swathe of injuries leaving them shorthanded.

But they turned it around to win six of their last eight to briefly threaten the top four but ultimately had too much ground to make up.

Gerard McKenna was outstanding and if they can keep the group fit and healthy they will hope to push for top four next year.

Their biggest weakness is depth finishing bottom of the Colts and sixth in the reserves and will look to bolster stocks in the off-season.

MULLEWA: Drought-breaking wins but what’s next?

The Saints won their first game in over three years and then added two more in what has to be described as a successful season with the high point being their shock win over Rovers.

Kristain Papertalk was the stand-out, with players like Calvin Wall and Leon Galby also showing class at times.

They will be concerned about losing their last five games in a row by 50-plus points each time as they looked uncompetitive and it remains to be seen if they can build into next year.

TOWNS: A year to forget but the future is there if they can keep it together

It was a harrowing year for the Bulldogs as they won just a single game and passing 50 points on only three occasions.

They are odds-on for the spoon against next year but there is a glimmer of hope.

Stuart Gaby was outstanding and their colts side won the flag indicating a healthy crop of youngsters.

The key will be retaining them so they can be developed to league standard, they will be hoping to be more competitive next year to show there is something worth sticking around for.

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