By Russell Bennett
“Between Andy and I we’ve won five league medals now!”
Inverloch Kongwak senior coach Ben Soumilas provided one of the great highlights of the inaugural West Gippsland Football Netball Competition presentation night on Monday as he paid tribute to his younger brother, and now five-time league best and fairest, Andy.
Ben graciously stepped up to accept the award from West Gippsland football icon Bill ‘Doc’ Doherty to close out the night at the Pakenham Racecourse in Tynong – in doing so, explaining Andy’s absence.
“He did make it here tonight, but he split his pants on the steps out the front … no, he couldn’t make it tonight,” Ben said.
“What I’ll say is that Andy came to our club last year after a couple of years out of footy after he won the Ellinbank league medal in 2013.
“He rolled up and we kind of laughed because he looked like he’d been on my diet.
“He was running around at training about five weeks in and he was trying really hard that night and pulled up pretty sore.
“He then decided over the year that he’d have a bit of a crack and when we made the grand final (against Fish Creek) last year he was absolutely filthy on himself for not being in the best condition he could be in.
“He was home at 10 o’clock last year after the grand final (loss) just stewing over it, so he put himself on a pretty rigorous training program over the summer and just said that he had to repay the footy club because he felt like he underperformed on grand final day.
“As much as he absolutely respects this medal and what it stands for, and I know personally he’ll be spewing that he wasn’t here to receive the medal from you Doc, his plans for this week are all about recovery, training and preparation and he didn’t want to be away from his kids, miss his sleep, miss his recovery, or muck up his routine.
“What he said to me on the phone tonight was that if he could win this weekend, he’ll look back and absolutely be proud of the medal and it’ll go up next to the other four that he’s got and he’ll hold it in high regard, but right now his focus is absolutely on Saturday.
“He apologises for not being here – he does not want to show any disrespect for the competition or the people who’ve turned out, but that’s the way he is – dogged about his preparation, and that’s his focus.
“He’s playing a team sport and his goals are firmly set on Saturday.”
Playing for Garfield, Andy won the 2004 Breheny Medal as the best and fairest in the now defunct West Gippsland Latrobe western division. He followed that up with the 2005 Trood Award and Rodda Medal in what is now the Gippsland League, and repeated that effort in 2011 – this time with Drouin.
After returning to Garfield he claimed the 2013 Alf Walton Medal as the best and fairest of the Ellinbank league in a three-way tie with Brendan Kimber (then of Cora Lynn) and Daniel Barrand.
The now 34-year-old finished on 31 votes on Monday night off the back of 10 best-on-ground performances – winning by 11 votes from Phillip Island’s Kimber on 20 and Kilcunda Bass player-coach and former Collingwood premiership winner Brent Macaffer on 19.