North Melbourne midfielder Ben Cunnington has a emotional thanks after finishing second in the club’s best and fairest award after his battle with cancer in 2021.
Cunnington, 30, underwent successful surgery in July after doctors discovered a testicular tumor.
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The midfielder returned to action after missing seven games mid-season, but was remarkably second behind Jy Simpkin in the Syd Barker Medal.
Cunnington collapsed after his performance when club great David King asked him what the award meant to him after such a difficult season on and off the pitch.
“For some reason I get a little emotional even though I didn’t even win it,” Cunnington said during a livestream.
Cunnington, who is normally quiet when it comes to the media, wiped away tears as he spoke of the struggles he faced in 2021.
“Oh, I’m not good at this,” he added.
“Just to have the support of the club, the players and my beautiful family, yes, I couldn’t have done it without them.
“It’s even more than I expected. You think you are a little more alone, but the support (from) everyone from the top of the club to the fans stuck at home has been tremendous.
“It makes me smile and makes us want to keep playing for this great club. It means more than I ever imagined.”
Cunnington went on to show his humility, which has made him so popular among the players, saying he was “embarrassed” for not wanting to put the winner in the spotlight.
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After his emotional speech, the AFL world quickly showed their support for the midfielder.
Herald Sun reporter Marc McGowan pointed out that it was a rare public display of emotion from the popular AFL player.
“Never thought I’d see Ben Cunnington cry,” he wrote.
“He’s been through a lot and you probably brush these things off all too easily until you see the visible impact.”
Others pointed out how emotional it was to see Cunnington collapse.
Cunnington received 117 votes, behind Simpkin’s 143.
Simpkin had a career best season after averaging 26.9 disposals and 5.1 evictions per game for North Melbourne.
“I’m pretty speechless to be honest,” Simpkin said of his win.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid growing up with AFL football. When you’re younger you see these guys taking prizes and one day you want to be just like them.
“Today it’s kind of becoming a reality.”
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