NORTH Albury champion Daniel Leslie had every reason to be rapt about winning the Hoppers’ best and fairest award.
It was his first.
About to enter his 15th season at Bunton Park, Leslie finally captured the top honour at Bunton Park this season after finishing runner-up on three other occasions.
But a new role under coach Jason Akermanis, a new voting system, and a vintage season from the Ovens and Murray’s pre-eminent forward over the past decade saw Leslie go one better this year.
“I’ve been runner-up three times before so I guess to finally win it was pretty good,” Leslie said.
“I’m rapt with that.
“I don’t really know what to put it down to but I was probably a little more consistent this year.
“I played every game, which helped.”
Leslie played at both ends of the ground this year, spending most of the season in defence after a decade of causing backmen plenty of problems himself as a gun forward.
He was also thrown into the familiar surrounds of the forward line when needed, averaging a goal a game.
“I suppose that role probably gave me a bit more freedom and space,” Leslie explained.
“It was a bit of a different role and it was also good having big ‘Adzy’ (Adam Prior) back in the forward line when I did get to play there.”
Midfield maestro Matt McDonald and Prior tied for runner-up.
In the last of the best and fairest counts for the year, Wodonga coach Ben Hollands took out the Bulldogs’ top honour.
Hollands enjoyed a strong return to form this year, playing every game and finishing with 27 goals in his creative role across half forward.
The former AFL player extended his coaching contract at John Flower Oval by two years.
Underrated defender Chris Macey and Matt Seiter rounded out the top three.