Essendon VFL captain Aaron Heppell has claimed his third R.A Freeman Medal, polling 251 votes at Thursday’s best-and-fairest night.
It’s back-to-back honours for Heppell, who first received the award in 2016 and was the reigning medallist from last year.
He polled 38 votes clear of the second-placed outgoing vice-captain Heath Hocking (213), and 43 votes ahead of third-placed vice-captain Danny Younan (208).
“I’m quite surprised. I thought compared to other years I was quite slow starting and didn’t find my feet until later on in the year,” Heppell said.
“I personally thought Danny (Younan) was going to take it away. He had a fantastic year in the midfield and I’m rapt to have him sign on for next year.”
In his sixth season at the club, the first-time skipper played in all but one match during the home-and-away season, and all three finals.
From his 20 games, Heppell averaged 19.9 disposals and 6.1 tackles, while contributing 13 goals.
The 24-year-old also recorded two 30-plus disposal performances (round 14 against Coburg and round 19 against Footscray), and bagged four goals in the qualifying final loss to Richmond.
“I thought this year was going to be our year. Down at Port Melbourne against Williamstown was shattering – you could see it on our faces as we walked off how much it meant to us," Heppell said.
“Even watching the Grand Final on the weekend between Richmond and Williamstown, we were right there with them in the finals series and throughout the year.
“It shows we’re up to it, and have good enough blokes on our list and around the club to push all the way. I hope we can go again next year and go one better.”
Heppell led by example on-field with his relentless pressure and persistence to win the footy in 2019, and never shied away from a contest.
He played a key part in the VFL Bombers’ run to a consecutive preliminary final berth, having to play a number of different roles as a midfielder-defender.
Heppell also received the VFL Jack Feain Best Clubman award on the night.
Meanwhile, Hocking and Jordan Houlahan tied for the VFL Leading Goalkicker with 23 goals each, while Ben McNiece and Dylan Landt were awarded the VFL Finals MVP and VFL Rising Star awards respectively.
R.A FREEMAN MEDAL LEADERBOARD
Voting: After each game, every player is awarded a vote from 0-5 from each of the four Essendon VFL coaches. The maximum votes a player can receive per game is 20.
1. Aaron Heppell (251)
2. Heath Hocking (213)
3. Danny Younan (208)
4. Jake Long (205)
4. Trent Mynott (205)
6. Matt Dea (199)
7. Michael Hartley (192)
8. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (185)
9. Jordan Houlahan (178)
10. David Myers (175)