THE MEMORY of Chad Wingard's late friend Alex Aunger helped the Port Adelaide star cap an incredible season by taking out the Power's John Cahill Medal as the club's best and fairest for 2013.
Wingard is the youngest Port Adelaide club champion since Craig Bradley in 1982 and the youngest in its AFL era.
He was great friends with Aunger in the pair's home town of Murray Bridge, about an hour's drive from Adelaide.
Aunger died tragically and suddenly in 2012 after contracting meningococcal disease.
Wingard has written Aunger's initials "AA" on his boots since his death and said the memory of his friend calmed him in high-pressure situations.
"It actually helps me with my set shot routine – I touch his name and rub my hands on the back of my legs three times because that's his favourite number," Wingard said.
"It's just a way for me to calm myself down, put life in perspective and just think 'it's just a game, it's nothing more, nothing less'.
"I'm just trying to enjoy myself and do what I can."
The 20-year-old's second season at the elite level saw him earn All Australian selection and make a name for himself as one of the AFL's coolest cats in tight situations.
His biggest moment was a clutch, match-winning goal – his fifth for the game – with just 30 seconds left against Adelaide in round 19.
Wingard couldn't believe he won the award from captain Travis Boak and four-time winner Kane Cornes, after a gruelling pre-season nearly broke him.
Although he possesses freakish skills, courage and a huge leap, Wingard admits his aerobic ability needs work and said his struggle with the running side of the game robbed him of confidence heading into the season.
"With the inclusions that we had this year with (Angus) Monfries and 'Neadey' (Jake Neade), I actually thought I'd struggle to get a game," he said.
"Pre-season really hurt me in a lot of ways and I suppose my confidence didn't really start until the games really started.
"When it comes to competitiveness and when the ball comes into training I think that's where I really strive…that's my game.
"I never thought this was possible."
Coach Ken Hinkley said Wingard's first John Cahill Medal was apt reward for the hard work he had put in from the pre-season onwards.
"Chad has been a wonderful contributor to our football club this year and this award reflects what has been a really consistent season from him," said Hinkley.
"The way the goes about his football, the 'team' things he does and the responsibility he has taken time and again on and off the field has been first class.
"Our team has been about belief and support for one another this year and Chad has lived that philosophy as much as anyone.
"We're all looking forward to what he can do next year as part of our young and exciting team."
John Cahill Medal
1st place: Chad Wingard – 284 votes
2nd place: Travis Boak – 266
3rd place: Kane Cornes – 221
4th place: Brad Ebert – 210
5th place: Justin Westhoff – 199
6th place: Angus Monfries – 186
7th place: Jay Schulz – 171
8th place: Cameron O'Shea – 166
9th place: Hamish Hartlett – 164
10th place: Matthew Lobbe – 156
Fos Williams Medallist: Travis Boak
Gavin Wanganeen Medallist: Oliver Wines
Renault Supporters' Player of the Year: Chad Wingard
John McCarthy Award: Jack Hombsch
Coaches' Award: Justin Westhoff