WITH just six games remaining, the 2017 TAC Cup season will come to a close on Sunday and later that night a new Morrish Medallist or medallists will be crowned. AFL Draft Central’s Peter Williams looks at some of the contenders that could win the competition’s top award.
In past years’ players from country sides have traditionally polled well over metropolitan players because they do not have as many clashing commitments. While some players do have school football, some in the west play mid-week, unlike their private school competition counterparts. The National Under 18s Championships also play a factor in the winner with players missing a handful of games over June and early July, making it tough for Vic Metro and Vic Country representatives that also have school football, to poll enough votes to win.
Last year overwhelming favourite and at that stage, potential number one pick Hugh McCluggage took home the Morrish Medal after an outstanding year. He missed a number of games with Vic Country, but produced first class performances across all his outings to win from surprise packets, Dandenong’s Dan Allsop and Gippsland’s Cal McKeon.
In 2017, the winner is not as clear cut, but in my mind there are two strong favourites ahead of the rest. These are Geelong Falcons’ midfielder Cassidy Parish, and Oakleigh Chargers’ livewire Jack Higgins. Parish racks up the ball with ease and has worked on a number of areas of his game throughout the season. He has fantastic vision in close and gets his hands dirty for his side as one of the best extractors in the competition. Higgins on the other hand has been a standout down forward, including a seven-goal haul against Bendigo Pioneers last weekend. He started the season in the midfield but has played predominantly forward in the second half of the season.
The question mark over whether these two will win it is given the success of their respective teams, will they be the ones to attract the votes from the umpires? Could a Sam Walsh, James Worpel or Harry Benson take votes off Parish in the midfield? Could the likes of Toby Wooller, Charlie Thompson or Matthew Day steal a handful from Higgins? If so, who are the others most likely to poll a high number of votes.
Calder’s Brad Bernacki is one that immediately comes to mind. His second half of the season has been outstanding and while Calder’s slow start, which saw them go 0-6 might work against him, if he picks up a few votes early and then storms home in the second half of the season, he could be in the running when the whips are cracking. Likewise, Darby Henderson, who regularly finds plenty of the football and has played more games than many others, that like Bernacki, could poll very well on the night. Henderson has been an important cog in the Bendigo midfield, but also like Bernacki, could struggle to poll best on grounds given Bendigo has struggled this season.
An outside chance could be Dandenong’s Hunter Clark, which while unlikely due to Vic Country commitments, has produced a number of best on ground performances when he has played and if he has caught the umpires’ eye, could be in the running. Clark’s burst speed out of a stoppage is something likely to attract votes. Heading down the highway, Gippsland’s Cal Porter would also have to be among those considered for the league best and fairest. While he might compete for votes with Will Stephenson in a number of games, Porter had an unbelievable purple patch mid-season to mirror Gippsland’s turnaround which could see him net a number of three votes.
Others from clubs that should poll well include Western Jets’ Nicholas Stuhldreier, Eastern Ranges’ trio Tom North, Sam Hayes and Jaidyn Stephenson – hence why they will likely steal votes off each other – Murray Bushrangers’ duo Kyle Clarke and Angus Hicks, Greater Western Rebels’ Callan Wellings, Sandringham Dragons’ Will Walker and Northern Knights’ duo Nick Coffield and Jack Petruccelle.
My top 5 are as follows:
1 Cassidy Parish
2 Jack Higgins
3 Brad Bernacki
4 Cal Porter
5 Darby Henderson
Whether or not that eventuates is yet to be seen as there is always a surprise packet or two on the night. But one thing is for sure, after a long, hard season, players are able to enjoy a night off with their friends and families.