Sam Collins has continued to reap the rewards for a remarkable 2018 season by taking out the Bruce Montgomery Trophy as Werribee’s best and fairest player.
The key defender justified his status as heavy favourite for the award at the official vote count at Chirnsides by the River on Thursday night, topping the polling with 53 votes to finish 15 votes clear of the field.
Midfielders Tom Gribble and Kurt Aylett took out the runner-up and third-place awards with 38 and 34 votes respectively.
Collins is the first new winner of the Bruce Montgomery Trophy since 2015, with star midfielder Matt Hanson having equaled the club record in winning the previous three editions of the award.
Hanson again featured prominently in the early polling this year but suffered a foot injury in round seven that saw him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
In his acceptance speech, Collins paid tribute to Werribee for providing him with an opportunity to re-ignite his career following a frustrating two seasons with Fremantle in the AFL.
“It’s really humbling to be awarded this tonight,” Collins said.
“This season has been really great for me, but I think that comes at a price, and that price was for me to go over to Perth and really learn about myself and what I can bring as a footballer.
“To come back here and be able to play in front of my mum and dad is something I’m really happy to be able to do after the previous two years.
“This year was a really challenging year for us, but I think everyone will look back and be pretty proud of how it went.
“We took it to the eventual premiers and played some good football, and I think it’s something everyone can be really proud of.”
Collins’ victory in the Bruce Montgomery Trophy is his latest accolade from a remarkable season that has seen the 24-year-old touted as one of the hottest mature-age prospects at the 2019 AFL Draft.
Earlier this month, he finished just three votes behind joint winners Michael Gibbons and Anthony Miles at the JJ Liston Trophy count and was named at centre half-back in the VFL Team of the Year as the competition’s runaway leader for both contested and uncontested marks.
Gribble also made the VFL Team of the Year as rover as the competition’s third-highest possession winner and seemed to rise to the challenge of shouldering extra load in Hanson’s absence, his second placing highlighting the importance of his clearance work to his side over the second half of the year.
Aylett this year showed his side just what it has been missing out on in putting his injury woes behind him to register his first full season for Werribee, his third placing reflecting his ability to consistently win the ball or shut down an opponent as required.
The Bruce Montgomery Trophy count also recognised a number of other standout Werribee contributors both on and off the field.
Andrew Hooper took out the Goalkicking Award with 33 goals, while fellow small Jack Henderson was acknowledged for a stellar debut season at the other end of the ground with the Gordon Best First-Year Player Award.
Hooper and defender Matthew Brett will also enjoy the luxury of a new Holden Caprice for a weekend courtesy of major sponsor Ballan Holden as respective winners of the new Ballan Holden Goal and Mark of the Year Awards.
In the off-field stakes, Nick Buykx’s impressive work in the Wyndham community was rewarded with the CDC Victoria / Cervus Equipment Community Award, and volunteers Jimmy Masterson and Ian Wilson were named joint winners of the Ray Smith Best Club Person of the Year Award.
Perhaps the most touching presentation of the night was the awarding of life membership of Werribee to departing coach John Lamont and departing player Nathan Laracy in recognition of their years of outstanding service.
In addition to the presentation of awards, the evening also featured a guest appearance from Western Bulldogs 250-gamer and premiership hero and former Werribee player Dale Morris, who regaled the audience with tales from his time at Avalon Airport Oval and inside “The Kennel”.
2018 BRUCE MONTGOMERY TROPHY TOP 10
1. Sam Collins (53 votes)
2. Tom Gribble (38 votes)
3. Kurt Aylett (34 votes)
4. Michael Sodomaco (27 votes)
5. Dane McFarlane (26 votes)
6. Dom Brew (23 votes)
6. Joe Maishman (23 votes)
8. Nick Coughlan (20 votes)
8. Andrew Hooper (20 votes)
10. Jack Henderson (19 votes)
FULL AWARDS LIST
CDC Victoria / Cervus Equipment Community Development Award
The Gordon Best First-Year Player
MatchWorks Coaches' Award
Andrew Hooper (33 goals)
Ballan Holden Goal of the Year
Ballan Holden Mark of the Year
Ray Smith Best Club Person
Jimmy Masterson, Ian Wilson
John Lamont, Nathan Laracy