Dannys Phelan Medal Preview
It is always a date Danny has circled on his calendar at the start of the year- Phelan Medal Night. Where else can you combine well-dressed footballers and more so their better-half’s, entertainment, free drinks and the suspense that a vote count brings?
Ahead of the big night on Monday, I have a look at what I will call my Lucky 13- players who I expect to poll strongly in the main count for the Premier Division Best and Fairest.
Ed’s note: Danny is sometimes wrong (well more than often) and he is not aware of the final standings of the Phelan Medal count. The following list is in no particular order.
Their name may have changed to the GIANTS but they are still the dominant side in the AFL Sydney competition. While they won’t be hitting the beers hard, expect them to feature strongly in polling. The question begs whether they will take votes off one another given their spread of talent.
Can the diminutive half-forward make it back-to-back medals in 2014? Mainly due to his role in FOX8’s The Recruit, he missed a couple of games this season but it didn’t stop him averaging more than two goals a game. Probably not as dominant a year from the left-footer but was named by his own coaching staff in the best six players on five occasions this season.
Brain hit the ground running after returning from Port Adelaide (SANFL) to rejoin dad, Leigh and brother, Levi in the Manly colours. One of his best games of the season was in the Round 2 Grand Final replay against Pennant Hills when he was admitted to hospital after the game with leather poisoning (note dad joke). Has been named amongst the best nine times this season and played most of his time in the midfield which would attract interest from the umpires.
Another addition to the already strong GIANTS line-up, Fowler was a revelation this year claiming the Stan Milton Medal with 80 goals, with a season-high haul of eight majors. Some umpires love goal kickers and guys with long hair/headbands so he is destined to poll well. Danny couldn’t find someone who has done the Stan Milton-Phelan Medal double but there is always a time for firsts.
Pettersson is hardly a dark horse but fits in nicely into the GIANTS midfield and can easily get under the guard of the opposition. A nicely-sized midfield who looks like he could have walked off the Home and Away set at Summer Bay, he can play football like Tarzan. A consistent performer this year who has also kicked 14 goals this season- don’t be surprised if he goes close on Monday night.
The second-best side in the regular season, the Demons are well-balanced with no massive stand-out. You could easily add Lloyd Shepherd to this list, and Danny’s disputed love-child Matt Thomas if he didn’t miss the first part of the season due to his overseas travels.
Dell’Aquila is highly regarded inside Pennant Hills’ walls but has struggled to attract votes from the umpires in the past. Will it change this year? He has been in Pennant Hills best in more than half their games and fits the Demons brand of contested football to a tee. He rarely gets beaten by his opponent.
The Big Cheese has had another consistent year where he has been a constant in the best players. He is tough as teak, wins his own ball and is a good user by hand or foot- which makes him hard to match-up on, let alone tag. Interestingly, left-footers have won the last two Phelan Medals, and three out of the last four (Lee, Rampe and Armitage).
St George have been up and down this season struggling to keep up with the dominant sides above during the regular season. Alex Wynn and Bryce Addison tasted representative football with the senior side this season but their main hope seems to be Merson.
Merson returned to Sydney football this season after time in Western Australia in the strong Colts program. Merson had a lean patch in the back-end of the season but still managed to be among St George’s best in most of the matches. He is physically strong for a 19 year-old and as a midfielder, went forward to kick 17 goals this season- including a haul of four goals.
Like the fortunes of their side, a number of individuals tailed off at the end of the season. They boast a few prodigious ball-winners who have a track record of polling well with the umpires.
The former East Fremantle star has continued his form into the Sydney competition with Balmain and this year in his first season at Western Suburbs. For a side craving success, he played a big role as playing assistant coach and seemed to handle the pressure well being in his side’s best six players on eight occasions.
Round has the sort of game that can attract the interest of the umpires- as a dashing runner who isn’t afraid to take the game on. Highly-rated, he would be among the favourites to take out his club’s Best and Fairest as well as the Phelan Medal.
The Students will always struggle in the Phelan Medal with this side acting as their Reserve Grade. Their best players floated in between Premier Division and NEAFL.
The boy from the Riverina has been a revelation this year playing in the forward 50 this season. He has managed 42 goals in 2014 in his 15 games, being named among the best on six occasions. A strong lead-up forward, he was always a presence in the games he played. He has played enough games to be a feature in Phelan polling.
The bottom six
The best prospects from the sides who failed to make the finals are noted below. Rarely has a player come from an under-performing side to take the main prize but there are a few here that should poll well.
The North Shore utility was everywhere this season again playing predominantly as a free-ranging midfielder. In a side that struggled to kick goals, he went at close to one-and-a-half goals a game in 2014 and arguably is the most talented player in AFL Sydney. Lee-Steere finished equal-seventh last year and could do better this year.
The talented 19-year old has to be a shoe-in to win Campbelltown’s Best and Fairest after being named in the best an amazing 13 times this year, and often was best in those. The small midfielder is the future of the club and often led by example this year. Should poll more than the eight votes he attracted in 2013.
Daniher was UNSW/ES’ best recruit this season after coming up from Illawarra. He was a mainstay in the midfield, with courage belying his small stature. Stands out like a beacon with his customary headgear, he is a noted ball-winner and he almost propelled his side into the finals if only for their last-round loss to Sydney Hills.
Danny’s roughie was probably the only player outside of Baker, Maddox and Sundberg who would feature in the umpire’s calculations given UTS’s poor year in Premier Division. He is an unassuming leader who continues to churn out consistent performances in his three years at the Bats.