Colm Culligan and Jason McCormick celebrate Eltham Football Club's Northern Football League premiership win on September 22, 2023 at Preston City Oval. Picture: Jack Mirrielees

THE UNBRIDLED joy of winning a premiership and the sense of community that makes grassroots football so special have been captured in this year's winning entry in the #FootyFocus23 photography competition. 

Winner - Jack Mirrielees

The victorious image, by photographer Jack Mirrielees, depicts two players from Eltham FC in the Northern Football League celebrating their senior premiership victory over Diamond Creek with the club's reserves players.

Those two players, Colm Culligan and Jason McCormick, are backlit by spring sunshine as they run towards their jubilant clubmates who are holding the cup aloft. 

The AFL's chief photographer, Michael Willson, said the photo "oozes grassroots footy, the backlight is beautiful and the spray is striking. It tells a story, involves the players and the fans and it's all about mateship and community."

For winning the #FootyFocus23 competition, thanks to Toyota's Good for Footy program, Jack has won the right to don the blue photographer's vest at an AFL game in round one, 2024 at the MCG, where he will shoot the match alongside either Michael Willson or fellow AFL photographer Dylan Burns. He has also won a Canon EOS R3 camera body and an RF70-200mm f2.8 lens worth over $10,000. 

Colm Culligan and Jason McCormick celebrate Eltham Football Club's Northern Football League premiership win on September 22, 2023 at Preston City Oval. Picture: Jack Mirrielees


Highly commended - Jack Foley

Two images from Perth photographer Jack Foley were acknowledged by the judges for their technical excellence and ability to engage the viewer. 

One photo captures the solemn moment in a Welcome to Country ceremony held at the WAFL's state team training session in May this year. Michael Willson said the image was "technically flawless, with powerful symbology. The use of black and white adds significant impact." 

A Welcome to Country ceremony is performed at the WAFL state team's training session on May 15, 2023. Picture: Jack Foley

Jack's other image distilled the sense of movement during a WAFL Colts game at Leederville Oval into a single moment. Michael Willson said: "Panning is notoriously hard to master but this shot comes close. It grabs you at first sight."

Action from the Subiaco Lions v East Perth WAFL Colts game at Leederville Oval on April 16, 2023. Picture: Jack Foley

The top 10 photographs

The winner and highly commended images make up three of the top 10 photos from this year's competition, which attracted 5,469 entries from 1,261 photographers across every state and territory in Australia. 

Eighty of those photographers were featured on AFL channels throughout the campaign, including in the AFL and Toyota's Behind the Lens series

Here are the other photos that made the top 10 from the thousands of entries: 

Bradley Moylon

Ryan Byard from Bridgenorth Football Club in the Northern Tasmanian Football Association celebrates a goal in August 2023. Picture: Bradley Moylon

Michael Willson says: "An impactful image from a unique angle, captures the emotion and treated well in post-production."

Brooke Sleep

Players from the Bond University Bull Sharks look at the board during a break in a QAFL game in August, 2023. Picture: Brooke Sleep

Michael Willson says: "Interesting composition, that shows the intensity of the moment. Thought given to treatment."

Gordon Anderson

Max Guehrer soars for a huge mark during a SANFL reserves game between Port Adelaide Magpies and Glenelg in August, 2023. Picture: Gordon Anderson

Michael Willson says: "A spectacular moment and a perfectly timed shot. This showcases the greatest aspect of the game."

Jessie Lee Gibbs

Players from Wanneroo Junior Football Club in WA train in the late afternoon. Picture: Jessie Lee Gibbs

Michael Willson says: "A striking composition that uses the late afternoon light to great effect."

Jordan Sacchetta

Jack Scrimshaw evades a tackle during the VFL clash between Box Hill Hawks and Sandringham at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday, July 29, 2023. Picture: Jordan Sacchetta

Michael Willson says: "Elite action and desperation. The crowd in the background adds to the atmosphere of the shot."

Brooke Sleep

Matty Eagles from Wilston Grange exits the change rooms ahead of the pre-game warm-up in August, 2023. Picture: Brooke Sleep

Michael Willson says: "A different take on the locker room – the calm before the storm. Technically sound and treated well in post-production."

Patch Clapp

The PINT women's team celebrate their Grand Final victory over Nightcliff in the NTFL Women's Premier League. Picture: Patch Clapp

Michael Willson says: "A strong story and plenty of emotion. The light behind the flag adds extra interest to the composition."

That's it for #FootyFocus23, thanks to Toyota’s Good for Footy program. Search #FootyFocus23 on social to see some of the amazing entries for this year, head to the Footy Focus hub to check out the weekly highlights and features, and get ready for #FootyFocus24!