Kilmore's Chris Barton was named the NFNL coaches MVP.

By Colin MacGillivray

KILMORE cleaned up at the Northern Football Netball League’s annual awards presentation last week, with senior footballers taking out both the division three best and fairest and coaches MVP awards.

Gun midfielder Chris Ryall was the toast of the league after polling 15 votes to claim the best and fairest, winning by two votes from Heidelberg West’s Masaki Miki.

Ryall’s feat was made all the more impressive by the fact he was limited to only eight games through injury.

In those eight appearances he booted 14 goals, including a five-goal haul against Mernda in May.

Midfield-forward Chris Barton finished in a tie for third in the best and fairest with 12 votes, but went home with the coaches MVP award, which he won with 59 votes – 14 clear of Miki.

Fellow midfielder Leigh Irons was third in the coaches MVP, while Ryall finished fifth.

All three were named in the NFNL division three team of the year, Barton at centre, Ryall on ball and Irons on the bench.

Capping a brilliant evening for the Blues was Alex Vasilevski claiming the reserves best and fairest in a tie with Mernda’s Michael Arcus, while Ella Stoward took out the section 10 netball best and fairest.

Senior football coach Nathan Phillips said the awards showed the strength and depth of the club.

“It’s great, and it’s a testament to the hard work that is put in by the club and those boys as individuals,” he said.

“We’re really proud of the boys for the individual achievements, but I know they would say they are only able to get those things through the hard work of their team mates and all the people around the joint who help out.

“It’s been a team effort for them to get those individual awards in a sense, but take nothing away from the brilliance of those guys and the way they’ve played.”

Phillips lauded Ryall, Barton and Irons for setting the tone for a team with premiership aspirations.

“Chriso [Ryall] is a freak. He’s just got everything. He’s quick, he’s a gun at the stoppage, he can push forward and kick goals,” Phillips said.

“He’s a bloody star and he’s too good to be playing division three footy – we’re just blessed that he loves the joint and the people here that he sticks around.

“Barto was a really good get for us. He’s made everyone at the club better. Everyone has gone up a cog since he’s been there. He drives leadership and professionalism with the way he goes about it and he makes everyone around him walk a bit taller.

“Leigh Irons is 32 or 33 now and he’s one of our senior leaders. He’s won three best and fairests in a row for us, and he’s driven the standard for us right from the time he came to the club as well. He pushes on-field and leads by example.”

Phillips said while he was thrilled for the players to collect personal accolades, it had not distracted them from the goal of a premiership in 2022.

“From talking to them they’re obviously happy to receive individual awards, but they’d trade it in for a flag I reckon,” he said.

“It’s good to know that everyone is invested in the bigger picture.

“With these accolades I’m sure they’ll sit back one day and be able to brag about them and tell everyone how good they were, but at the moment they’re more focused on our bigger goal, which is the team goal. That’s a credit to them and the kind of guys they are as well.

“I couldn’t be prouder of them, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry next year.”

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