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North defender breaks through for maiden best and fairest

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Robbie Tarrant of the Kangaroos in action during the 2016 AFL First Elimination Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at the Adelaide Oval on September 10, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Robbie Tarrant's career-best season has been rewarded with his first Syd Barker Medal

ROBBIE Tarrant has capped a career-best 2016 season with his maiden North Melbourne best and fairest award, winning Friday night's Syd Barker Medal count narrowly from vice-captain Jack Ziebell.

Tarrant polled 263 votes to pip Ziebell by six votes, while hard-running midfielder Sam Gibson finished third on 234 votes.

Departing veterans Brent Harvey and Nick Dal Santo ended their careers at North on high notes, finishing fifth (217 votes) and seventh (210) respectively, while free agent Daniel Wells, who is also expected to depart Arden Street to take up a three-year offer at Collingwood, finished fourth (221). 

In front of more than 900 people at Peninsula on Central Pier in Docklands, Tarrant also won the Jason McCartney Award as the player who epitomised the values, strength and courage former Roos defender McCartney displayed in his comeback from life-threatening burns suffered in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Tarrant routinely nullified the opposition's best key forward in 2016 and remarkably was also North's best rebounding defender.

With Lachlan Hansen missing from North's defence for much of the year, Tarrant stood up to become the Roos' best intercept mark. 

The 27-year-old took more marks (145) than any other Roo in 2016 and also led the club in rebound 50s (95).

Tarrant's outstanding season saw him named in the 40-man All Australian squad and he was desperately unlucky to miss the final team. 

"Robbie has been a rock in defence," North coach Brad Scott said on Friday night.

"Week-in, week-out, we knew exactly what to expect from Robbie and he was an influential member of our line-up all year, taking on and beating some of the best forwards in the country nearly every week."

Ziebell's runner-up finish improved on his previous best result of fifth last year.

Ziebell played all 23 of North's games this year, averaging a career-high 22.4 disposals. He also booted 18 goals and averaged 4.9 tackles a game, which included an AFL record-equalling 19 tackles against Melbourne in round three.

Gibson also played every game to stretch his run of consecutive games to 108, the longest active streak in the competition.

The 30-year-old former rookie averaged 22.8 disposals a game in 2016 and played some key run-with roles throughout the season, with his elite endurance making him an extremely difficult opponent to escape. 

North also paid tribute to departing veterans Harvey, Drew Petrie, Michael Firrito and Dal Santo, who all spoke individually on an emotional night for the club. 

Lachlan Hansen and Lindsay Thomas were awarded life membership of North Melbourne, along with long-time club benefactor and former AFL commissioner Peter Scanlon. 

First-year midfielder Ryan Clarke was named the club’s best young player after playing six senior games in the second half of the year, while leadership group member Jamie Macmillan received the Harold Henderson best clubman award.

Second-year defender Ed Vickers-Willis received the Peter Scanlon Community Award for his work with the club's Huddle program. 

Syd Barker Medal top 10

1. Robbie Tarrant – 263 votes
2. Jack Ziebell – 257 votes
3. Sam Gibson – 234 votes
4. Daniel Wells – 221 votes
5. Brent Harvey – 217 votes
6. Jamie Macmillan – 213 votes
7. Nick Dal Santo – 210 votes
8. Ben Cunnington – 207 votes
9. Andrew Swallow – 192 votes
10. Ben Brown – 181 votes

Players could earn up to 20 votes a match, with votes from their best 20 games and finals counting towards their total.