1 Dan Summers - Myrtleford
NO surprises here. Summers came to the competition from London, via the US College system and prestigious Syracuse University in New York, with a big reputation and didn’t disappoint. He combines speed with strength and skill and had made a habit of leaving defenders, often two or three of them, in his wake. Summers will finish his first season with about 40 goals and the golden boot. At the halfway mark of the season the Englishman was also a clear leader in the star player.
2 Daniel Millynn - Diamonds
AT one end of the park is one Dan and at the other Millynn. The Diamonds captain is all class on the ball and when organising his miserly defence. His coach says he is a true leader and is always up for the big games, making crucial decisions at the right time. Can play anywhere on the pitch but has become a focal point at the back for Diamonds. And while Millynn has dominated from the back this year, there are plenty wanting to highlight his potential to play in the middle and even up front.
3 Jason Gilbert - Twin City
LAST year’s star player is a classic case of actions speaking louder than words. A towering figure in the centre of the park, Gilbert moves effortlessly across the pitch and is deceptively quick. Coach Cayne Wilhelm describes him as the Wanderers’ engine room, able to run all day, while oppositions say Gilbert is one of the best in the competition at maintaining possession. His experience and skill will be integral to Twin City’s success in the finals.
4 Stefan Joseph - Wangaratta
SPEED and flair. Joseph and his fellow English imports have brought the Red Devils to the fore this year. They are still the only side to get the better of league champions Wodonga Diamonds and a fair bit of that 4-2 win was the ‘Steff’ factor. Joseph demands the ball and similar to Summers will take on any defence. His athleticism makes him a threat in the air and now has cult status at Wangaratta as the Red Devils head into their first finals series for sometime.
5 Kade Rixon - Melrose
RIXON has spent a fair chunk of the season on the sidelines but his impact in the games where he has been fully-fit can’t be overstated. His speed is always a factor but with the ball at his feet defenders are left guessing whether he is going left or right or straight through them. Rixon pace is one weapon in his arsenal but his clinical finish in front of goals is often underestimated.
6 Andrew Grove - Boomers
MANY who knew Grove as a junior were surprised when he took on the coaching role at Boomers. But his leadership and skill has kept last year’s league champions in the hunt despite a horror run with injuries. Grove is another with great speed and was the fastest player over 20 metres ever recorded in the days of the soccer academy on the Border. Longtime mentor Steve Hayes says Grove’s instincts are exceptional and control of the ball at full pace unrivalled in the league.
7 Aaron Gough - Albury City
IT’S no coincidence that Albury City’s golden mid-season form had plenty to do with the arrival of the English import at Jelbart Park. He slotted into coach Simon Randall’s plan and has given direction and belief to a young side brimming with talent. Gough is a big unit with pace and the ability to read the game. He was instrumental in keeping Summers quiet when City and the Savoys played out a 0-0 result a few weeks ago.
8 Jarrod Herzina - Diamonds
HERZINA has always been known as a goal scorer, his size and speed making him a threat from anywhere on the park. But this year he has adapted to a different role, working with Nagus Henry in attack and doing the front half grunt work in defence. Coach Jimmy Bell says much of what Herzina does goes unrecognised. “Everyone thinks he is finesse and touch but he’s a real soldier too — he puts in every week and keeps on improving.”
9 Sam Graetz - Boomers
TENACIOUS is a word that springs to mind when watching Graetz play. He is tough on the ball, dominating the park with his vision and control. The Boomers midfielder brings balls to ground with a magnetic touch and finds players in space with both short and long balls. Along with Grove and Peter Noordewier this trio dominate games with spatial awareness that comes from a long history of playing together.
10 Jesse Stephens - Diamonds
MAYBE it’s the socks at half-mast but first impressions can be misleading when watching this gangly defender in action. Rarely can an attacker get his measure while his forays forward are a constant threat — one long range shot at La Trobe this year still has the posts shuddering. The former Savoy came to Diamonds for a kick earlier this year and has adapted to the plan as if he had been a Diamonds veteran.