Gundagai lock Brett Eccleston dominated the final rounds of the Group Nine season to be crowned a comfortable winner of the Eric Weissel Medal on Saturday.
Eccleston polled 12 votes in the last six rounds to defeat Southcity’s Kyle McCarthy by seven votes.
Junee’s Daniel Foley was a further vote behind.
Eccleston was surprised by the margin of victory.
“I was saying to Damian Willis that if I was to win it I would be up there with someone else,” Eccleston said.
“I just didn’t think I would win it by myself and to win it by this much is a real honour.
“I am a very happy man.”
The end of the season flourish also coincided with Eccleston taking over the captaincy with James Smart sidelined through injury.
It was a role he clearly relished.
“As a captain, and with James out, I felt I had to step my game up and lead the men around,” he said.
“Obviously I did that with the points polling when I captain.”
Eccleston is yet to commit to another season with the Tigers but the chance to win back-to-back medals is another incentive for the 32-year-old.
“I need something to give me that little extra motivation and now that I have won this I’m thinking if I can win it this year why can’t I win it next year,” he said.
“I just need that one little thing to spark me along.”
It is the second year in a row that a Tigers player has been named the best player in Group Nine after James Luff’s big win last year.
Eccleston is now the seventh Gundagai player to earn the Weissel Medal, joining Peter Kennedy (1974), Pat Smith (1978), George Ashby (1986), Peter McDonald (2003), Patrick Clark (2006), Smart (2013) and Luff on the honour board.
Eccleston and Luff were joined by teammates Phil Latu and Blake Dunn in the Team of the Year.
The star studded outfit also included Foley, Usaia O’Sullivan, Robbie Byatt, Jack Lyons, Nathan Rose, McCarthy, Hayden Jeans, Aaron Slater and Dave Cowhan.
Outgoing Young mentor Neil Thorman was named as Coach of the Year.