RIVAL coaches rate Culcairn's midfield maestro Jye Shields as a raging favourite to win the Azzi medal count at Henty on Wednesday night.
Shields, 25, has finished runner-up in the medal for the past two seasons.
Shields arrived from Kiewa-Sandy Creek in 2016 after playing in the Hawks' 2011 and 2014 flags.
The prolific possession winner has been instrumental in the Lions reaching their second preliminary final in the past three seasons.
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He was at his electrifying best in Sunday's first semi-final win against Holbrook and influential in the Lions' 26-point come-from-behind victory.
Shields rates this as his best season so far in the maroon and blue.
"I've definitely had a better season than last year," Shields said.
"Last year I was a bit shocked to finish runner-up to be honest.
"I feel this season is the best that I have played.
"Purely to my superior fitness levels compared to previous seasons.
"I feel like I'm playing a better brand of football and not as lazy and can get to a lot more contests.
"But you play football for premierships and if you happen to win the medal, it's a small bonus and a bit of reward for effort I guess."
After his dominant season Shields will undoubtedly be high on the recruiting radar of several Ovens and Murray clubs in the off-season.
Shields was unsure if he wanted to commit to the higher standard of O&M.
"I have previously thought about having a crack at the O&M," he said.
"I enjoy playing in the bush where there is less commitment.
"But now I'm a bit older, I have never felt as motivated and committed to playing football."
Rival coaches predict Brock-Burrum man mountain Matt Seiter as the biggest threat to Shields.
The Saints ruckman is the most dominant big man in the league and is a proven vote catcher after winning the Morris medal in 2016.
The wildcards could be Osborne's Connor Galvin and Billabong Crow's Bronson Schofield.
Galvin enjoyed an outstanding season for the Tigers as a forward-midfielder.
He is sure to have captured the attention of the umpires after booting more than 50 goals.
Schofield arrived at the Crows from Yarrawonga in one of the biggest signings of the summer.
The ball magnet didn't disappoint and alongside Al Austin and Josh Evans was the driving force behind the Crows securing their maiden finals appearance.