Hawk named best in league

The Cobram Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Tansey and Lau­ren Bordin

Ba­rooga ruck­man Brodie A’Vard capped off a re­mark­ably con­sis­tent year of foot­ball by tak­ing home the O’Dwyer Medal for the Mur­ray Foot­ball League’s best and fairest on Sun­day night at Club Mul­wala. A’Vard polled an equal record 37 votes, with nine best-on-ground per­for­mances show­cas­ing his dom­i­nance in a Ba­rooga side that flagged it­self as a gen­uine premier­ship con­tender this year.

The night be­longed to one man — Brodie A’Vard.

The Ba­rooga ruck­man went in the rag­ing favourite and in the end it was easy to see why.

A’Vard capped a mon­u­men­tal sea­son with an equal record vote poll in the Mur­ray Foot­ball League’s O’Dwyer Medal at Club Mul­wala on Sun­day night.

With 37 votes from his 18 matches, A’Vard equalled the record of fel­low Hawk John Brun­ner, who polled the same num­ber of votes in 1997.

A’Vard dom­i­nated the count from start to fin­ish, polling three votes on nine oc­ca­sions dur­ing a re­mark­able sea­son.

The big man was a colos­sus in the cen­tre square all year for the Hawks and his in­flu­ence not only in the ruck, but also around the ground helped pave the way for a dom­i­nant sea­son in which they have so far lost just two games.

Ba­rooga co-coach James Hazel­man said A’Vard man­aged to el­e­vate his game to another level af­ter a stel­lar 2017.

‘‘He was run­ner-up last year but has cer­tainly had a much bet­ter year this sea­son,’’ Hazel­man said.

‘‘I’d say there’s hardly been a game that he hasn’t been in our best play­ers, so it’s well de­served.’’

Hazel­man pin­pointed A’Vard’s prepa­ra­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism as two of the big­gest fac­tors in his all­con­quer­ing year, say­ing he con­sis­tently goes ‘‘above and beyond’’.

‘‘Play­ing in the ruck isn’t an easy to job to back up week af­ter week and he doesn’t ro­tate for us at all, which is a su­per ef­fort,’’ Hazel­man said.

A’Vard’s prodi­gious leap, en­durance, and strength all blend to­gether to make him the per­fect pro­to­type ruck­man in to­day’s game.

Co­bram ace Tessa Bruni was thrilled to ac­cept the Mur­ray Net­ball League A-grade best-and-fairest award on Sun­day night af­ter polling 29 votes in her re­turn to the com­pe­ti­tion.

Bruni, 19, spent time in the Goul­burn Val­ley League at Shep­par­ton United, where she fast-tracked her de­vel­op­ment and was a mem­ber of the Goul­burn re­gion’s un­der-17 squad in 2016.

Co­bram as­sis­tant coach Rachael Baxa said the club was rapt with Bruni’s sea­son af­ter push­ing hard to bring her back to Co­bram this year.

‘‘She is an all-rounder, her de­fen­sive work is just as strong as her at­tack­ing skills, she’s just a great team player, she’s very hum­ble and she seems to do ev­ery­thing with ease. She’s one of those play­ers you can only ad­mire,’’ Baxa said.

The dy­namic mid­courter said she en­joyed re­turn­ing to the ju­nior club where she won an un­der-13 premier­ship six years ago.

‘‘I have played for Co­bram be­fore. I went to Shepp United for a cou­ple of years and this is my first one back. I’ve re­ally liked it,’’ Bruni said.

‘‘It made a big dif­fer­ence play­ing at Shepp United. I’ve been coached very well, so I’ve im­proved as a player and with my mind­set to­wards net­ball.

‘‘It’s been re­ally good (this year), ev­ery game we’ve put in our hard­est ef­fort as a team and we’ve made fi­nals this year. We haven’t done that in a while.’’

The Tigers take on Ba­rooga in an elim­i­na­tion fi­nal af­ter fin­ish­ing sixth on the ta­ble and Bruni is hop­ing to progress.

‘‘They (Ba­rooga) would be our big­gest ri­vals. They beat us last time, but hope­fully we’d like to come home with the win this time,’’ she said.

Bruni is back play­ing with her mother He­len af­ter pre­vi­ously claim­ing Co­bram’s A-grade best-and­fairest award in 2015 when He­len was run­ner-up.

‘‘I have played with Mum this year. She’s been awe­some, she’s a lit­tle leg­end,’’ Bruni said.

Co­bram’s Luca Allen capped a stun­ning week­end of foot­ball with a run­ner-up fin­ish in the league’s un­der17 best-and-fairest count af­ter polling 21 votes.

Allen played a mem­o­rable part in Co­bram’s thrilling se­nior win over Rum­balara the day be­fore, kick­ing the match-win­ning goal from the bound­ary with just sec­onds re­main­ing.

He has played the ma­jor­ity of the year in the un­der­17s, but has also been sub nu­mer­ous times for the se­nior side, where his silky skills, ball-win­ning abil­ity and com­po­sure have im­pressed se­nior coach Josh Noo­nan.

Allen’s un­der-17 coach Ja­son Kerr said it was a great re­ward for a con­sis­tent sea­son.

‘‘He’s one of our prime movers and is al­ways in the thick of the ac­tion. His skills are very good and he al­ways puts his head over the footy and wins a lot of con­tested pos­ses­sions,’’ Kerr said.

‘‘He can al­ways seem to buy him­self a bit of space and the fact he can go on to his op­po­site side makes him a lit­tle bit more pol­ished as well.’’

Allen will look to ce­ment a place in the Mur­ray Bushrangers’ set-up next sea­son.

Allen’s brother Mat­teo reigned supreme to win the un­der-14 count in a land­slide.

The tall mid­fielder with a huge tank swept aside all chal­lengers, polling an in­cred­i­ble 47 votes.

‘‘We knew he would go okay, but we cer­tainly didn’t think he would poll that many votes,’’ Mat­teo’s coach Rob Allen said.

‘‘He is an elite run­ner but he can cer­tainly im­prove on his ball skills if he wants to take the next step.’’

Fel­low Tiger Will Slat­terie fin­ished run­ner-up with 28 votes af­ter win­ning the league goal-kick­ing with 65 ma­jors in an out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual achieve­ment.

‘‘Will kicks a lot of goals and his im­prove­ment has been out­stand­ing in terms of shar­ing the footy around. He’s been out­stand­ing. He’s so quick, clean and has an un­canny goal sense,’’ the coach said.

He said both play­ers had con­trib­uted enor­mously to Co­bram’s un­blem­ished sea­son to this point in which it had not dropped a game.

Pic­ture: Luke He­mer

Dom­i­nant: Ba­rooga ruck­man Brodie A’Vard capped a land­mark sea­son with 37 votes in the O’Dwyer Medal.

A-class: Co­bram’s Tessa Bruni is the Mur­ray Net­ball League’s best-and-fairest.

Dou­ble de­light: Broth­ers Luca and Mat­teo Allen show off their awards.

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