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Turnbull tips Johnson for Sandover
Turnbull tips Johnson for Sandover

The last East Perth ruckman to win a Sandover Medal expects another mobile Royals big man to join WA football's most exclusive club on Monday night.

Former Eagle Ryan Turnbull was a crucial part of East Perth's late-season surge to the 2001 finals and he identified clear parallels in Paul Johnson's performance this season.

East Perth won eight matches on the trot late in 2001 with Turnbull accumulating the majority of his 31 votes in that period.

Johnson was the outstanding player in the competition when East Perth won eight and drew another during an unbeaten streak in 2012.

He won the Simpson Medal for WA against South Australia in the middle of that burst and was recognised as the best or second-best player on the ground in each of the eight wins in _The West Australian _'s Footballer of the Year award.

"The medal seems to go to the players who catch the eye and are around the ball for most of the game," Turnbull said.

"Paul Johnson certainly fits that category.

"He covers the ground as well as any big man and while Craig Wulff might pinch some votes off him, he could poll in enough games to win.

"When I won it I got most of my votes in the latter part of the season when we were going very well and the same thing could apply to him."

Johnson averaged 27 hit-outs, 21 disposals and four marks in every match of the unbeaten streak and had four outings where he touched the ball at least 50 times.

Turnbull acknowledged that the Sandover had become a midfielders medal with just Gus Seebeck (1999), Craig Edwards (1989) and John Ironmonger (1983) the only other ruckmen to join him in the winners' circle in the past three decades.

"Full-forwards and honest defenders don't seem to get a look in," he said.

It was significantly different in the 1950s when ruckmen dominated the medal.

But the Royals ruckmen have done better than any other club, with champion Graham Farmer winning three Sandovers while Mal Brown (1969) and George "Staunch" Owens (1925) were also successful.

Flamboyant Claremont wingman Kane Mitchell could overrun Johnson given his superb finish to the season, but Turnbull thought last year's winner Luke Blackwell could take votes off his teammate.

Blackwell is ineligible to win after being suspended but the classy centreman has been prominent again and is sure to poll heavily.

Other prominent players unable to win the Sandover include State captain Wulff, All-Australian Leon Davis and Bernie Naylor Medal winner Ben Saunders.