Ruckman Reilly O’Brien has capped a breakout season, winning his first Malcolm Blight Medal at Adelaide’s Club Champion presentation on Friday night.
The 25-year-old finished on 81 votes, edging out 2018 Club Champion Rory Laird (80) and defender Luke Brown (76) in a dramatic count at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
O’Brien first claimed the lead after Round Seven and remained atop the leaderboard for the next nine rounds.
Laird’s stunning run of midfield form saw him move past O’Brien at the completion of Round 17, polling 30 votes in the four-game block between Round 13 and Round 17.
The dual All Australian was the only Crow to register a ‘perfect 10’ this season, polling maximum votes in Adelaide’s Round 16 win over Greater Western Sydney.
Trailing by a solitary vote prior to the Round 18 clash with Richmond, O’Brien compiled a best-on-ground performance, claiming seven votes to Laird’s five to leapfrog his teammate and take home the coveted gold jacket.
2017 Club Champion Matt Crouch (72) and rookie recruit Ben Keays (65) rounded out the top five.
O’Brien was one of only three Crows to play all 17 games in 2020, taking his career tally to 37.
He becomes the second least experienced player to take home the Club Champion award, behind only Matt Connell (1995, 24 games).
In an outstanding season, O’Brien finished fourth in the AFL for contested marks (33) and fifth for hitouts (464) and hitouts to advantage (136).
The ruckman also ranked No.1 at the Club for marks (64) and third for contested possessions (127), hardball gets (45) and tackles (68).
It is Laird’s fifth podium finish in the last six years and Brown’s first of his career.
A new voting system was introduced this year, with Adelaide’s senior coach and three line coaches collectively grading each player’s performance on a 0-10 scale following each round.
Final Leaderboard – Top 10
Reilly O’Brien – 81
Rory Laird – 80
Luke Brown – 76
Matt Crouch – 72
Ben Keays – 65
Brodie Smith – 61
Shane McAdam – 56
Kyle Hartigan – 54
Tom Lynch – 53
Rory Sloane – 51
2020 Major Award Winners
Malcolm Blight Medallist – Reilly O’Brien
Runner-up – Rory Laird
Third place – Luke Brown
Leading Goalkicker Award – Taylor Walker
Mark Bickley Emerging Talent Award – Andrew McPherson
Players’ Trademark Award – Ben Keays
Dr Brian Sando OAM Trophy – Andrew McPherson
Members’ MVP Award – Reilly O’Brien
Phil Walsh Best Team Man Award – Tom Lynch
Club Champion Voting Protocol:
1-2 votes: Played team role, little impact on the result.
3-4 votes: Played team role, impacted result.
5-6 votes: Solid in team role, positive impact on result.
7-8 votes: Strong in team role, significant impact on result.
9-10 votes: Elite in team role, dominant impact on result.