Season 2017 has been on of the more remarkable in recent memory, and it is only fitting to cap the year with an enthralling vote count to crown the fairest and best player in the Division 1 competition.
But with so many star players, who will take out the SFNL’s highest individual accolade? Let’s take a look at each club’s biggest chances.
The 2016 winner, Scott Lawry, relished a move back into the midfield this season, racking up big numbers and dazzling with his speed from the stoppages. He is a four-time league B&F winner, including the last two Ellis Medals, and should poll a few BOGs, however, given he only played 11 games I can’t seeing winning a another. Ruckman Mitchell Smart and midfielders Tom Massey, Brody Lawford and Jackson Meredith will also feature, but it was a year in which Bentleigh had plenty of contributors, but few standouts.
Rosellas big man Sean McLaren is a lay down misere to poll the most votes for Cheltenham, and after such an outstanding season, is a real chance to go all the way and win the Ellis. Not only is the former Sydney Swans rookie an accomplished tap ruckman, but he competes well around the ground in various positions, which will no doubt have caught the attention of the umpire throughout the season. The consistent Jack Barclay would be the only teammate likely to get close to McLaren.
After such a horror season on the field, it is unlikely that too many votes would be awarded to players in the black and white. Captain Jayden Gilmour was gallant in defence all season, while Jack McEwin also worked hard, so expect one of those two players to be their leading vote winner on Friday.
While having an even spread of contributors is a coach’s dream, and vital for premiership success, it unfortunately doesn’t lend itself to individual success at the SFNL’s night of nights. As such, expect several Dingoes to steal votes off each other. Previous winner Lucas Walmsley was in great form early in the season, and would have been right in contention at the halfway point, but injury and travel ensured he won’t poll many after Round 7. Co-Captains Jackson Peet and Trav La Rocca, tattooed winger Josh Ferguson and ruckman Troy MacKenzie will also be fighting amongst each other for votes.
Superstar Ryan Mullett has quickly established himself as one of the best players in the SFNL with a tremendous debut season. A former Division 1 Eastern League best and fairest winner, Mullett is one of the hot favourites to take out this year’s Ellis, despite only playing home and away 14 games. But will missing those four matches cost him? Midfielder guns Nathan Robinson, Ed Sim and Jimmy Dowling were also be squarely in the umpires’ sights for much of the season, while ruck/forward Simon Taylor and classy goalkicker Nathan Henley were also prominent in several wins, but the quintet are unlikely to have too much of an impact on Mullett’s chances.
A number of high-profile recruits propelled the Bloods from a sixth-place finish in 2016 to a grand final this year. Chief among them was former Collingwood rover Danny Nicholls, whose ability to win the contested ball and combination of pace and polish made his stand out above others. Expect him to give tonight’s Ellis Medal a real shake. Mordialloc’s Best & Fairest winner, Todd Bastion, is also always in the umpires’ line of vision and could rack up a few votes, but expect the Bloods’ votes to be shared around.
Midfielder Ryan Pearson had one of his best seasons to date, and as one of very few Oaks to feature in all 18 matches, is sure to be rewarded for his consistency. Paul Fermanis, although at times hampered by injury, still showed his class both through the centre and up forward, and has traditionally polled well. While the pair are the best chances of any at Princes Highway, expect Jake Mullen to pinch votes off them in the back half of the season.
Midfield ace Lewis Mildenhall was a picture of consistency in 2017, and led from the front for the Colts. Unfortunately he didn’t have a lot of help as last year’s Div 2 premiers endured a testing season in the SFNL’s top grade. While Mildenhall should poll the most for his side, it would be enough to get him a podium finish.
After several brilliant performances in the first few rounds, ruckman Troy Kelm emerged as one of the early favourites for the Ellis. However, persistent injury quelled his influence in the second half of the year and crippled his chances of the League award. Unfortunately for the Saints, they didn’t have many players contribute for the entire season, so I can’t see the boys from the Peanut Farm featuring prominently.
While the Dogs’ resurgence has been based around the development of its impressive young pups, it was the more experienced heads that led from front in 2017. Former Sandringham Zebra Matt Kreymborg returned to the kennel and displayed his star qualities in his 17 home and away games. He won plenty of the footy through the middle, while also pushing forward to slot 30 goals and was a constant threat to the opposition. While Kreymborg should fair pretty well, Brad Gilder and Kieran Knox also stood out in the engine room throughout the season. Expect the trio to share BOG honours in most of St Pauls’ wins.