Shepparton United rising star Angus Hicks has joined an illustrious club.
The young gun claimed the Murray Bushrangers’ best-and-fairest on Saturday, edging out equal runners-up Jordon Butts (Shepparton) and Ben Paton (North Albury).
‘‘I’m pretty excited, I was a bit shocked,’’ Hicks said.
‘‘I definitely did not (expect it), it’s such a quality side with so many big names and I was just concentrating on getting a game.’’
Some of the names to win the John Byrne Medal previously include St Kilda’s Fraser Gehrig, current Rennie coach Craig Ednie, Kyabram superstar Kayne Pettifer and Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom, and Hicks was astounded to be among such company.
‘‘It’s extremely humbling to just have my name up next to them, it just puts into perspective all of my hard work,’’ he said.
The accolade is reward for a mountain of work and determination for Hicks, 18, who did not even receive an invite to the Bushrangers’ training squad last year.
‘‘Last year I didn’t even get invited to train, so I just had to work hard to make the pre-season squad and from there I was just focusing on working hard to get a game,’’ he said.
With little AFL interest so far, Hicks hopes the award will help thrust his name into contention ahead of next month’s national draft.
‘‘It definitely raises my name up a bit more, I haven’t really had too much interest,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s such an exciting part of my life though, you watch all of the AFL teams growing up and now there’s a chance I could be there too.’’
However, Hicks may have plenty of other options up his sleeve after a great season with the Bushrangers where he averaged 22.44 disposals, 8.88 handball receives and 6.63 tackles a game across 16 matches where statistics were available.
‘‘I have had a bit of VFL and NEAFL interest, so if it doesn’t come off on draft day hopefully I can do something with that,’’ he said.
Shepparton United teammates Zane Barzen, Kyle Clarke and Ed Adams also lined up for the Bushrangers this season.
‘‘We had the most number of kids at the Bushies, so that was great,’’ Hicks said.
‘‘We all got the bus down to Wang (Bushrangers training base Wangaratta) every Wednesday, so it was good to create those friendships with the boys, as well as kids from other Shepp teams.’’
Demons senior coach Peter Sheehan had plenty of praise for his young charges, especially Hicks.
‘‘It is a great advertisement for the club and the junior system we’ve got going to produce these kids,’’ Sheehan said.
‘‘I just reckon it was a terrific effort (by Hicks) and reward for all of his hard work.
‘‘He’s a hard-working kid. He played a couple of senior games with us and won his own ball and used it well, those kind of guys are hard to come by.’’
A highlight of Hicks’ three senior and one under-18 game with Shepparton United this year was undoubtedly his thirds premiership, but he also enjoyed learning a thing or two from some former AFL players.
‘‘To play in a premiership with my dad coaching was great,’’ he said.
‘‘It was good to be able to go back locally and play with my mates, as well as play senior footy and learn more from guys like Luke Lowden and Matt Spangher, that was really exciting.’’
Barzen took home the Trainers Award for the Bushrangers, while other local talents Kyle Clarke (Ashley Cox under-17 Award), Lachie Ash (under-16 Most Valuable Player), Tom Boyd (Most Improved) and Daniel Johnston (Leading Goal-kicker) dominating the ceremony.