TASMANIAN rover Ian Callinan and emerging Melbourne ruckman Paul Johnson are the joint winners of the 2005 JJ Liston Trophy.

Callinan and Johnson were locked on 16 votes at the end of one of the most gripping Liston counts at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Monday night.

In a dramatic finish, the Devils' No 1 rover polled three votes in the final home and away match to elevate himself into a tie with Johnson, who had claimed outright ownership of the count in Round 19.

Carlton forward Digby Morrell, who didn't play in the last four rounds, was one vote away in third place.

It is the first time there has been a tie in the Liston since former Richmond forward Ezra Poyas and Carlton rover Brett Backwell deadheated in the 2001 Liston.

For Callinan and Tasmania it was an historic victory. Callinan, a founding playing member of the Devils, is the first Tasmanian player to win the Liston. Callinan, 22, has played 92 out of a possible 101 games for Tasmania and this season represented the VFL in the State match against South Australia.

Johnson, 21, is in his first season with the Demons after spending two seasons with the West Coast Eagles, where he played just the one match. A former product of the Dandenong Stingrays, Johnson was taken by Melbourne in a trade deal last season.
Johnson played 12 games with Sandringham and eight games for Melbourne this season.
The 199cm ruckman is eligible to play for Sandringham in next weekend's Preliminary Final.

He came under the umpire's eyes six times polling five best-on-grounds and a single vote. Johnson gained the maximum votes for his Round 4 match against Geelong; Round 9 match against the Scorpions; Round 13 match against Frankston; Round 14 match against Werribee and Round 19 match against Geelong. He polled a single vote in the Round 5 match against Williamstown. Sandringham won every match in which Johnson polled votes.

While Johnson's votes were spread virtually across the season, Callinan's dominance coincided with Tasmania's remarkable second half of the season winning streak. Callinan picked up two votes in Round 3 against Port Melbourne and another two votes in Round 6 against Sandringham, the Devils first win of the season. But, Callinan really made his presence felt from Round 12, where he collected the first of his three votes against the Scorpions, onwards. As he and the Devils gained momentum, Callinan was awarded best-on-ground performances in Round 14 against Geelong, Round 16 against Sandringham and finally, and most importantly, Round 20 against Williamstown.

While Callinan's success provided Tasmania with its first Liston, Johnson added to Sandringham's amazing Liston record in the past 20 years. Johnson is the Zebras' eighth Liston medallist, but fifth in the past 20 years - the most of any VFL club.

Ironically, Callinan and Johnson's vote tally was identical to last year's winner Julian Field, who polled just five votes this season. Fields' teammate Justin McConnell led the Roosters count and, for that matter, the Liston for much of the season. While North Ballarat struggled for much of the season, McConnell charged from the blocks to be the leader at the half way mark with 10 votes. McConnell added a best-on-ground performance in Round 13 to shoot further ahead and added another vote in Round 16 to have 14 votes.

But, by that stage Morrell was in overdrive. After gaining just four votes in the first half of the season, the strong marking forward picked up 11 votes in six rounds. Morrell secured maximum votes in Round 11, two votes in Round 12, but failed to poll a vote in Round 13. He added another three votes in Round 14, picked up two votes in Round 15 and a single vote in Round 16. After such a sustained impressive performance, Morrell gained a recall to the Blues, where he played out the home and away season.

PAUL JOHNSON (Sandringham) 16 IAN CALLINAN (Tasmania) 16
Digby Morrell (Northern Bullants) 15
Justin McConnell (North Ballarat) 14
Brett Johnson (Northern Bullants) 13
James Podsiadly (Werribee) 11

PAUL JOHNSON Club: Sandringham
Age: 21
Games: 12
Goals: 9
Honours: Liston Trophy (2005)

Club: Tasmania
Age: 22
Games: 92
Goals: 131
Honours: Liston Trophy (2005), VFL State Representative (2005)


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