By sports editor Russell Bennett
He’s back home.
The Gazette understands that Andy Soumilas – one of the most decorated midfielders ever featured in the Football liftout – has come home to finish his career at the Garfield Football Club.
It’s understood that Soumilas, a multiple-time Stars senior premiership winner who lives in Garfield, has made the carefully considered decision to switch back to the club for the closing chapter of his incredible playing career – with family reasons a significant factor.
Andy’s older brother, south-east coaching legend Ben – forever a Garfield favourite son in his own right after leading the club to that famous premiership in 2004 – has recently resumed his role as senior coach of the Stars’ West Gippsland rival, Inverloch Kongwak, after a season out of the hot seat.
Andy played a starring role in the inaugural WGFNC senior premiership for the Sea Eagles under Ben in 2017 and won the competition’s senior best and fairest award that season.
Incredibly, it marked his fifth senior league best and fairest award at the age of 34.
The hard, unflinching ball-winner 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.
Also a former premiership star with Narre Warren, he’s coming back to Beswick Street after playing just one senior game for Inverloch in 2019 before a persistent foot injury brought about a premature, frustrating close to his campaign.
But the Gazette understands he and the Garfield coaching staff are particularly optimistic about what the 2020 season could bring, when it comes to an on-field role in the engine room for a player with more senior premierships, league best and fairests, and team of the year selections than most people could even imagine.
Fellow Stars favourite son – and another of the best players ever featured in the Gazette’s Football liftout – Lincoln Withers has also returned to the club, in an off-field capacity.
Under senior coach Hayden Stanton, the Stars look like taking noticeable steps forward next year following the recruitment of the likes of Gippsland League team of the year member Matt Rennie, former Narre Warren and Frankston Dolphins key forward Aaron Wilson, former Rowville midfielder Gavin Pears, and former Warragul young gun Sam Russell – along with the return of the 2019 nucleus.