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The Riverine Herald - - SPORT - By Alex Mitchell

MEL­BOURNE young gun Clay­ton Oliver has stormed to the club’s best and fairest in just his sec­ond year of AFL foot­ball.

Oliver was never in doubt in Monday night’s Keith ‘Bluey’ Tr­us­cott Me­mo­rial Tro­phy count, win­ning with 530 votes, 184 clear from club co-cap­tain Jack Viney in sec­ond.

It capped off a sen­sa­tional 2017 for the Echuca Foot­ball Club ju­nior in which he racked up just un­der 30 pos­ses­sions a game as a key cog of the Demons’ mid­field as the side nar­rowly missed out on a re­turn to Septem­ber ac­tion for the first time since 2006.

The gutsy inside mid­fielder played ev­ery game for 2017 and also picked up Mel­bourne’s best young player award — no sur­prise when he’d al­ready won the AFL Coaches’ As­so­ci­a­tion best young player award.

Oliver im­pressed in his de­but sea­son last year, but took his game to an­other level in 2017 when he ‘‘pulled his head in’’.

‘‘Last year I ob­vi­ously hadn’t played any rep footy or any­thing like that and I had no idea what it took to be an AFL foot­baller,’’ Oliver said in his ac­cep­tance speech.

‘‘I was hon­estly stoked to be play­ing AFL and I was just happy to be there. I wasn’t re­ally do­ing any­thing more than I needed to and I was just cruis­ing through the mo­tions as such.

‘‘I got to the end of last year and it was a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing be­cause I had to play VFL. I re­mem­ber in the first week of the pre-sea­son, I sat down with (player/coach per­for­mance man­ager) Bren­dan McCart­ney.

‘‘He sat me down and ba­si­cally said I needed to pull my head in.’’

Oliver made head­lines through­out the sea­son. He was al­leged to have faked be­ing in­jured after con­tact from an Ea­gles’ player, got into an al­ter­ca­tion with a Carl­ton fan dur­ing a match, and has been in­volved in mul­ti­ple high-pro­file spats on Twit­ter.

But the 20-year-old said the me­dia at­ten­tion didn’t bother him, with par­tic­u­larly his so­cial me­dia work just a part of his playful per­son­al­ity.

‘‘I copped a bit of flak from the me­dia, but hon­estly it doesn’t re­ally faze me too much,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t read it too much but if I do see it I just sort of move on. I sort of en­joy it.

‘‘Hon­estly, I love a bit of ban­ter. All my mates back home in Mooroopna and Echuca, they all take the mickey out of me. I ac­tu­ally en­joy it. It’s just a lot of fun.’’

He be­comes one of the youngest win­ners of the award in Mel­bourne his­tory, a record held by Terry Leahy who won the best and fairest aged just 19 in 1966.

Oliver fought back tears when ac­cept­ing the award, his voice crack­ing as he ac­knowl­edged his fam­ily as well as his girl­friend, So­phie.

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