STEELE Sidebottom has finally shaken the bridesmaid's tag to claim his first Collingwood best and fairest award after a thrilling EW Copeland Trophy count at Crown Palladium on Friday night.
The 26-year-old midfielder received 140 votes to pip his fellow joint vice-captain Taylor Adams (139) on a night dominated by the pair.
Another prolific Pies runner, Adam Treloar (112), was third, followed by spring-heeled defender Jeremy Howe (111), ruckman Brodie Grundy (92) and skipper Scott Pendlebury (91).
The five members of the Magpies' coaching panel each award up to 22 votes for each game to determine the Copeland winner (there is no minimum).
The champion player acknowledgment for Sidebottom was a great reward for consistency, given the 2010 premiership player has finished in the top five in each of the past five seasons.
The exquisitely dual-sided 185-gamer – who had finished runner-up in 2014 and third in both 2013 and 2016 – averaged 27.3 disposals (fourth at Collingwood), four tackles and tallied 16 goals this season.
Sidebottom said he was chuffed by the honour but wasn't satisfied from either a personal or team perspective.
"I'd love to maintain (my form) and go further. I'm still only 26 and I hope my best footy is ahead of me," he said after the count.
The Pies missed the finals for the fourth successive season after finishing 13th, but Sidebottom has drawn inspiration from Richmond's meteoric rise from the same low rung to the premiership.
"We've got a good team. This year we underachieved, no doubt. We were too inconsistent to play finals. We just need to play as consistent footy as we can because there's no doubt we've got the players on our list to play finals footy.
"Richmond came from 13th last year and they won the Grand Final.
"There's no doubt in my mind that if we play our best footy we can beat anyone. If we can iron out our inconsistency, there's no doubt we can match it with whoever we play."
Sidebottom expressed relief at coach Nathan Buckley's reappointment for a further two years after a season in which the coach was constantly under siege.
"When it was all happening, as a playing group we never talked about it, but now that's it's done there's no doubt there's relief," he said.
"I couldn't be happier for 'Bucks' to be coaching for another two years. It's a bit of less pressure for everyone."
Sidebottom became emotional when revealing a deeply personal story that he believed showed the unity among the players.
With two rounds left, a longtime mate died on an overseas holiday, and Sidebottom said he was touched when five of his Collingwood mates surprised him by attending the funeral.
"We've got an awesome bond," he said.
Sidebottom also showcased his growing leadership skills this season, leading the Magpies in the last six rounds in the absence of Pendlebury.
A finger injury cost Pendlebury – the Pies' leading vote-getter in the Brownlow Medal – any chance of this year equaling coach Buckley's club record of six best and fairests.
Adams' second placing capped a strong season from the hard-edged onballer, who produced easily his best season, leading the Pies in disposals (649), contested possessions (257), tackles (140), clearances (123) – each of them comfortably career-high tallies for the 24-year-old former Giant.
Treloar, who was No.1 at the club for disposal average (29.9) and was selected in the All Australian squad for the second successive season, enjoyed his third straight top-three finish after being runner-up in both his final season at Greater Western Sydney in 2015 and his first season with the Pies last year.
Collingwood will be hoping this midfield depth will lift it up the ladder from 13th after a fourth successive season without finals action.
Top 10 – EW Copeland Trophy
1. Steele Sidebottom 140
2. Taylor Adams 139
3. Adam Treloar 112
4. Jeremy Howe 111
5. Brodie Grundy 92
=6. Scott Pendlebury 91
=6. Jack Crisp 91
8. Brayden Maynard 79
=9. Jamie Elliott 69
=9. Will Hoskin-Elliott 69
- Darren Millane Perpetual Memorial Trophy (Best Clubman) – Tyson Goldsack
- Harry Collier Trophy (Best First Year Player – Callum Brown
- Gordon Coventry Award (Leading Goalkicker) – Jamie Elliott (34 goals)
- Joseph Wren Awarde (Best VFL Player) – Marty Hore