Experienced midfielder Daniel Venditti clinched his third consecutive best and fairest award in a tie with highly-regarded defender Michael Hartley on Friday night.
Venditti, who played his 50th game for Coburg in 2015, again proved his importance with a consistent season that saw him among the Lions’ leading ball-winners in every game. The 28-year-old vice-captain also popped up to kick crucial goals and lead teammates by example around the ground and particularly with his contested work.
Venditti has now topped the best and fairest count in three of his five seasons at Coburg since joining from Western Australia and joins club legends Ray Jordan and Lawrie Bert as three-time winners of the award.
“I’m pretty blown away,” Venditti said.
“I got a new lease on life and footy since coming to Coburg. I was a new player in a new team and the rest took care of itself - I was grateful of the opportunity.
“I’m honoured with the chance that Germo and Leesy have given me. It’s the best club I’ve ever played with in terms of cultures and values.
“This year was good but I think we can go to something else next year.”
It is also the second consecutive year in which Venditti has shared the award. In 2014 he tied with future AFL draftee Adam Saad and, in 2015, we hope the same will soon be said about Hartley.
Hartley’s first Jim Sullivan award in his second season at the club was great reward for an outstanding season by one of Coburg’s most consistent players. His strong, reliable displays in the Lions defence also saw him named in the 2015 VFL team of the year at centre half back, invited to the AFL State Draft Combine for the second year running.
“Thanks to the footy club for getting me down,” Hartley said.
“I didn’t know what to expect and it’s turned out well. Thanks to Germo, Leesy and all the coaches. To all the boys, particularly the backline, I love running around with them.
“Thanks to my biggest supporters, mum and dad. They both live in Western Sydney and drive up and back to watch me play every week.”
After an injury-plagued stint as a rookie at Collingwood in 2013, Hartley’s standout form has him firmly back on the radar of AFL selectors.
Venditti jumped out to an early lead but Hartley stormed home in the back half of the season as the count finished with each player polling 32 votes each.
Ozgur Uysal – who also earned a spot in the VFL team of the year as an on-baller – finished second to claim the Brad Nimmo Second Place Trophy with 27 votes. The young midfielder’s ball-winning abilities and poise under pressure has seen him attract attention at AFL level.
I set myself the goal this season of finishing in the top three in the best and fairest and I’m glad to have achieved that,” Uysal said.
“Well done to Daniel and Michael for their awards, thanks to Peter German and all the coaches and thanks to my family for all their support.”
Leadership member and consistent contributor Ben Clifton came third with 25 votes to win the Vin Taranto Third Place Trophy while impressive rebounding defender Robbie Fox and hard-running midfielder Jordy Williams rounded out the top five.
Robinson wins Development Lions best and fairest
Defender Jai Robinson jumped ahead late in the count to claim the Eric Lines Medal for Coburg’s Development League best and fairest on Friday night.
Robinson’s 43 votes – and a best-on-ground performance in the preliminary final win over Casey – were enough to get the 22-year-old over the line ahead of midfielders Josh Totino and Daniel Cooper.
Robinson was a valuable figure in the Development Lions’ defence in 2015. His willingness to play on from deep in defence to help set up Coburg’s attacks and showed his versatility by getting up the ground and kicking goals when needed. The fourth-year player notched his 50th Development game for Coburg in the sides away win over Casey in round 17.
“Thanks to all the boys throughout the year, it’s always much more enjoyable when we’re tight. I’d also like to thank the coaches and everything they’ve done for us this season,” Robinson said.
Contested ball machine Totino was runner-up and collected the Alan Walsh Second Place Trophy with 39 votes. Totino’s physicality and inside work ensured that he was able to have an impact in every game he played in 2015 and was among the Development Lions’ major ball and clearance winners every week.
Totino thanked everyone involved in season 2015 and said he was proud to receive his trophy.
“This award means a lot and I’m already looking to next season,” he said.
Daniel Cooper – who proved his worth as a goal-kicking midfielder – was third with 33 votes and claimed the Kerin Lawson Third Place Trophy. Cooper’s strong season saw him earn selection for seven senior games but, when playing at development level, showcased his ability to change a game. His three goals in a destructive 10-minute period in the first quarter of the preliminary final win was one of the highlights of the Development season.
“It was a good year and we did well to make finals. I’ve learned a lot from the coaches this season so I thank them for that,” Cooper said.
Andrew Sturgess finished with 30 votes while Jordy Easton claimed fifth spot with 29.
Jim Sullivan Best and Fairest:
Daniel Venditti & Michael Hartley
Brad Nimmo Runner Up BnF:
Kerin Lawson 3rd Place Senior BnF:
Jeff Angwin Most Courageous Award:
Trevor Price Team Spirit Award:
Phil Cleary Rising Star Award:
Eric Lines Development Best and Fairest:
Alan Walsh Runner Up Development BnF:
Kerin Lawson 3rd Place Development BnF:
Team Spirit Award:
Best Finals Player: