Young ruckman on the rise Nick Bryan has claimed the R.A Freeman Medal as Essendon VFL’s best and fairest player.

The 19-year-old, in only his second season of senior football, was awarded the VFL Bombers’ highest individual honour polling 103 votes, with prolific midfielder Nick O’Kearney (95) and former Port Adelaide midfielder Joe Atley (91) rounding out the top three.

In a shortened VFL season which was heavily impacted by COVID-19, Bryan shone through with his athletic ruckwork, one-on-one ability, strong follow-up patterns and deft skills.

The 203cm ruck averaged 32 hitouts, 15 disposals and three marks during his nine games in what was a massive step-up in development since being drafted with pick No.38 in the 2019 NAB AFL Draft.

Nick Bryan ranked second in overall hitouts in the VFL this season. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Bryan’s strong VFL form earned the talented tall an AFL debut against Carlton in round six, where he held his own with 18 hitouts and 12 disposals.

VFL head coach Leigh Tudor said he was thrilled to see the growth of Bryan’s game, which made him a dominant force at VFL level this season.

“He’s shown great improvement this year,” Tudor said.

“He’s gotten stronger in his contest work, his ruckwork has improved and he’s been really good with his centre-bounce work. His (work at) boundary throw-ins and ball-ups have improved out of sight.

“He gave us first use of the ball a lot. He was second for hitouts in the competition and he had a really good year.

“He spent a lot of time with ‘Robbo’ (VFL senior assistant and development coach Cam Roberts) on his craft and with ‘Drapes’ (Sam Draper), ‘Flip’ (Andrew Phillips) and ‘T-Bell’ (ruck coach Tom Bellchambers), so it’s thoroughly deserved.

“He’s getting better with every session and rocks into work with a mindset to get better and work really hard on his craft.

“He’s got lots of improvement to go but there’s some great upside for him.”

Fellow youngster Sam Conforti was rewarded for his stellar season in the red and black, picking up both the Best First-Year Player and Coles Fans’ MVP awards.

Outgoing AFL utility Patrick Ambrose claimed the Leading Goalkicker award for his 14 goals in six games, while popular retiring forward Danny Younan was recognised for his strong team values with the Jack Feain Best Clubman award.

The Stevens Family MVP VFL Staff award went to property assistant Nicholas Loschiavo for his tireless work in 2021.

The club congratulates all award winners from the night.


B&F - TOP 10

After every game this season, each of the four Essendon VFL coaches allocated 1-5 votes per player. The maximum votes a player could receive each game was 20.

1st – Nick Bryan (103 votes)

2nd – Nick O’Kearney (95 votes)

3rd – Joe Atley (91 votes)

Equal 4th – Ned Cahill (87 votes)

Equal 4th – Tom Hird (87 votes)

Equal 6th – Marty Gleeson (80 votes)

Equal 6th – Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (80 votes)

8th – Patrick Ambrose (64 votes)

9th – Sam Conforti (61 votes)

10th – Alec Waterman (55 votes)

Coles Fans’ MVP

Sam Conforti

Best First-Year Player

Sam Conforti

Jack Feain Best Clubman

Danny Younan

Leading Goalkicker

Patrick Ambrose

Stevens Family MVP VFL Staff

Nick Loschiavo