Magner is our man

SANDRINGHAM coach Brett Lovett declined to mention names last month when he said the club had only a handful of top-line VFL players. But there's little doubt he's pegged James Magner as one of them. The onballer is more packhorse than thoroughbred, but his toughness, ball-winning ability and durability (he hasn't missed a match in three years) make him a valuable player.

Magner is this year's Leader Newspapers-Veolia Sandringham Zebras player of the year after gaining votes in the final two rounds to nose past Andrew McQualter. Magner and McQualter were locked on 14 heading into the Round 22 match against Geelong, and the 24-year-old right-footer gained two votes to take the $1500 first prize (McQualter was on the sidelines, nursing a shoulder jlinjury). Magner had 37 disposals and 16 clearances against the Cats, one of his best performances of the season. He said he was pleased to win the award and satisfied with his year. "I've been building. It's been coming together. I had a bit of a slump but I felt like I played some pretty good footy this year'' he said, dusty of voice after a "Mad Monday" gathering. But he would swap everything to play in the finals. The Zebras finished a game outside the top eight. "Individual awards are nice but they mean very little. "It's a cliche but I'd much rather be playing next week than picking up an award,'' Magner said. "That's why you play footy, to play in finals, and I haven't played many finals.'' Coming out of Beaconsfield juniors, Magner went to the Dandenong Stingrays and on to Frankston, earning senior spurs under Lovett. He joined Sandringham last year, and was delighted when he learned Lovett had taken the senior job.  "He's the best coach I've had.'' Apart from the travel _ he lives in Berwick _ Magner enjoys it at the Trevor Barker Oval and says he will be a Zebra in 2012. Lovett has seen Magner develop from a hopeful to a fine senior player. "Jimmy's always had a good motor and strength,'' he said. "Now he really understands the game. "He's very good at reading the footy off the pack in a clearance situation and his skill level is improving all the time.'' "He's hard and tough and a good warrior.'' Lovett said he also appreciated Magner's leadership when senior men David Gallagher and Marcus Marigliani were missing. He believes his No 23 would be a worthy recipient of a VFL team-of-the-year plaque. The team will be announced at the JJ Liston Trophy count at Etihad Stadium next Monday.


By Paul Amy - Bayside Leader


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