When you outpoll this year’s Grogan Medalist in your club Best and Fairest, it’s fair to say that you’ve had a red hot year.
That’s exactly what Val Pope has done, taking out the Western Magpies Bill Pierce Medal for 2015 by 13 votes over Doug Lawrence.
Pope’s versatility is elite. Not only is he a midfielder who can change the tempo of a game, but also is a damaging forward who can turn a game on its head off his own boot.
The more he split his time between the two positions throughout the year, the more at home he felt.
“I think I was just a lot more comfortable playing in the midfield and rotating forward, so I was able to get a lot more of the footy, and contribute more around the ground,” he said.
Pope puts his success on the field this year down to the work that was done before the ball was bounced.
“I had a really good pre-season, so I was a lot more fitter than I have been in previous years, which allowed me to play a lot more in the midfield,” he said.
‘The difference for me this year was being able to play a full season. I had a bit of help from our strength and conditioning coach, Jimmy Nightingale. He really looked after me throughout the season and I probably ended up playing a few more games than I normally would.”
Despite being one of the Magpies best in a year that yielded a lot of team success, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be up on stage at the end of the night.
“I absolutely had no idea. I had no speech ready or anything. I thought I had a couple of good games, but I had no idea I would poll like that,” Pope said.
“Obviously Cal (Carseldine) had an incredible year, and was recognised by the rest of the competition, but it was good to have that recognition from the club.”
Pope tries to keep things pretty simple when in the forward arc, and boy is it effective.
“It’s supporting the big fellas really. Between Alex Dickfos and Tom Michael, we have a good key forward group, so me and Matt Thompson just tried to support them and pick up a cheap goal wherever we could,” he said.
On the team front, although the dust has settled on 2015 and there was a lot more positives than negatives to come from the year, the Magpies’ finals exit still leaves a very sour taste in his mouth.
“It still hurts to be honest. We were pleasantly surprised with home we finished the home and away season, but there is a lot of unfinished business after the finals series,” Pope said.
“We just had a bad finals series. We didn’t turn up and play our best footy at the right time of the year. I wouldn’t blame not having the right people, or the right game plan, we prepared really well it just didn’t happen for us on either of those two days which is really disappointing.”
That unfinished business he speaks of is what will drive him, and all the boys at Chelmer through the upcoming pre-season.
Western Magpies Bill Pierce Medal Top 10
Val Pope 101
Doug Lawrence 88
Callum Carseldine 81
Matt Davis 79
Luke Scott 71
Richard Wenham 62
Drew Mitchell 60
Sunny Anett 29
Ben Jaenke-Cain 25
Brady Allen 22
By Andrew Wiles