By Will Hunter
Season 2016 saw some outstanding individual performances in Division 2, but on Friday night only one will take home the Bennett Medal as the competition's best and fairest. Let's take a look at some of the players that could possibly take home the prize...
MITCH CLARKE (Port Melbourne Colts)
There was no more electrifying player in the Division 2 competition this year than the teenage Colt, who showed poise and footy smarts well beyond his tender years. An electrifying small forward, Clarke was incredibly consistent, especially in front of the sticks, booting three goals or more 13 times in his 18 home and away games to finish second on the league table with 54 majors. The eye-catching rising star is capable of the most miraculous things on the field, and with the Colts players tipped to monopolise the votes, Clarke could feature prominently.
JORDAN PERYMAN (Chelsea Heights)
There isn’t much of him, but what Peryman lacks in size he makes up for in speed and determination. The lightning-quick midfielder may not be the best user of the ball by foot, but he is a prodigious accumulator of possessions, which means he is frequently in the umpires’ sights. The two-time interleague representative has had some stellar games for the Heighters this year, including winning the radio team’s Blackchrome Player of the Day award against Highett in Round 7 and a four-goal effort against Heatherton in Round 11, and he could surprise on Friday night.
MITCH WALDER (Murrumbeena)
After a Grand Final appearance in 2015, it wasn’t the greatest of years at the Beena Arena this season, but you couldn’t fault the efforts of skipper Mitch Walder. Another player that has been a prolific vote winner in recent seasons – he finished equal third in Bennett Medal voting last year with 14 votes – Walder attracts the attention of umpires with his ability to play numerous roles. His four-goal, best afield performance against Keysborough typified his influence on games, and he is likely to again be among the votes in several of the Beena’s nine wins.
GEOFF HUMPHREYS (Keysborough)
The runaway winner of last year’s Bennett Medal should also be considered for the award again in 2016. His team may have begun its year in a dismal fashion, but they enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in the back half of the year, including upset victories over eventual finalists Caulfield and Highett. The hard-nosed midfielder and 2016 SFNL interleague representative will be right in contention for best on grounds in these games, and, as a proven vote-winner, may also sneak in for minor votes in a few of their closer losses as well.
BRAD SUTCLIFFE (Port Melbourne Colts)
Absolute class, this bloke. An elite runner that finds the ball with seemingly effortless ease, Sutcliffe has been outstanding for the undefeated Colts this year. His silky skills ensure he rarely wastes a disposal and wins enough of the ball to really stand out. The Colts will likely dominate the votes this year owing to their outstanding season, and Sutcliffe’s consistency throughout the year may see him poll regularly. However, missing the last three games of the home and away season may hurt his chances of ultimately claiming the medal.
TOM HEAGNEY (Caulfield)
A super season from Caulfield's 2016 Best & Fairest winner was derailed when he served a three-match suspension in the middle of the year. His subsequent absence highlighted his importance to the Bears' line up, and the hard-nut remains one of the most influential midfielders in the competition. Heagney is certain to poll votes given his team's rise to prominence this season, but let's hope his indiscretion doesn't cost him the Bennett Medal.