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Nic Naitanui claims 2020 John Worsfold Medal as West Coast Eagles best and fairest

The Eagles ruckman has done a lot in his career, but Monday night’s honour at the John Worsfold Medal was a huge milestone for the dual All-Australian

West Coast’s elimination final epic against Collingwood was a battle to the wire in more ways than we originally thought.

The game, won by a single point at the death by the Magpies, saw ruck behemoth Nic Naitanui overtake midfield teammate Andrew Gaff in the John Worsfold Medal count to claim his first club best and fairest with a best-on-ground performance.

Naitanui had gone into the game trailing Gaff by three votes but polled the maximum 15 from the coaches to overtake the midfielder in the final tally.

In one of the closest finishes in club history — Don Pyke and Glen Jakovich tied for the award in 1993 — Naitanui polled 194 votes to Gaff’s 192.

The ruckman had played one fewer game after being rested from West Coast’s round 16 clash with the Western Bulldogs.

Brad Sheppard polled 163 votes to finish third while defender Tom Barrass recorded his highest finish in the Worsfold Medal, coming in fourth on 154 votes.

A third defender, Liam Duggan, was fifth while explosive forward Liam Ryan was sixth with Tim Kelly, Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Shannon Hurn rounding out the top 10.

Naitanui and his date Brittany Bown.
Camera IconNaitanui and his date Brittany Bown. Credit: Ross Swanborough/The West Australian

It was Naitanui’s fifth top-10 finish in the Eagles’ club champion award, his previous highest being fifth in 2010.

Gaff meanwhile has a remarkable claim on being the most consistent player in Eagles history.

This year’s count was his ninth top-10 finish in the past decade and his eighth inside the top five. He claimed the medal in 2015 when the Eagles made a grand final and finished third in 2016.

Naitanui had been expected to be prominent after claiming his second All-Australian jumper this year — the first time he had made the honorary national team since 2012.

Naitanui had wielded almost unprecedented centre-square ruck dominance over the competition in 2020, prompting the remarkable admission from Geelong coach Chris Scott that the problem with kicking a goal against the Eagles was that the ball had to go back to the centre.

The big ruckman averaged just shy of 30 hit outs per game in the shortened match format with just shy of six clearances per game.

Sheppard was awarded the Chris Mainwaring Medal as best clubman, Josh Rotham won the club’s emerging player award after 10 games for the season. Naitanui’s stellar effort against Collingwood meant he also won player of the finals.

Meanwhile defender Eric Mackenzie, who had his career cut short by a foot injury after winning the 2014 Worsfold Medal, was awarded life membership.

Jamie Cripps was also granted life membership after he passed the 150 game mark for the club during the season.

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