MELBOURNE young gun Clayton Oliver has stormed to the club’s best and fairest in just his second year of AFL football.
Oliver was never in doubt in Monday night’s Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott Memorial Trophy count, winning with 530 votes, 184 clear from club co-captain Jack Viney in second.
It capped off a sensational 2017 for the Echuca Football Club junior in which he racked up just under 30 possessions a game as a key cog of the Demons’ midfield as the side narrowly missed out on a return to September action for the first time since 2006.
The gutsy inside midfielder played every game for 2017 and also picked up Melbourne’s best young player award — no surprise when he’d already won the AFL Coaches’ Association best young player award.
Oliver impressed in his debut season last year, but took his game to another level in 2017 when he ‘‘pulled his head in’’.
‘‘Last year I obviously hadn’t played any rep footy or anything like that and I had no idea what it took to be an AFL footballer,’’ Oliver said in his acceptance speech.
‘‘I was honestly stoked to be playing AFL and I was just happy to be there. I wasn’t really doing anything more than I needed to and I was just cruising through the motions as such.
‘‘I got to the end of last year and it was a little disappointing because I had to play VFL. I remember in the first week of the pre-season, I sat down with (player/coach performance manager) Brendan McCartney.
‘‘He sat me down and basically said I needed to pull my head in.’’
Oliver made headlines throughout the season. He was alleged to have faked being injured after contact from an Eagles’ player, got into an altercation with a Carlton fan during a match, and has been involved in multiple high-profile spats on Twitter.
But the 20-year-old said the media attention didn’t bother him, with particularly his social media work just a part of his playful personality.
‘‘I copped a bit of flak from the media, but honestly it doesn’t really faze me too much,’’ he said.
‘‘I don’t read it too much but if I do see it I just sort of move on. I sort of enjoy it.
‘‘Honestly, I love a bit of banter. All my mates back home in Mooroopna and Echuca, they all take the mickey out of me. I actually enjoy it. It’s just a lot of fun.’’
He becomes one of the youngest winners of the award in Melbourne history, a record held by Terry Leahy who won the best and fairest aged just 19 in 1966.
Oliver fought back tears when accepting the award, his voice cracking as he acknowledged his family as well as his girlfriend, Sophie.