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Swingman Hooker's versatility rewarded with Crichton Medal win

Keep your 'dignity' and walk, big fella We review Essendon's season and there's a bit of work to do on and off the field
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 6: Cale Hooker of the Bombers celebrates a goal during the 2015 AFL round 23 match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Essendon Bombers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on September 6, 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Cale Hooker has taken out this year's best and fairest award at Essendon

CALE Hooker's form at both ends of the ground has been rewarded by winning Essendon's best and fairest for 2015.

The All Australian defender, who started the season in the backline before switching forward, polled in 20 of 22 games for the Bombers to be named the Crichton medallist with 456 votes.

He led second-placed key defender Michael Hurley (402 votes) and last year's winner Dyson Heppell (third place with 360 votes) at Wednesday night's event.

Second-year midfielder Zach Merrett finished fourth in the count despite missing the last five games of the season with a foot injury, while Brendon Goddard rounded out the top five.

After finishing runner-up in last year's count, Hooker went one better this season as he proved his versatility.

Season review: Essendon

For the first half of the year he was stationed at centre half-back and proved unstoppable in the air with his intercept marking, but as Essendon struggled for goalkickers he was shifted forward, where he made an immediate impact.

After booting just one goal (the match-winner against Hawthorn in round two) in the first 13 rounds, Hooker moved forward in round 14 and kicked three goals against St Kilda.

The 26-year-old finished the season with 21.21 to his name, which included multiple goals on seven occasions.

"Cale is a true competitor," interim Essendon coach Matthew Egan said.

"He played some exceptional football this season, not to mention a variety of roles, and in just over half a season has proven he has what it takes to be an elite forward of the competition."

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Hurley, who is in contention to be named an All Australian for the first time next week, enjoyed a career-best finish in the club's best and fairest after previously claiming third place in 2011.

The 25-year-old's absence with injury in three games - compared to Hooker's full season - was costly in his pursuit of a club champion award in the tight vote count.

Heppell's sparkling career in the red and black continued by finishing in the top-three of Essendon's best and fairest for the fourth consecutive season.

The 23-year-old, who took over captaincy duties while Jobe Watson recovered from shoulder surgery, was also named best clubman and best team player.

Mark Baguley was judged the Bombers' most courageous player, while Zach Merrett was handed the club's most improved and rising star accolades.

Former coach James Hird was not in attendance at the event, with chairman Paul Little saying Hird was travelling overseas.

Key defender Jake Carlisle was also not there after requesting to be traded by the club, but Jake Melksham, who is weighing up his future with the Bombers, was in attendance.

Despite an up-and-down year, Melksham finished ninth in the club's best and fairest voting. 

The award is voted on by each coach and assistant, who assign votes to eight players only, with the maximum votes a player can receive for one game 10.

Crichton Medal top 10
1. Cale Hooker – 456 votes
2. Michael Hurley – 402
3. Dyson Heppell – 360
4. Zach Merrett – 330
5. Brendon Goddard – 322
6. Mark Baguley – 318
7. Brent Stanton – 314
8. Michael Hibberd – 242
9. Jake Melksham – 136
10. Shaun McKernan – 120