2021 HFNL Maskell Medal Winner: Jett Bermingham

NORTH Warrnambool midfielder Jett Bermingham’s age failed to defy him as he etched his name in the Hampden league’s history books.

The 19 year-old belied his youth to claim the league’s Maskell Medal with 20 votes, becoming the youngest winner in recent history and his club’s third ever winner of the prestigious award alongside Liam Ryan (2008 and 2010) and Jason Porter (2002).

South Warrnambool captain Liam Youl was runner-up on 15 votes, with Koroit forward Tim McIntyre (13 votes), Eagles onballer Sam James (12) and Portland ruckman Ben Malcolm (12) rounded out the top five.

Bermingham, who also started the season with the Greater Western Victoria Rebels, said he was thrilled to join illustrious company, adding he did not expect to feature so prominently.

He said a move to the midfield from the wing, with the backing of legendary coach Adam Dowie, was the masterstroke behind his strong season.

“I didn’t expect it at all this year. I’ve only played a handful of senior games and only got to play the nine this year, so it’s good,” he said.

“2019 I was only 17 and in my first year coming up against bigger bodies so I didn’t really know what to expect, and this year already knowing what is going on and knowing Wiggsy better and just all that, really helped me to play to my best.

“Growing up in juniors I’ve sort of always been a midfielder and in the senior side in 2019 we had a good side and I was young and I wasn’t going to play so I went out to the wing, which wasn’t too bad, I could still play that but my preferred position was in the middle.

“Wiggsy knew that and this year he put me in there, which was good. He’s always talking to me about different stuff, how to improve and is really helpful.

“He (Dowie) is unreal, just with his mind and how it works, he knows stuff that other people don’t. He is probably the main person who has helped me through all of this.”

Bermingham, who said it was “unreal” to join Ryan and Porter as Maskell Medallists, still harbours aspirations to test himself at the elite level in the future after returning to the Eagles from the Rebels earlier in the year.

But he is undecided as to just exactly how that will transpire, adding he still covets an elusive senior premierships, which he hopes to achieve with North after flags went unawarded the past two seasons.

“The Rebels wasn’t working out. I was just playing bad footy, not to my style or position and I knew coming back here Wiggsy would help me and put me in a position and play good footy,” Birmingham said.

“It worked which was good and I was happy with it but I want to keep going and see how far I can get.

“I obviously want to play with North and try and win a flag first of all but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

“I’ll just see where it goes.”

With 2020 wiped due to COVID and this year’s season severely impacted, it was always going to be quite a memorable win for whoever claimed the league’s top gong.

With six games lost, numerous training sessions cancelled and plenty of conjecture and unknown, Birmingham believes he handled the ups and downs as best he could.

He credited a simple approach helped deal with what was transpiring, while his team-mates kept him accountable as they waited for a competitive return.

“I tried not to get too down on myself because footy has been cancelled three different times this year,” Birmingham said.

“I just tried to go with the punches and keep myself busy in the meantime, just keep running, kicking the footy because you didn’t know when it was going to go ahead again.

“We’ve got a Facebook page in which everyone posted their extras in and I think by posting in your extras it helps other people get motivated.”

In the other senior football awards, Cobden’s Jack Hutt claimed the Pitstop Menswear MVP award ahead of Camperdown’s Sam Gordon, while Gordon claimed the league’s Sungold Milk leading goal kicker award.

3YB SCOTTY STEWART TEAM OF THE YEAR

B: Dallas Mooney (Koroit), Tim McPherson (Koroit), Josh Dwyer (Port Fairy)

HB: Luke Wines (North Warrnambool), Isaac Thomas (South Warrnambool), Fraser Lucas (Camperdown)

C: Austin Steere (Warrnambool), Liam Youl (South Warrnambool), Jett Birmingham (North Warrnambool)

HF: Tim McIntyre (Koroit), Sam Dobson (Koroit), Adam Wines (North Warrnambool)

F: Will Kain (Terang Mortlake), Sam Gordon (Camperdown), Joe Arundell (Terang Mortlake)

R: Ben Malcolm (Portland), Toby Jennings (Portland), Josh Saunders (South Warrnambool)

I/C: Patrick Smith (Cobden), Jackson Bell (Warrnambool), Matthew Wines (North Warrnambool), Lachie Waddell (Hamilton

Kangaroos), Sam James (North Warrnambool)

COACH: Chris McLaren (Koroit)

RUNNER: Xavier Mills (North Warrnambool)

UMPIRE: Geoff Barker)