Bendigo FNLThe Archive | Off-seasons are always rich pickings for rumours, player transfer news and just plain old gossip.


So it was back in November 2009 although what was making big news back then turned out to be absolutely spot-on. The headlines were all about 18-year-old Castlemaine footy prodigy Dustin Martin who was expected to join Richmond at pick 3 in the national draft. From the time he first pulled on the guernsey for the Campbell’s Creek junior footy club in the under-10s to his 2009 season with the Bendigo Pioneers all Dusty had ever wanted to do was play footy.

He’d garnered tremendous media attention in the Melbourne papers, TV news and on afl.com.au with interviews and photo shoots, but what he really wanted to do as December loomed was to get out onto the training track. “Footy is my life. I just love it and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. And once you get to the AFL that’s what footy is – it becomes your life through training every day and that’s the way I want to live.”

Of course he was drafted as outlined and then last September Dusty won the Brownlow and Norm Smith medals to go with his Tigers’ premiership medal. He’d also clinched just about every other 2017 award where players and coaches handed out votes.

He was sensational in Richmond’s grand final obliteration of the Adelaide Crows, leading many young men to seek out their barbers and ask for a haircut in the tightly clipped and shaved Dusty style.

Also picked up in late 2009 was Maryborough key position player Stewart Crameri. He went with pick 43 to Essendon and is now at Geelong. He’d been playing with VFL club the Bendigo Bombers so his abilities were well known to Essendon talent scouts. Bomber senior coach Matthew Knights was one of the first to congratulate Crameri. He was the forward’s first coach with the Bendigo Bombers and played a key role in moulding Crameri from a key forward into a hard-running defender.

“Matty Knights rang me and said: ‘You’ve come a long way from the young fella who came to Bendigo training from Maryborough and kicking those big torpedoes,’’ Crameri said.
“He was really happy for me which was nice.”  And Crameri wasn’t the only Bendy Bomber picked up by the Dons. Former Frankston Dolphins’ midfielder Marcus Marigliani was also picked in the rookie draft, opening up cash and allowing the VFL side to sign Hayden Skipworth and Jason Cloke.

Strathfieldsaye’s Kallen Geary, back then a former Pioneer, was a shock non-selection in the 2009 rookie draft.

Now if Dusty and Crameri are names all we footy fans are familiar with here’s one for you to think about. Eddie Prato of Maryborough was selected by the Western Bulldogs with pick 58 in the 2009 AFL rookie draft. Remember him? No, neither do I.

But here’s some background information. In mid-August that season Maryborough coach Shane Fisher interrupted training to inform Prato he’d been selected for his first senior game.

“The world’s in front of you. AFL clubs should be looking at making you a rookie down the track if you work hard,” was the message Fisher gave the teenager.
The first gamer booted three goals against Kangaroo Flat on senior debut and by December 15th the teenaged Prato had been selected by the Doggies.
He was selected with pick 58 in that year’s AFL rookie draft.

Also recruited in the 2009 rookie draft were 18-year-old Sudanese player Majak Daw (North Melbourne) and Japanese cross-country runner Sean Yoshiura (Brisbane).
Prato, a 202 cm (6 ft 7 ins) ruckman, spent most of 2009 playing with Ballarat in the South-East Australian Basketball League, but when the SEABL season wound up he played rounds 16 and 17 in the Maryborough reserves before his eye-catching senior debut in round 18.

He played under lights in the Peter Holliday Tribute Match at Dower Park as the Magpies went down by a kick to the Roos: 17.17 (119) to 17.11 (113).
“I knew Eddie had the raw ability but I never thought he’d get picked up this quickly. He has got all the attributes --- he just needs to get some full-time footy in,” Fisher said.
Prato was eventually de-listed by the Dogs, ended up playing for the Buninyong Bombers in the Central Highlands league but walked out on them in August 2013.

Also in December 2009 the BFNL retained the three-players-on-the-bench cap, turning down club requests to lift it to four.A motion had been put forward for the BFNL AGM to consider: the bench number should be increased to four for the 2010 season. Golden Square was the club suggesting the rise but after the clubs were split 5-5 in the vote the overriding vote by the board decided the bench would stay at three. Square was supported by South Bendigo, Maryborough, Kangaroo Flat and Gisborne while Kyneton, Strathfieldsaye, Castlemaine, Eaglehawk and Sandhurst were against the increase.

Among those to speak against the motion were Kyneton president Travis Law and Castlemaine chief Ron Cawthan (later a BFNL board member himself). Both club leaders spoke of the struggles they had in fielding footy sides across three grades and the financial pressures that entailed. BFNL chief Damian Drum said the issue could be re-visited in the future, although the 2009 vote marked the third, successive end-of-year failed attempt at adding one more player to the senior interchange bench.

Meanwhile the Bendigo Bombers announced in early December nine years back they’d play six home games in Bendigo in 2010. Six of the Bombers’ nine home games were listed for the QEO with the other three set down for Essendon’s Windy Hill. BFNL CEO Steven Oliver had told the league’s AGM he’d been in many discussions with the Bombers’ board “to establish the best possible alignment with the VFL side and our league.”

The QEO was looking at a heavy workload for 2010.

With the VFL, TAC Cup Pioneers, Sandhurst and South Bendigo plus the BFNL finals series games to be played there a total of 95 games were scheduled for Bendigo’s premier sports arena.

Bombers’ chairman David Joss said six QEO games was a realistic figure for his club. The Bombers were scheduled to open their season on April 11th with an away game against the Northern Bullants. They were due to meet the VFL’s newest club, the Gold Coast, twice in 2010. One of these fixtures was listed for the QEO with the round 13 re-match set down for Cairns in Far North Queensland.

By Richard Jones