By ZACHARY GATES
The outcome of the Brisbane Lions’ recent Neville Fallon Best-and-Fairest Award suggests on the cusp of the Canberra Demons’ night of nights on Friday the NEAFL MVP Award is not the be-all and end-all.
Blossoming Brisbane ruckman Oskar McInerney ranked as the fifth Lion in the NEAFL MVP count but took out the club’s Best-and-Fairest three weeks later.
It means that although gun Canberra on-baller Jordan Harper ranked higher than all other Demons players at the NEAFL MVP Award in August, the reigning Canberra Best-and-Fairest is not a shoe-in for back-to-back victories.
We run an eye over the players in the running to take out top honours.
After finishing runner-up in the 2016 NEAFL MVP Award, Harper again reminded the masses in 2017 he is one of the NEAFL’s elite midfielders. The 23-year-old, who ranked 10th at the NEAFL MVP Award with 41 votes, recorded the Demons’ most disposals per game (28.2) this season. The Belconnen Ainslie recruit also ranked in the side’s top three for average contested possessions (8.7) and inside 50s per game (3.5). Harper was the only Demon named in the NEAFL Team of the Year and one of just three Canberra players who featured in the NEAFL’s representative win over the Tasmanian State league.
Defining game – Round 1 v Redland at Allinsure Park: Harper was unstoppable in the Demons’ first win of their 2017 campaign, charging to 38 disposals, 16 contested possessions and seven inside 50s to help Canberra to a 21-point win over Redland. He recorded 30-plus disposals on nine occasions this season but the 16 contested possessions were a major stand-out in the Queanbeyan Oval clash.
Fellow midfielder Sam Martyn finished third in Canberra’s Best-and-Fairest in 2016 and is expected to give Harper a much bigger run for his money this time around. The former Adelaide Crow ranked in the Demons’ top three for average disposals (24.5), effective kicks (9.8) and uncontested possessions per game (17.5). He ranked as the third Demon at the NEAFL MVP Award with 20 votes and earned NEAFL Representative Team selection.
Defining game – Round 21 v Southport at Fankhauser Reserve: The 25-year-old was at his scintillating best in Canberra’s final game of the season, collecting a game-high 37 disposals to complement six inside 50s and a goal. Martyn stepped up to the plate in absence of Harper to lead the NEAFL’s newest outfit to a gripping six-point victory over Southport.
Expect ever-reliable swingman Andrew Swan to be Harper’s closest rival on the night. Statistically, the former Queanbeyan Tiger was exceptional, topping average contested possessions (11.2), contested marks (1.1), clearances (4.5), tackles (6.7) and inside 50s per game (3.7). The NEAFL Representative Team star finished 13th at the NEAFL MVP Award (32 votes) to be Harper’s closest Canberra competitor.
Defining game – Round 6 v NT at TIO Stadium: Arguably the cream of the crop of Swan’s 18 games this season came in Canberra’s shock win over NT Thunder. The 24-year-old was instrumental to the side’s first away win of the season, recording 12 contested possessions and booting two crucial goals to help the Demons to a thrilling five-point victory.
ONE TO WATCH
Boom 19-year-old on-baller Mitch Maguire is a Canberra Best-and-Fairest smokey. The Northern Jets product announced himself to the NEAFL when he earned the Round 2 NEAFL Rising Star nomination and continued to set the stage alight from that point on. Maguire ranked in the Demons’ top four for contested possessions (9.3) and disposals per game (24.1), and registered 30-plus disposals on four occasions in his debut NEAFL season. He was also named as an emergency in the NEAFL Representative Team.
Defining game – Round 10 v Aspley at UNSW Canberra Oval. Canberra succumbed to Aspley in a seven-point loss in Round 10 but Maguire was a diamond in the rubble. The physiotherapy student racked up 32 disposals and 13 contested possessions – which he would go on to do in the Demons’ following clash – and ran in two goals in arguably his most impressive performance of the season.
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