JACK Hickman has added his name to the Neville Strauch Medal honour roll after winning the Bendigo Pioneers' best and fairest on Tuesday night.
Golden Square's Hickman polled 79 votes to win the award, with fellow top-age player Cobi Maxted finishing runner-up on 59 votes.
Pioneers' coach Danny O'Bree reflects on the impact of all the club's award winners following a NAB League season in which Bendigo finished fourth on the ladder with a 6-5 record.
BEST AND FAIREST:
"Every time Jack pulled on a Pioneers' jumper he had a significant impact.
"He played VFL with Essendon and Young Guns for Vic Country, so to be back and forth the way he was between programs and to win the best and fairest really is a massive achievement.
"For us Jack played predominantly as a mid/forward and was fantastic.
"He's got a lot of attributes that an AFL club would love. His endurance is towards the top end and the improvement in his kicking over the year was just sensational."
RUNNER-UP & LEADING GOALKICKER:
"Cobi played for two different VFL teams (Sydney and Collingwood) and played nearly every position on the ground for us.
"He did a VFL pre-season with Essendon as a defender, came back to us and played the first game-and-a-half as a defender and then went forward, and then in the back end of the year he was playing in our midfield.
"To win our goalkicking (13) playing all positions of the ground, as well as some VFL games, was a phenomenal effort."
MOST VALUABLE PIONEER:
"This is an award voted on by staff and recognises not only contributions on the field, but off it as well in terms of professionalism and how players conduct and handle themselves and interact.
"Cooper is an incredible human being. He's one of the hardest workers and nicest kids in the program with unbelievable character, which we're very fortunate to have a lot of."
PIONEERS SPIRIT AWARD:
"One of the initiatives of Brooke (Brown, former talent lead) when she came to the program was ensuring all our kids went back to their home clubs and didn't forget where they came from.
"She encouraged them to get back and help out in any way, shape or form they could around their home club... whether it was serving in the canteen, helping out the netball scoring, or running water.
"Our players commitment to that was unbelievable and Jordan, along with a few others, went above and beyond with his mentoring of some players.
"He initially wasn't invited into the program, but worked incredibly hard on his fitness and skill to get in, so he did it the hard way.
"His spreading of our message and improving the standards of his footy club (Nullawil) through what he has learned was significant."
BEST FIRST YEAR PLAYER:
"I haven't seen too many 16-year-olds play as early as he has in NAB League footy, which gives an indication of the esteem in which we hold Harley in regards to his talent.
"He played as a bottom-ager in the Vic Country 17s program, he played a variety of positions for us, including on-ball, and is a really exciting talent."
KEN "GINGE" GILBERT AWARD:
"Ken Gilbert has been involved in our program since its inception and just epitomises everything we want in our Pioneers' players in terms of hard work and doing whatever they can to make other people better.
"With the way Sam plays and conducts himself off the field and worked with our V/Line players throughout the year, he was a clear cut winner of this award."
MOST OUTSTANDING CLUB PERSON:
Matt Dunham (assistant coach)
"We had a theme this year about being blue collar and you can't be any more blue collar than Matt.
"He travels from Lockington and his commitment to give the amount of time that he does before and after training is enormous.
"He's always the first at training and generally the last to leave... his commitment to the program is unquestionable and he's a tremendous asset."
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