There are only 2 rounds to go in the Goulburn Valley League season, meaning the Morrison medallist is almost set.
It appears the league’s highest individual honour is heading to Echuca for a second straight season, with star midfielder Simon Buckley enjoying another industrious year.
The former Collingwood and Melbourne player is in his fifth season at the Murray Bombers and would be automatically in the club’s greatest ever 21.
Incredibly, the only season where he did not win Echuca’s best-and-fairest was last year when he was crowned the league’s top player.
Ben Reid, who is playing for Geelong’s VFL team this year, pipped him as Buckley missed four games through injury.
While Buckley is almost pre-set as Echuca’s best player every week according to the club, the umpires can see things differently.
You only have to look back at the past few seasons to acknowledge that.
Even though Buckley had an outstanding campaign, nobody expected him to win the Morrison Medal last year going on previous years.
The Murray Bombers only won 3 games in 2015, but there was a big fat zero next to Buckley’s name when the votes were read out.
It was jaw-dropping stuff.
There were games when Buckley was clearly the best player on the field and he could not manage to sneak one measly vote from the umpires.
A game at Tatura sticks in the memory when the Murray Bombers stormed home from 22 points down at three-quarter-time with spectators and players alike regarding Buckley’s efforts as legendary.
He clawed his team over the line with four goals and more than 40 possessions, but for some reason, no votes.
Even in the AFL there have been cases of players going into Brownlow Medal as red-hot favourites and finishing well off the pace.
Most of the AFL world think Dustin Martin can start writing his Brownlow speech now with Patrick Dangerfield suspended, but Dusty should speak to Luke Darcy and Wayne Carey about the weight of expectation.
Buckley would be unlucky not to become the first player in the GVL to go back-to-back since 1981, especially considering Echuca has won its fair share of games.
But there are still candidates certain to put their names up.
Seymour star Jason Cole was on pace with Buckley before suffering a serious hamstring injury, so you can count him out.
Benalla midfield ace Sam Martyn has also struggled with injury and has been unable to reach the heights of the past two seasons.
But Rochester’s Nathan Marrone is having a career-best season and he is a genuine chance to bring a second Morrison Medal back to Moon Oval in three years.
The confidence he got from starring in the interleague loss to Ovens and Murray has seen him carry Rochester at times, with the Tigers struggling with injuries and form.
Marrone’s first break for the season was last week during the split round as he played for Victoria Country, as well as for the Goulburn Valley.
Kyabram is filled with stars everywhere you turn, but the risk at the Bombers is players taking votes off each other.
Three of the top six in The News award come from Bomberland, with Billy Burstin, Lachie Smith and Kayne Pettifer sensational players.
Smith is always a threat, Burstin has probably missed too many games, while Pettifer’s problem is that forwards seldom win the top award.
Legendary Kyabram forward Chris Stuhldreier was kicking goals for fun in the 1990s, including booting 171 through the big sticks in 1993, but still could not bring home the top gong.
Mansfield midfielder Nick Gray would be right in contention if he was not on Collingwood’s VFL list, only playing the odd game with the Eagles, and still racking up votes.
Seymour big man Brandyn Grenfell usually makes an impact on every game and could be an outsider, as does his teammate Ben Clifton.
It does seem like it is Buckley’s to lose, but it will be fun to see how the umpires have viewed the season come September 18 at the Shepparton RSL.