Phelan Medal Preview 2016
Article by Michael Shillito
Monday night is Phelan Medal night; Sydney footy’s night of nights. The glitz, the glamour. And we count the votes to find out who is the best and fairest player in Premier Division.
There’s no shortage of quality footballers in Sydney. So who can we expect to be contenders to take the medal home?
For the second year in a row, East Coast Eagles took out the minor premiership; and with 14 wins, there’ll be plenty of 3-votes going to Eagle players in 2016. Jack Dimery is well placed to take advantage, putting his time on The Recruit to good use to be in the Eagles’ best 6 players on 10 occasions. Kieran Emery, Andrew Browning and Andrew McConnell will also pick up multiple votes, while Blake Anderson and Stuart Turner were consistent performers. In a top team there’s always a danger players will take votes from each other; and we’ve often seen that with East Coast. This year is the 7th of the last 11 in which the Eagles have been in the Premier Division Grand Final, but they haven’t had a Phelan Medallist since 1999.
It’s been a strong season for St George, finishing second after the home and away season and tasting defeat just three times. With a balanced team, there’s a good chance players will be taking votes from each other. But a likely standout is Blake Guthrie, named in the Dragons’ best 6 players on 13 occasions this year. Karl Merson, Travis Martin, Xavier Stevenson and Jesse Mudge should also poll plenty of votes for the Dragons.
UTS finished in third place after the regular season, the best in their Premier Division history. It was a solid team effort by the Bats, and there wasn’t one individual standout player. Jai Lyons was probably their best, named in the Bats’ best 6 players on 10 occasions. Rohan Bates, Tom Larby, Zac Parsons and Brad Hunt can also expect to hear their names mentioned during the vote count.
North Shore returned to the finals in 2016 after missing out for the last two years; highlighted by twice taking the scalp of East Coast as well as wins against Pennant Hills and St George. Curiously, North Shore have only produced one Phelan Medallist in the last 54 years; and they’re unlikely to this year, with plenty of players putting their hand up for a share of the votes. Selby Lee-Steere, named in North Shore’s best 6 players 10 times this year, will poll well for the Bombers. Also you can expect some strong voting numbers from Chris Murphy, Charlie Parsons, Sam Carruthers and Will Bradley.
Pennant Hills, defending their 2015 premiership, finished fifth after the regular season. The Demons usually have a name up among the leaders on Phelan night; and four of the last 10 Phelan winners have come from Pennant Hills. Their most consistently strong performers this year have been Tom Angel and Damian Dell’Aquila, each named in the Demons’ best 6 on 10 occasions. Matt Thomas, Tim Wales and Aaron Crisfield can also expect votes to come their way.
Manly missed the finals for the first time in their Premier Division history; but many of their big name players kept performing. Connor Pettersson, last year’s Phelan Medallist, will again be a contender, and was named in Manly’s best 6 players 9 times in 2016. Eric Burke, James Brain and Harrison Koch will also feature prominently on the Manly leader board.
With three wins for the season, it was a challenging year for Sydney Uni. Predicting top players for the Students is always tricky with players coming between their Premier Division and NEAFL teams. Only two players played all 16 games. Tom Elkington, with 21 goals, will feature prominently on Sydney Uni’s leader board. Also keep an eye out for Allister Clarke, Lachlan Maples and Luke Vella.
UNSW-ES won three games for the season. A rebuilding side, they turned to youth during the course of the season, and 46 players wore the red, white and blue in Premier Division in 2016, more than any other club. Alex Foote will poll well for the Bulldogs, being named in their best 6 players in 11 games this season; while young gun Tom Chichester will also be one to watch. And experienced hands Joel Robbie and Jeremy Daniher should also hear their names read out when votes are counted.
It wasn’t an easy season for Wests; and with just two wins for the year there’s not going to be many 3-votes going the Magpies’ way. Brenton Mumme, named in the Magpies’ best 6 players 11 times in 16 games will likely be their top vote-winner. Also keep an eye out for Ben Zoppo, their leading goal-kicker; along with Cameron Gordon and Pat Wilmot.
And of course there’s always a bolter who comes from nowhere to poll prominently.
It’ll be a fascinating count; and could potentially be one of the closest in a long time. No doubt there’ll be the odd look of surprise when some votes are read out; players who feel unlucky not to have polled in some games only to get unexpected votes at other times. Such is the drama and suspense of a live vote count.