The Northern Bullants couldn't sustain a promising start to 2023, with the season to be remembered for Jean-Luc Velissaris announcing himself as a star of the competition and the emergence of Brandon Ryan from suburban football to the AFL.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 2-16 (40.4%)
Players used: 57
Played every match: 3 – Patrick Fairlie, Matthew King and Jean-Luc Velissaris
Debutants: 33 – Arthur Armstrong, Hudson Barrett, Josh Buchanan, Jack Chubb, Dylan Clarke, Hayden Clarke, Henko Cronje, Finbar Delbridge, Charlie Di Stefano, Michael Edwards, Patrick Fairlie, Harrison Grace, Ben Ham, Sam Hayes, Ben Holian, Spencer Johnson, Mitchell Jorgensen, Dylan Laurie, Finnbar Maley, Ethan Mantas, Zach Morris, Jack Newitt, Daniel O’Dwyer, Jake Parente, Will Richards, Bailey Ryan, Brandon Ryan, Will Sexton, Baker Smith, Daniel Strnak, Max Tessari, Cam Wild and Tyson Young
(top 3 for all categories)
Best and Fairest: 1st: Jean-Luc Velissaris, 2nd: Patrick Fairlie, 3rd: Spencer Johnson, 4th: Matthew King, 5th: Cam Wild
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Jean-Luc Velissaris (9), Cam Wild (3), Matthew King (2), Tyson Young (2)
Coaches MVP votes: Jean-Luc Velissaris (39), Cam Wild (16), Patrick Fairlie (6)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Jean-Luc Velissaris
Goalkickers: Brandon Ryan (18), Saad El-Hawli (11), Jean-Luc Velissaris (10)
(Averages – Minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: Jean-Luc Velissaris (30.9), Patrick Fairlie (25.4), Cam Wild (22.9)
Kicks: Jean-Luc Velissaris (19.4), Spencer Johnson (17.7), Patrick Fairlie (14.3)
Handballs: Cam Wild (12.2), Jean-Luc Velissaris (11.4), Patrick Fairlie (11.2)
Marks: Baker Smith (7.1), Patrick Fairlie (6.5), Jean-Luc Velissaris (6.4)
Tackles: Jackson Barling (5.2), Cam Wild (4.6), Jean-Luc Velissaris (4.2)
Hitouts: Finnbar Maley (17.8), Liam Kolar (4.2), Brandon Ryan (3.1)
Clearances: Jean-Luc Velissaris (6.6), Patrick Fairlie (5.0), Dylan Clarke (3.9)
Inside-50s: Jean-Luc Velissaris (4.9), Dylan Clarke (3.0), Perry Lewis-Smith (3.0)
Rebound-50s: Spencer Johnson (7.4), Patrick Fairlie (3.9), Baker Smith (3.6)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Discovering Brandon Ryan and having him drafted by Hawthorn mid-season is a huge boost for the club’s reputation. Jean-Luc Velissaris had a wonderful breakout season as he stepped into the middle to fill the gaping hole left by superstar Tom Wilson. Velissaris' selection in the Smithy’s VFL Team of the Year was a just reward as he also put his name forward as a potential draftee. Patrick Fairlie and Spencer Johnson also impressed. Winning two early games and getting within three goals of Frankston and four of Essendon and Port Melbourne showed that their best can compete.
WHAT WENT WRONG
On a selfish note, having Brandon Ryan drafted by Hawthorn. And when his replacement Tyson Young headed overseas a week later it left the Bullants without a focal point in attack and as a result an inability to score. That saw them get no closer than 75 points in their last nine games. The loss of star midfielder Liam Mackie to injury early in the season was also a crippling blow. The fact they had an unbelievable 33 VFL debutants speaks to the lack of experience at the club as the season drew on but those players will be better for that opportunity.
After a host of high-profile departures last off-season the expectations weren’t high for the Bullants. However, they were more than competitive early on when at full strength, with the players recruited by Brodie Holland lifting to the standard, led by the head-turning performances of Brandon Ryan that took him from Maribyrnong Park to the AFL in just eight games. Velissaris became one of the best players in the league as well. If they can get Young back from his overseas travels, keep their top-end talent and lure some experience under new coach Rohan Welsh there is hope of a spike next year.