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Saunders claims second Bernie Naylor Medal in three yearsFriday, September 5, 2014 - 2:13 PM - by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle full-forward Ben Saunders has claimed his second Bernie Naylor Medal as the WAFL's leading goalkicker in three years since joining the Bulldogs from Claremont.

The 22-year-old has just completed his third season with South Fremantle and now has a second Bernie Naylor Medal to show for it after kicking 59 goals in 2014 to lead the WAFL in terms of goals kicked.

Saunders claimed the 2014 Bernie Naylor Medal ahead of Subiaco full-forward Matt Boland who kicked 51 goals for the season with Swan Districts' Ricky Cary next on 44 goals followed by Tim Geappen (Swan Districts) with 39, Brett Peake (East Fremantle) 39, Jack Bradshaw (Claremont) 38 and Josh Smith (East Perth) 38.

Despite a seven-goal haul in Round 5 against West Perth in what was South Fremantle's first win of the 2014 season, Saunders had a slightly slow start to the season with just the 30 goals up until the end of Round 15.

That left him with plenty of work to do in order to chase down Boland, but Saunders' form got better as the year went on and that coincided with a strong finish to the season from South Fremantle as well with the Bulldogs winning their last five matches.

Saunders kicked six goals against Perth in Round 16 and then backed it up with four against East Fremantle in Round 19, four against Swan Districts in Round 21, five in Round 22 against Subiaco and another five against Peel in the final round.

That meant that he kicked 14 goals in the last three weeks and 27 in the last seven to wrap up the Bernie Naylor Medal for the second time.

Having grown up in Mt Barker, Saunders came through the ranks at Claremont always showing that he was a natural goalkicker.

He managed to break through for two Foxtel Cup appearances with the Tigers in 2011 and three WAFL league matches, and kicked eight goals in those five appearances but with Beau Wilkes, Ian Richardson, Chad Jones and Tom Lee ahead of him, he could never quite cement a spot.

He still played 18 reserves matches in 2011 and kicked 68 goals to be a key member of the Claremont premiership team and then was looking for increased opportunities elsewhere for 2012.

Several WAFL clubs were interested, but it was South Fremantle that won the battle for his services in the end and he has certainly delivered for the Bulldogs.

Saunders immediately settled in at South Fremantle and had a terrific 2012 season kicking 66 goals in 20 matches to win his first Bernie Naylor Medal.

He still did well to kick 26 goals from eight matches with the Bulldogs in 2013 but missed more than half the season with two broken collarbones.

However, he hit back well in 2014 to kick another 59 goals to now mean that he has kicked 151 goals in just 47 games now since joining South Fremantle.

And at just 22 years of age, he has every chance to become one of the WAFL's modern day goalkicking greats unless he finds himself in the AFL system.