Harry Whittle was sitting at home enjoying a quiet Monday night when his phone started buzzing with messages.
Until his phone started "to go off" he didn't realise that he was on his way to victory in the LVFNL's Harding Medal count.
"I wasn't even following the count. I thought I wouldn't get anywhere near winning it,'' the Newbridge star said.
"Then my phone started going off with messages. Foz (Newbridge coach Luke Freeman) was probably more excited about it than I was. I was just in shock more than anything."
Whittle polled 15 votes in the COVID-shortened season for a vote ratio of 1.36 in the Maroons' 11 matches.
He edged out Bears Lagoon-Serpentine's Nathan Twigg (13 votes, 1.18) and Mitiamo's Lucas Matthews (14 votes, 1.17).
In his first season in the LVFNL after crossing from Huntly in the HDFNL, Whittle was the standout player in a rebuilding Newbridge side that finished seventh on the table with a 2-9 record.
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"We only had two wins, but lockdown didn't help us and we missed out on playing a couple of games that we could have won,'' Whittle said.
"We have a lot of young kids at Newbridge and I think Foz was saying the other day that we had 12 or 13 players playing their first full year of senior footy.
"They're a great bunch of kids and it's enjoyable to play out there.
"I think that's why I played as well as I did out there this year...I really enjoyed my footy."
One of the big talking points to come from the game was the umpires giving Whittle three votes in a 25-goal loss to Marong in round nine.
Whittle was one of Newbridge's better players that day, but he was shocked to collect the three votes.
"Since last night everyone has brought that game up,'' Whittle said.
"I can't believe I got the three votes in that game. To be honest, I didn't expect to get one vote let alone the three.
"I remember the game. I kicked out a lot that day because they were having so many shots at goal and I did go okay through the midfield, but there's no way I should have got the three votes."
Whittle thought his best game of the season was a match where he didn't get the three votes from the umpires.
"I thought the game against Serpentine was my best for the season,'' Whittle said.
"I got a bit of the ball and kicked four goals, but we did lose the game. I think I picked up two votes in that game."
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Whittle, who will remain playing assistant coach at the Maroons next year, and Freeman are ready to embark on what they hope is a fruitful off-season recruiting campaign.
"It's been a bit hard because of lockdown, but now that we're opening up we can get out there and try to attract some players to the club,'' Whittle said.
"Some more experience would be nice and a couple of key position players to help some of the young developing players we've got coming through."
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Harding Medal win for Whittle was that he won it with a club his father, Rod, played for during his footy career.
"Dad's never won a league medal, so I've finally got something that he doesn't have,'' Whittle said.
"He reminds me of everything he's done, so it's good to be one up on him there.
"He won a few footy and cricket flags. I don't have a footy flag yet. I did get a cricket flag (with United in the EVCA), but that was through COVID. Hopefully, I get to win a cricket flag the right way this season."
HARDING MEDAL WINNERS SINCE 2000
2000 - Ross Pointon (BL-Serpentine)
2001 - Tim Wicks (Mitiamo)
2002 - Dallas Slingo (Inglewood)
2003 - Steve Cox (Newbridge)
2004 - Nathan Sachse (Pyramid Hill)
2005 - Wayne Landry (Marong)
2006 - Nathan McNally (BL-Serpentine)
2007 - Tim Wicks (Mitiamo)
2008 - Lee Franklin (Marong)
2009 - Luan Marsh (Pyramid Hill)
2010 - Luke Mitchell (Mitiamo)
2011 - Luke Mitchell (Mitiamo)
2012 - Corey Gregg (Marong)
2013 - Adam Parry (Bridgewater)
2014 - Adam Parry (Bridgewater)
2015 - Andrew Collins (Bridgewater)
2016 - Zeb Broadbent (Bridgewater)
2017 - Ben Knight (Calivil United)
2018 - Chris Down (Calivil United)
2019 - Terry Reeves (Mitiamo)
2021 - Harry Whittle (Newbridge)
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