Rising stars share Liston
IT was an honour neither expected, but one welcomed with open arms and a bowed head, writes David O’Neill.
When Box Hill Hawks’ Mitch Hallahan and Geelong’s Jordan Schroder accepted their J.J Liston Trophy medallions last night, joining North Ballarat Rooster Steve Clifton in a three-way tie, both looked honestly surprised.
With their attention firmly fixed on winning selection in their respective AFL sides, neither Hallahan, or Schroder, had given much thought to the Peter Jackson VFL’s highest honour until they were suddenly fixtures on the leader board.
Both midfielders, the pair have become integral components of the VFL's Cats and Hawks' charge to the top two positions on the Bailey Ladders’ ladder.
Hallahan, who turned 21 last week, made his run mid-way through the count with three votes in Round 10 and two each in Round 14 and 16.
On the verge of senior selection for most of the season, the composed midfielder was a regular in the Box Hill Hawks’ best players until he injured an adductor and was forced to sit out the final two games of the home-and-away season.
He was eventually joined on 17 votes by Clifton and finally Schroder after the tough Geelong midfielder polled three votes in the Cats’ 201-point annihilation of Bendigo in the final round.
At just 20 years of age, Schroder has already tasted AFL action with four games this season after making his debut in 2012.
The former Calder Cannons star, who began his career with St Bernards FC, polled in seven of the 11 VFL games he played – the same number as Hallahan, who played 14 matches in the second tier compeititons.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Schroder said.
“You obviously start the season not wanting to play too many games in the VFL, but once you’re there you have to make the most of it.”
“I hope it does send a little bit of a message to Scotty (Chris Scott) but really he’s been fantastic and a great support throughout the whole season.
“It’s just a really hard side to get into but we’ve got a great thing going in the VFL and no one sulks that there playing twos.”
Hallahan, a former Sorrento FC junior who made his way to the Hawks after impressing with the Dandenong Stingrays, spoke of his surprise just to be invited to the awards night.
“I thought DC (Damian Carroll) was joking when he gave me the invite and I wasn’t expecting to poll well at all,” he said.
Asked whether he had been frustrated at not securing an AFL debut this season, Hallahan spoke of his desire to still improve as a player.
“I understand that Hawthorn has one of the best midfields in the competition and are going along pretty nicely at the minute.”
“It’s been a really consistent year from my point of view so I haven’t been frustrated but rather focused on putting pressure on the older guys.”
Both Geelong and the Box Hill Hawks enjoy a rest this this weekend after victories in their respective qualifying finals last week.
And who knows? We might get to see two of this year’s Liston Trophy winners go head-to-head on Grand Final day.
One young gun against another.