Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley has paid tribute to coach Ross Lyon after winning the Doig Medal on Saturday night.
Crowley was destined to be delisted at the end of 2011, but the change in coach from Mark Harvey to Ross Lyon saved his career.
Lyon told Crowley to shed weight so he could play as his tagger and shut down the best players in the AFL, and Crowley responded superbly.
He was rarely beaten throughout the year and won the Doig Medal by four votes. Chris Mayne finished second followed by Michael Johnson, Matthew Pavlich and Luke McPharlin.
Crowley said Lyon saved his career.
“My career at Fremantle was almost definitely over,” Crowley said.
“The club were looking for a trade and my career was 50-50 at that point. Ross came in and we had a frank and honest discussion about where I was at.
“He gave me great confidence. He said if you do the work and get your body right, I know there’s a place for you. He said he’s rated me from where he came from and that gave me great confidence.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Ross and everything he’s done. He’s got the greatest footy brain that I’ve ever experienced. He’s the right man for the job, he’s just the right man. Trust me, I love him.”
McPharlin led the count by five votes at the end of the home and away season, but missed the finals because of injury.
Meanwhile Crowley excelled in September, closing down Geelong’s James Kelly and Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield to win the best and fairest.
It is the second time Crowley has responded to his career being on the line because he was delisted and placed on the rookie list before he’d made his AFL debut.
He described his immediate emotion as being “embarrassed” about being ranked alongside some of the club’s greatest players, but was a popular winner.
Mayne won The Player’s Award for representing the values of the team on the field and Tendai Mzungu won Best Clubman.
Mature aged rookie Lee Spurr won the Beacon Award as the best first year player and former St Kilda defender Zac Dawson won Recruit of the Year.
DOIG MEDAL TOP 10
1st Ryan Crowley 146
2nd Chris Mayne 142
3rd Michael Johnson 136
4th Matthew Pavlich 136 (polled in fewer games than Johnson)
5th Luke McPharlin 135
6th David Mundy 131
7th Stephen Hill 130
8th Matt de Boer 129
9th Michael Barlow 128
10th Clancee Pearce 126