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The Age

McPhee named Bombers' best

Author: Marc Moncrief
Date: 30/09/2004
Words: 413
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: Sport
Page: 14
Essendon's Adam McPhee won his club's best-and-fairest award last night despite missing the finals campaign due to injury.

In a year in which he was also selected for the All-Australian team, the 21-year-old won the Crichton Medal with 322 votes, edging out Jason Johnson by seven votes.

Before last night's presentation former Bomber star Gary O'Donnell committed to return next season as an assistant coach. O'Donnell, freely tipped as a future senior coach, has been an assistant under Leigh Matthews in Brisbane since 1999.

Despite his injury-shortened season, McPhee beat the likes of four-time winner and Bomber captain James Hird and full-forward Matthew Lloyd, whose 96 goals made him the team's leading goalkicker.

McPhee's grandest performance came in round 10, against his former club Fremantle.

With only 11 goals in his second season with Essendon, he racked up 10 marks, 11 kicks and 12 handballs and polled 26 of a possible 30 votes in the Bombers' 30-point win.

But the performance against Fremantle was far from isolated.

McPhee polled best-and-fairest votes in 18 of his 20 games and won more than 20 votes in seven of those games.

Against Carlton in round four, coach Kevin Sheedy moved Scott Lucas to centre half-back, allowing McPhee to move to centre half-forward. His speed gave the Bombers a target up front and helped them to put the Blues away by 37 points.

After returning from a round-21 loss to Sydney with an injured hamstring, McPhee sat out the last three games of the Bombers' season. He was replaced by Mark Mercuri, eight years McPhee's senior, who retired at the end of the Dons' finals campaign.

McPhee's loss was palpable, and the question of his fitness and availability was constantly raised with Sheedy by the media during the finals campaign.

In acknowledgement of his stellar season, McPhee also took the side's most-improved award.

Hird, who shared the Crichton Medal last year with Lucas, came fourth this year with 271 votes. Dean Solomon's 292 votes put him in third place above the Dons' captain while Damien Peverill (243) rounded out the top five.

Lloyd finished sixth with 214 votes while Lucas ranked eighth in the standings with 151 votes.

But Hird did not leave the awards night empty-handed. Along with Justin Murphy, Hird was recognised as the best in finals.

Essendon honoured 21-year-old Andrew Welsh as most courageous player and Brent Stanton was best first-year player.

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