North Melbourne midfielder Jy Simpkin won his first Syd Barker medal on Friday night, but it was fellow baller Ben Cunnington who stole the show with his emotional runner-up speech.
Cunnington, 30, missed the last four games of the Roos season after successfully undergoing surgery to remove a testicular tumor.
The tough midfielder is known for his no-nonsense approach to play and his toughness in the game, but showed a different side of himself when club legend David King asked him if his second place finish in the award was a special achievement.
“Yes, actually it is. For some reason I get a little emotional even though I didn’t even win… I’m not good at this,” Cunnington said.
“Just to get the support of the club, the players and my beautiful family — I couldn’t have done it without them.
“You think you’re a little more alone, but the support from everyone at the top of the club for the fans sitting at home, it’s been huge.
“It makes me smile and makes me want to keep playing for this great club. It means more than I ever imagined.”
The 30-year-old also said he didn’t want to divert too much attention from the winner.
A champion player and an even better person.
— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) October 1, 2021
Despite missing seven games over the season, Cunnington was still able to get 117 votes in North Melbourne’s Best and Fairest to finish a distant second behind Simpkin at 142.
Simpkin, 23, was a deserved winner of the award, averaging career highs in divestments, grades, within the 1950s and evictions in 2021.
2021 North Melbourne B&F Top 10:
- Jy Simpkin – 143 votes
- Ben Cunnington – 117
- Jack Ziebell – 114
- Aaron Hall – 114
- Luke Davies Uniacke – 109
- Ben McKay – 106
- Cam Zurhaar – 95
- Tarryn Thomas – 95
- Kayne Turner – 92
- Nick Larkey – 90