Wimmera Football League 2003 Toohey Medallist Dale Bligh celebrated his win with daughter Jesse at Alexandra Oval.ARARAT – In the lead up to the announcement of the Ararat Football Club’s Team of the Decade The Ararat Advertiser continues its look at the period between 2001-2010.
By 2003 the Ararat Rats had assembled one of the most talented football sides in the Wimmera Football League.
David Jennings, the 2001 premiership coach, returned to take the senior helm after a year off, while Rohan May and Scott Graham were appointed joint captains.
The Rats’ first month of the season saw them win by an average margin of 86 points, including the grand final re-match against Warrack Eagles, however the streak came to an abrupt end in round five when the Horsham Diggers pinched victory, 16.9 (105) to 14.8 (92).
Ararat only dropped three games from the season, finishing in second position on the ladder, behind a talented Horsham Demons side.
In the qualifying final Ararat went down to Stawell by eight points, which saw them then face Horsham Diggers in a do or die semi-final.
The 94-point thumping saw them back in the hunt for the premiership and back up against arch rival Stawell in the preliminary final.
A dramatic game saw the Rats go down by an agonising two points, which meant the side would not contest a WFL grand final for the first time in five years.
Off the field gifted Ararat onballer Dale Bligh became the second Rats’ player in as many years to win the league’s best and fairest Toohey Medal. Bligh won the top award with 19 votes, one point ahead of team mate and 2002 medallist Matthew Jackson.
“It is not something I thought I could achieve,” Bligh said after winning the medal.
“You don’t aim for individual honours in football. I’d swap it for a grand final spot any day.”
Jackson went on to win Ararat’s senior best and fairest award, while Rohan May once again took out the club’s leading goal kicker award with 63 majors for the season.
Other highlights in season 2003 included decorated midfielder Tim Shea chalking up 250 club games.
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