BY NATHAN DOLE
PYRAMID Hill midfielder Dylan Collis and Maiden Gully YCW Eagles goal attack Meg Patterson have earned the Bendigo Bank Loddon Valley FNL’s major fairest and best awards for the 2023 season.
Although he played just seven matches in the regular season, Collis dominated in most of them.
The umpires awarded Collis the maximum three votes in six matches to claim the Frank Harding Medal on 19 votes.
On the netball court, Patterson played a crucial role in the Eagles run of 15 wins and just one defeat in their pursuit of back-to-back premierships.
Now the goal is to add another premiership medal to the Helen Ward Medal.
Both of this year’s medallists join team-mates Billy Micevski and Tia Webb who were the LVFNL’s fairest and best in the ’22 season.
This year’s vote counts ended in dramatic fashion.
Just one vote separated Collis and Marong’s Jimmy Gadsden after the final card was called.
A great run by Collis included a hat-trick of matches where the umpires awarded him three votes.
He then went on an overseas holiday, but a best on ground performance in the last of the 18-round home and away series meant he clinched victory.
Gadsden’s consistency was a highlight in Marong’s unbeaten run, but he was on the sidelines in rounds 15 and 16.
Assistant coach at Maiden Gully YCW, Damian Wust caught the umpires’ attention and was third in the medal race on 15 votes.
A century goalkicker in consecutive seasons, Marong’s Brandyn Grenfell polled 14 votes to be fourth.
Next best were Bears-Lagoon Serpentine coach Justin Laird, 13; Inglewood’s Sam Dorevitch and Tom Kennedy, 12; Bears’ midfielder Darcy Poulter, and Inglewood’s Bregon Cotchett on 11.
Others to poll well were Calivil United coach Anthony Dennis, Marong ruckman Michael Bradbury, and Pyramid Hill forward Zach Alford on 10.
Collis is the fifth Pyramid Hill player to win the Harding medal.
The first was Barry Stewart in 1997, which was followed by Nathan Sachse in 2004, and Luan Marsh in the 2009 season.
This year’s race for the Helen Ward Medal as A-grade netball fairest and best was also closely-fought.
A best-on-court performance by Patterson in the final round meant she was a vote clear of four-time winner and Mitiamo star Laura Hicks.
At two rounds to be called the brilliant goal attackers were locked on 22 votes.
Adjudged best in the 17th round, Patterson went three clear, but Hicks drew level after a brilliant game in round 18 against Marong.
Shortly later it was Patterson who clinched the medal after named best on court in the Eagles final round victory against Bears-Lagoon Serpentine.
In equal third place on 19 votes were Marong’s Bianca Garton and Amelia Ludeman.
Dominance of the league’s top four teams was reflected in the fairest and best voting.
The ladder-leading Maiden Gully YCW Eagles had Arriagh Keogh poll 17 votes, plus Tia Webb on 14, and Tia Reaper on 12.
Marong’s Danielle O’Toole was on 15 votes, along with Pyramid Hill’s Jess Holdstock as team-mate Abbey Dingwall was on 14.
Mitiamo’s Abbey Battersby and Newbridge’s Kym Childs capped fine seasons by polling 12 votes.
The race for medal glory in the lower grades of netball was extremely close.
The Joy Lawry Medal for B-grade netball champion went to Marong’s Erin Stewart on 20 votes.
Runner-up was Bridgewater’s Mia Burge on 18, as Marong’s Tania Kerrison was next best on 17.
It was a one-two result for Maiden Gully YCW in C-grade.
Olivia Hall polled 18 votes as Eagles’ team-mate Shallon Webb was runner-up on 16.
Bridgewater’s Jalen Hoskin polled 15 votes to be in third place.
An incredible tally of 32 votes by Julia Tobin from Bears-Lagoon Serpentine earned the C-reserve award.
Marong’s Georgie McGrath was runner-up on 30 votes.
Another of the Bears’ rising stars, Marley Addlem clinched the 17-and-under award on 20 votes from Maiden Gully YCW’s Olivia Mannes on 19.
Honours in 15-and-under netball went to Lexie Austen from Calivil United on 26 votes.
Bridgewater’s Rachael Flood and Marong’s Sienna Taylor capped fine play in the home-and-away series to finish on 24 and 23 votes respectively.
On the football field, Mitiamo’s Aaron McKean racked up 21 votes to capture the John Forbes Medal which honours the Mitiamo and Loddon Valley legend.
Runner-up was Tucker Thach from Marong Panthers on 13, as Matthew Quinn from Bears-Lagoon Serpentine polled 13 votes to be third.
Inaugural fairest and best in the AFL Central Victoria under-18 competition was Gabe Nevins from Inglewood.
A tally of 24 votes by the Blues’ young gun earned the Stephen Dowling Award.
Next best were Marong’s Lochie Hale on 17 votes, as Jaxon Addlem earned 16 votes in Inglewood’s run.
Many of this season’s medallists in football and netball and those who figured prominently in the awards are still in the race for premiership glory.
Preliminary finals will be played this Saturday at Calivil United Recreation Reserve.
Schedule for Saturday’s football preliminary finals:
Under-18s at 10.40am: East Loddon Rams v Inglewood.
Reserves at 12.30pm: Pyramid Hill v Maiden Gully YCW.
Seniors at 2.15pm: Pyramid Hill v Bears-Lagoon Serpentine.
Schedule for Saturday’s netball preliminary finals:
15-under at 10.30am: Bridgewater v Maiden Gully YCW.
13-under at 12pm: Bridgewater v Maiden Gully YCW.
17-under at 12pm: Marong v Bears-Lagoon Serpentine.
B-grade at 1.30pm: Maiden Gully YCW v Bridgewater.
C-reserve at 1.3pm: Maiden Gully YCW v Newbridge.
A-grade at 3pm: Mitiamo v Marong.
C-grade at 3pm: Marong v Pyramid Hill.
Grand final day is on September 9 at Inglewood’s Dissy Machinery Oval.
Marong’s three football teams are all unbeaten in the run to the season decider.
Netball teams to have qualified for grand finals are Maiden Gully YCW, A-grade, C-grade; Marong, B-grade, C-reserve; Bridgewater, 17-under; Calivil United, 15-under and 13-under.