Liam Barrett wins Bendigo Pioneers club champion award
Kyabram's Liam Barrett has capped a superb season with the Bendigo Bank Pioneers by winning the football club's best and fairest award, the Neville Strauch Memorial trophy for 2014.
The award race was not decided until votes from Saturday's final game against Murray Bushrangers were called during the function in the Epsom-Huntly Reserve social rooms.
In a dramatic finish, Barrett finished on 32 votes as Kyneton's Daniel Davie, and Sandhurst clubmates Tom Cole and Billy Evans were joint runners-up on 29 votes.
Next best in the award race were South Mildura's Josh Ryan and Strathfieldsaye's Harry Conway on 25, and Lake Boga's Matt Pickering on 21 votes.
A second-year player with the Pioneers, Barrett racked up more than 260 disposals across 16 games to win the Bendigo Advertiser-sponsored best and fairest award.
He led the club's tackles tally and regularly intercepted opposition passes or was a key link as the Pioneers turned defence into attack.
Barrett said to be named a Pioneers club champion was a massive honour.
"There a lot of great players who have won the club best and fairest and gone on to play the ultimate level in AFL," Barrett said.
"It's a huge honour to be on the board," he said of joining a list that includes Nathan Brown, Mark Alvey, Brent Guerra, Colin Sylvia, Jarryn Geary and more.
"This is an award I will cherish," Barrett said.
"From a team perspective the goal was obviously more on-field success and to play finals.
"Although we tried really hard that didn't happen."
Barrett was a vice-captain at the Pioneers this year.
His lead-up to the 2014 campaign included a lot more time in the gym where he added 6kg to his frame, which helped a lot in marking duels.
"A learnt a lot from my first year with the Pioneers and just kept working as hard as I could on improving every game I played.
"Dave (Newett) and the rest of the coaching staff, and my team-mates were a huge influence and help."
A year 12 student at Kyabram P12, Barrett had the two-hour round trip to complete for training in Bendigo and even longer stints for away matches.
Barrett's season may not be over as Kyabram chases back-to-back premierships.
HIs play on the football field is closely followed by parents Russell and Kathy, older siblings Ellen and Mitchell, and younger brother Drew.
Votes for the Pioneers best and fairest were on a sliding scale of one to five. A maximum of 30 could be awarded across the team for each match.
The versatile Josh Ryan polled votes in 13 of 16 matches and earned the Pioneers most consistent player award.
Often swung from attack to defence and back again the South Mildura star also represented NSW-ACT at the AFL national under-18 titles.
Kyneton's Daniel Davie was presented with the most improved award.
Davie's play at either end of the ground earned high praise from a coaching staff led by David Newett.
The Pioneer Pillar award based on team first, encourage, responsible and achieve was presented to Matt Pickering.
An initiative of David Newett since the first of his three seasons as Pioneers coach, the Pillar award had been previously presented to Ollie Wines and Jordan Hargreaves.
Pioneers' captain Jake Maher from Lalbert was presented with the John Turner Memorial Best Clubman award.
The night included Peter Gibbs and Mark Snell being awarded life membership of the Bendigo Pioneers Football Club.