Adrian Williams is one of the Dowling Medal contenders. Photo: TJ Yelds/NEAFL.

By ANTHONY WINGARD

 

A new Dowling Medal as the Redland Bombers’ best player in 2017 is set to be announced as the club hosts their formal end of season awards this coming Friday night.

Whilst on field success has still eluded Redland, which won just four games this year, encouraging individual performances suggest it’s an open field for the club’s major award.

The Dowling Medal boasts significant prestige, too, as the past three winners – Blake Grewar, Josh Smith and Paul Hunter – have all gone on to be drafted by AFL clubs.

We take a look at who’s in the running to be named the Bombers’ best.

 

TOP CONTENDERS

Jackson Paine

The Bombers had long struggled to find a consistent tall target inside fifty. But in 2017, they had finally found their man. A marquee signing in the off-season, it wasn’t long before the former Brisbane Lions NEAFL captain had left his mark on the club, kicking four goals in his club debut. He soon emerged as one of the most dangerous forwards in the league, finishing second in the goalkicking leaderboards and first for contested marks per game. While his season ended prematurely in Round 19, Paine’s importance to Redland this year remains perhaps unrivalled to anyone else in the league.

Defining Game – Round 14 v Southport: Paine kicked four or more goals in six games this season, however his bag of five against Southport was his most dominant. With any chance of a finals return teetering on a knife’s edge for the Bombers, a win was necessary, and Paine was the difference maker. Hauling in three contested marks, Paine booted 5.2 in the 21-point win, and polled a further three MVP votes.

Adrian Williams

Williams played a career-high 18 games in 2017 where he was named in the NEAFL Team of the Year and polled the second most MVP votes of any Bomber. Tasked with marshalling the Bombers’ backline, Williams was a stalwart in the defensive 50, registering more disposals and marks than any other player in the defensive zone. Despite playing as a tall on some of the league’s best goalkickers, Williams made a knack of finding plenty of the ball, with half of his games producing 20 or more disposals.

Defining Game – Round 16 v Gold Coast: Redland looked off to a hot start against the Suns at Metricon Stadium, yet the following three quarters resulted in a 77-point drubbing to the away side. While his side collapsed, losing the inside-50 count 67-37, Williams was among the few contributors. He finished with 20 disposals, five rebound-50s and three intercept marks.

Clay Cameron

Like Paine, Cameron flourished in his first season in the red-and-white. After initially deployed as an outside midfielder, Cameron soon found his groove as a crafty half-forward where a high-work rate, strong hands and flair at the goal face meant he could impact that game in more ways than one. Cameron booted multiple goals in 50 per cent of his games while averaging 18 disposals, claiming a place in the NEAFL Team of the Year as well as the Mark of the Year.

Defining Game – Round 4 v NT Thunder: Cameron produced his most well-rounded performance for the season early in the frame, as the most influential player in Redland’s ANZAC clash with the Thunder. While Adam Sambono claimed the ANZAC Medal, Cameron worked tirelessly for the home side, often without sufficient support in the 39-point loss. He tallied 25 disposals, 16 contested possessions, five tackles, five inside 50s – all season-highs – along with two score assists, eight clearances and two goals of his own.

Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds

The Redland skipper regressed slightly in 2017, lowering his average disposals by 2.4, however posted career highs in contested possessions, tackles and inside 50s as he assumed a greater responsibility in the Bombers’ midfield contingent. Bertoli-Simmonds emerged as not the Bombers’ most damaging midfielder, but clearly the most consistent, laying more tackles than any other player in the league and posting more Champion Data ranking points than any other Redland player.

Defining Game – Round 9 v Southport: While lacking the flair and eye-catching talent of some of his teammates, Bertoli-Simmonds simply gets the job done. Nothing signified that more so than their Round 9 loss to Southport. In what was the team’s most demoralising defeat of the year, Bertoli-Simmonds remained his team’s best. A season-high 32 disposals, along with six tackles and five clearances was the result, despite the Bombers’ losing out 43-27 in the clearances.

ONE TO WATCH

Soul Cormick

Perhaps the most unsung of Redland’s off-season acquisitions, Soul Cormick was immersed immediately into the Bombers’ midfield and never looked out of place. He claimed the Bombers’ first Rising Star nomination of the season, and his capabilities of playing as either an outside or inside midfield, or as a crumbing forward, shows off his genuine versatility that makes him a lethal asset on the field. The 20-year old ranked first at the club for both kicks and uncontested possessions per game. What sets him aside from other Redland midfielders is his ability to impact the scoreboard, kicking 6.7 for the year while also contributing 21 score assists – the second most of any Bomber midfielder.

Defining game – Round 19 v Aspley: Cormick was instrumental through the midfield in what was only the Bombers’ second win in nine encounters with the Hornets. Producing a season-best 30 disposals and 122.6 Champion Data ranking points, Cormick sent the ball inside 50 seven times during the 31-point win, indicative of the presence he often imposes on the game. He was at his best and most influential during the game, and was duly named as the Bombers’ best player on the day.

 

 

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