Barnstorming on-baller Ely Smith claimed the Murray Bushrangers’ best and fairest on Friday night.
Smith polled 26 votes to win the John Byrne Medal from Lachie Ash (21) and Jimmy Boyer (20).
A Yarrawonga product, Smith was named in the TAC Cup Team of the Year and tallied 12 votes to finish fifth in the Morrish Medal.
The muscular midfielder, who turned 18 last week, polled in all but one game.
He won best on ground against Geelong Falcons in round 10, racking up 35 touches, as the Bushies held the Falcons goalless and to their lowest ever score.
The Year 12 student also polled eight two votes and seven ones.
“It’s probably his athleticism (which is the standout), he’s strong and powerful and he’s very quick,” Bushrangers’ talent manager Mick Wilson said.
“His contested ball and clearance work’s really strong and as an inside midfielder, his traits there are considered elite and that’s what’s attracted the AFL clubs to his style of footy.”
Smith burst on the national scene in the final game of the under 18 championships, racking up 30 disposals against Western Australia.
Smith played nine games last year, but took his game to another level this season.
He also played a game for Collingwood in the VFL.
But it was his match-winning performance for Yarrawonga against Lavington in round eight which alerted the O and M fraternity to his rapid development.
And off the field, Wilson said his level of commitment is extremely rare.
“He eats really well, he doesn’t drink, his attitude and commitment to prepare himself to be the best he can physically is really a strength,” he said.
He eats really well, he doesn’t drink, his attitude and commitment to prepare himself to be the best he can physically is really a strength.Mick Wilson
Meanwhile, Ash polled in 15 games, predominantly as a running half-back.
A bottom age player, Ash will play on AFL grand final day as part of the Young Guns game.
The Bushies had a number of other awards, with rugged midfielder Dylan Clarke snaring the Ashley Cox Memorial-Under 17 award.
Classy sixteen-year-old Will Chandler took out the trainers’ award, Nick Murray the coaches, Boyer was most improved and Hudson Garoni leading goalkicker.
At under 16 level, the most valuable player award will now be known as the Leon Higgins Medal.
Higgins has just stepped down as the under 18 coach, with Elijah Hollands snaring the first award.
And the Bushies have rewarded inaugural talent manager Byrne and Dr Paul O’Dwyer with life membership.
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