IT WAS the tall and short of it in the NAB League as Calder Cannons midfield nipper Flynn Lakey and Greater Western Victoria Rebels big man Josh Rentsch shared the Morrish Medal on Thursday night.
Diminutive midfielder Lakey and hulking forward Rentsch each polled 12 votes in the truncated season to claim the honour and join such luminaries as Lenny Hayes, Dyson Heppell, Matthew Kreuzer and Clayton Oliver as winners in the past 25 years, among others to have forged successful AFL careers.
>> WATCH THE FULL EVENT IN THE PLAYER BELOW
The pair finished two votes clear of Rentsch’s Rebels teammate Marcus Herbert, who impressed in two games for Geelong’s VFL team.
Collingwood’s possible No.1 draft pick Nick Daicos averaged more than 35 disposals on his way to nine votes in just five games to finish in a tie for fourth with GWS Academy midfielder Sam Frost and Northern Knights ruckman Joel Trudgeon.
2021 MORRISH MEDAL
12: Flynn Lakey (Calder) 33213
12: Joshua Rentsch (GWV) 232131
10: Marcus Herbert (GWV) 3331
9: Sam Froster (GWS Academy) 333
9: Joel Trudgeon (Northern) 333
9: Nick Daicos (Oakleigh) 3231
8: Caleb Ernst (Bendigo) 233
8: Finn Callaghan (Sandringham) 323
7: Zac Taylor (Calder) 133
6: M Sruk, J Clarke (Eas); W Papley (Gip); Y Dib (Oak); D Gardner (Tas); P Tsapatolis (Wes); S Conforti (Ben)
Geelong’s Category B rookie Paul Tsapatolis, who was granted permission to play for the Western Jets as he continues his development since switching from basketball (where he was an underage Australian representative), polled six votes to finish in a tie for 10th.
>>READ THE FULL U19-ERA HONOURBOARD AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE
Gisborne’s Lakey, 19, who is just 173cm and 70kg, polled in five of his nine matches, including three best-on-grounds as he averaged an impressive 23.3 disposals and 6.1 tackles, including a 31-possession performance against Geelong in round 11, and became known as an extractor with 13.7 handballs and 9.7 kicks per game.
"It's a bit of a shock, I didn't really think about it too much at all," he said, adding he was helped by how well his Cannons teammates gelled.
"(Handballing) is just something that I adopted naturally … give the first option was something I was always taught, so if I see someone in a better position than I am, I'll give the handball.
"It takes a while to develop that camaraderie and mateship within the team and that was coming along. We did a few things outside of footy this year that kept us close, it was great to have that back and hopefully we can see more football happening in 2022."
Penshurst product Rentsch, 18, who is shaping as a genuine power forward at 197cm and 100kg, had two three-vote games and polled in six of his nine matches, averaging 11.8 disposals and 8.8 hitouts while kicking 14 goals, the equal second-highest tally in the competition.
"It was a pleasant surprise ... I've really been working towards what I've got, which is using my size and strength against players and trying to exploit them at every possible angle," Rentsch said as he prepared for next month's NAB AFL Draft Combine.
"I try to look at Tom Hawkins and Rowan Marshall – they're big power-bodied players who use their strength and are unpredictable when they get to the ruck and to win one-on-ones.
"For a big fella, getting that 2km time trial in a good time, but also the vertical leap is a big one for jumping ruckmen and key forwards (to perform well at the Combine).
"Being a forward you rely on the backs and the mids to deliver it to you, so they're a massive part of this award."
Lakey and Rentsch were named on the interchange in the NAB League Team of the Year, which is selected across performances not only in the NAB League, but also representative contests such as Vic Metro versus Vic Country and the AFL Academy versus Geelong VFL, plus school football and 2020 matches.
Rentsch was one of a league-leading four Rebels among the 24 boys selected, being joined by boom centre half-back Josh Gibcus, rover Ben Hobbs and defender Charlie Molan, while Lakey was one of two Cannons picked alongside prolific midfielder Zac Taylor.
NAB LEAGUE BOYS TEAM OF THE YEAR
Charlie Molan (GWV) 18, 186cm, 83kg 10mt 17.7ds 4.1mk 2gl
Oscar Morrison (Gee) 18, 193cm, 86kg 10mt 13.5ds 4.8mk
Darcy Wilmot (Nor) 17, 183cm, 75kg 7mt 15.1ds 2.7mk 1gl
Sam Banks (Tas) 17, 189cm, 83kg 4mt 21.8ds 4mk 2gl
Josh Gibcus (GWV) 18, 195cm, 84kg 10mt 12.5ds 4.4mk
Josh Sinn (San) 18, 186cm, 73kg 5mt 17.6ds 3.4mk 1gl
Finn Callaghan (San) 18, 189cm, 82kg 6mt 24.3ds 4.5mk 3.2tk 1gl
Nick Daicos (Oak) 18, 183cm, 72kg 5mt 35.8ds 5.8mk 3.4tk 10gl
Blake Howes (San) 18, 190cm, 79kg 7mt 15.7ds 4mk 3.1tk 7gl
Tyler Sonsie (Eas) 18, 181cm, 77kg 5mt 23ds 2.6mk 5gl
Mac Andrew (Dan) 18, 200cm, 70kg 6mt 12.7ds 2.7mk 12.7ho 2gl
Paul Curtis (Wes) 18, 183cm, 78kg 7mt 12.1ds 3.7mk 3.7tk 14gl
Judson Clarke (Dan) 17, 179cm, 69kg 5mt 17.6ds 4.6mk 3.4tk 4gl
Sam Darcy (Oak) 18, 204cm, 75kg 3mt 16.0ds 6.2mk 6ho 1gl
Josh Rachele (Mur) 18, 180cm, 78kg 4mt 18.5ds 6.3mk 3.8tk 11gl
Toby Conway (Gee) 18, 204cm, 90kg 6mt 13.8ds 2.8mk 27.2ho 1gl
Ben Hobbs (GWV) 18, 183cm, 80kg 6mt 25ds 2.7mk 5tk 4gl
Josh Ward (Nor, c) 18, 181cm, 79kg 5mt 25.2ds 5.2mk 4.8tk
Flynn Lakey (Cal) 19, 173cm, 70kg 9mt 23.3ds 3.9mk 6.1tk
Joel Trudgeon (Nor) 19, 185cm, 90kg 7mt 29.6ds 5.9mk 10tk 8gl
Zac Taylor (Cal) 18, 180cm, 74kg 7mt 26ds 5.9mk 4.1tk 1gl
Mitch Knevitt (Gee) 18, 193cm, 81kg 9mt 24.3ds 4.7mk 4.3tk 5gl
Josh Rentsch (GWV) 18, 197cm, 100kg 9mt 11.8ds 3.4mk 8.8ho 14gl
Corey Preston (Eas) 18, 181cm, 77kg 5mt 16ds 3.8mk 3.2tk 5gl
COACH: Paul Corrigan (Gee)
There were three players chosen from each of the Geelong Falcons, Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights, while Dandenong Stingrays, Eastern Ranges, Oakleigh Chargers and the Cannons provided two, the Murray Bushrangers, Tassie Devils and Western Jets had one each and the Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power missed out.
Knights rover Josh Ward was named captain after averaging 25.2 disposals in five NAB League games.
Falcons coach Paul Corrigan took the combined Boys/Girls coach of the year honour after leading the girls' team to the Grand Final and the boys to sixth in a 15-team competition.
"I've probably found what my real passion was, which was to get back to the grassroots and the development side of things in the talent pathway at the Falcons," he said.
"It was unexpected walking in (back in November) and a bit of an unknown about what it would be like, but fortunately I had Tommy Lonergan on board as the talent manager who had prior experience at Calder Cannons.
"I had a little bit to do with girls footy at Essendon but not a great deal in the coaching aspect, so I walked in there (Geelong) with no expectations of the girls and I was thoroughly surprised.
"I had a fair few assistant coaches (Michael Bright, Rod Condy, Michael King, Nathan Murray, Tom van Kalken and Mel Hickey) around me as well, and we all just took it as it came – the girls were fantastic and the coaches really enjoyed what the girls brought to the program.
"They're very honest in what they do but they also like to have a good time and I probably took aspects of that with the other coaches into the boys program.
"It was probably one of the best experiences I've had in coaching girls footy and the support I had from my assistant coaches was invaluable throughout the year which made the whole journey really enjoyable and just flowed on to the boys.
"We hit some hurdles (with the boys through) COVID and the lockdowns but to the boys' credit they were super resilient through that period and so were the coaches and support staff.
"This award is probably for everyone at the Falcons who has helped me along the way and made it so enjoyable so far."
The two Chargers are both highly-touted father-sons, with Daicos (centre) and Sam Darcy (full-forward) likely to be selected in the top three picks in November's NAB AFL Draft, while Finn Callaghan (Sandringham), Ben Hobbs (GWV), Tyler Sonsie (Eastern) and Mac Andrew (Dandenong) are also favoured to find AFL homes inside the top 10-15.
Geelong Falcons' giant Toby Conway was named in the ruck at 204cm and 90kg and is likely to also be an early selection after averaging 27.2 hitouts per game.
MORRISH MEDAL HONOURBOARD (AFL U19 ERA)
2021: Flynn Lakey (Calder), Josh Rentsch (GWV)
2019: Lucas Rocci (Western)
2018: Liam Stocker (Sandringham)
2017: Jack Higgins (Oakleigh)
2016: Hugh McCluggage (North Ballarat)
2015: Clayton Oliver (Murray)
2014: Alex Carr (Gippsland)
2013: Jacob Chisari (Bendigo), Ben Cavarra (Eastern), George Cameron (Geelong), Josh Scott (Gippsland)
2012: Nick Graham (Gippsland)
2011: Alex Benbow (Dandenong)
2010: Dyson Heppell (Gippsland), Jackson Sketcher (Sandringham)
2009: Anton Woods (Northern)
2008: Jarryd Blair (Gippsland), Farran Priest (Murray)
2007: Matthew Kreuzer (Northern)
2006: Fortunato Caruso (Calder)
2005: Fortunato Caruso (Calder)
2004: Matthew Bate (Eastern)
2003: Mungara Brown (Northern)
2002: Luke Shackleton (Tasmania)
2001: David Rodan (Calder)
2000: David Rodan (Calder)
1999: Matthew Stolarczyk (Gippsland)
1998: Lenny Hayes (NSW-ACT)
1997: Derek Murray (Murray)
1996: Nathan Brown (Bendigo)
1995: Paul Hood (Geelong)
1994: Gary Moorcroft (Northern)
1993: Dean Watson (Southern)
1992: Brad Smith (Northern)