Historic night: Triple treat for Bernie Gottke Medal
AUSSIE RULES: For just the third time in AFL Capricornia history three players have shared the coveted Bernie Gottke medal as the AFL Capricornia's best and fairest winner.
Reigning medallist Tim Higgins, Yeppoon Swans ruckman Jamie Garner and BITS Saints midfielder Steven Pugh all polled 16 votes to claim the award.
In the dying rounds it looked like Higgins was on his way to an outright win for his second but Garner and Pugh scored maximum votes to force an exciting tie.
The trio joins 1994 winners Derick Smith of Gladstone, Yeppoon's Stephen Lauritz and Panthers' Paul Ugle and 2002 winners Michael Warden of BITS, Glenmore's Luke Henschile and Yeppoon's Wes Hawke.
After winning the medal alone last year, the controversial circumstances around it meant it was a bittersweet victory for Higgins.
- Tim Higgins (Glenmore), Steven Pugh (BITS) and Jamie Garner (Yeppoon) - 16
- Brent Wood (Brothers) and Eli Wells (Yeppoon) - 13
- Stephen Eilola (Gladstone), Sam Nicholls (Yeppoon), Kane Haua (BITS) and Levi Davenport (Panthers) - 10
But now the medal will proudly take place on a wall in his father Dale's bar at home. "He has already started to arrange a place for it to go,” Higgins said.
"He loves the game and my success. I owe a lot to him. And for it to bring him happiness is a great feeling.
"I was in Brisbane for a pre-season and came back a lot fitter. I think being able to put in for all four quarters and not run out of puff has helped with the voting.”
Sadly the bittersweet feeling continued for Higgins, whose club side Glenmore Bulls finished with the wooden spoon.
He is the type of player to trade all individual glory for a flag in a heartbeat.
"Individual honours are something to be proud of but nothing tops tasting premiership success,” the 37-goal midfielder said.
"To win a flag is everything, I am lucky to have won one twice. It is a great reward for putting in all the work throughout the year. It is why we all play.”
Garner, in his second year of footy in this region, said he was particularly honoured to stand alongside two of the competition's elite players.
"Whenever we play them I notice they get a lot of footy from hanging off my shoulder from the ruck taps,” he laughed.
"They read the game so well and are two quality footballers. I am proud to share it with them.
"It means a lot knowing I have put in the hard yards. I lost a fair bit of weight in the off-season.”
He said being under the umpire's watch got him the votes.
"I think my on-field presence got me the nod,” he said.
"Being in the umpire's eye I like to be around the footy and be in control and get the ball to the outside runners.
"It is a team sport though, so I'd much rather take home another flag - but I will take both.”