Kane Mitchell vowed to keep his focus on helping Claremont win the grand final on Sunday despite equalling Matt Priddis’ record for most votes at a Sandover Medal count.
The hard-running Tigers wingman polled 58 votes at Crown ballroom last night to see off challenges from West Perth midfielder Mark Hutchings (51) and East Perth ruckman Paul Johnson (42).
But Mitchell immediately said the WAFL’s highest individual honour would be a hollow achievement if Claremont could not beat East Fremantle on Sunday.
Just like his teammate Luke Blackwell last season and Swan Districts’ Andrew Krakouer in 2010, Mitchell hopes to complement his individual award with team success in the WAFL grand final.
“Almost,” Mitchell responded when asked if the Sandover equalled winning a premiership.
“I am not downplaying it at all. It is awesome and I am stoked. I can’t stop grinning but football is a team game and I am a team man. I will look back on this when I am old and grey and be real happy about it, but this weekend it’s the match.”
Mitchell became the second consecutive Claremont player to win the Sandover, their fourth in eight seasons and 11th in their history. And his massive tally equalled the 2006 feat of Priddis, the Subiaco centreman who went on to help his club win the grand final that season before he forged an impressive AFL career with West Coast.
Mitchell started and finished the WAFL season with best-on-ground performances then added another five lots of five votes to win with a round to spare.
After winning The West Australian’s Footballer of the Year award this month, Mitchell credited his brief pre-season training stint with Fremantle for opening his eyes to the work rate required to succeed at elite level.
After recording a 16.2 beep test to equal the AFL draft camp figure, Mitchell lifted his training standards even further and is now unmatched among WAFL players for his ability to cover ground over four quarters. The umpires also recognised the work ethic that made him the leading kick-getter in the league this season, with votes in 14 of the 20 matches.
He had to fight off the fast-finishing Hutchings, who drew within nine votes with two rounds to go. But he couldn’t bridge the gap after polling just two votes in the round 23 match against South Fremantle.
Mitchell saved his best effort for the last round of the season when he gathered 35 possessions and five votes in the round 24 encounter with Subiaco in the big win that guaranteed Claremont the minor premiership.
Johnson was one of the pre-count favourites after his strong performances during East Perth’s unbeaten nine-match streak in the first half of the season.
He received top votes in five of the seven matches either side of his State match where he won the Simpson Medal, but his output diminished in the second half of the season when East Perth’s form slumped.
Johnson’s feat in earning 42 votes would have won him the medal in 13 of the past 16 seasons.