JYE Bolton told anyone that would listen late in the 2021 WAFL season that his teammate Bailey Rogers was the best player in the competition, and that was confirmed on Tuesday night at the Sandover Medal count.
Just two days after a heartbreaking preliminary final exit, it was the Claremont pair left fighting it out for the Sandover Medal of 2021 coming into the final round.
It was previous two-time winner Bolton who started the season on fire but it was his teammate Rogers who finished in a blaze of glory, and coming into the last round against Swan Districts, it was Rogers on 27 votes and Bolton 24 as the only two players still able to win.
Bolton did receive one vote in that 22-point Claremont victory but Rogers got the three for his standout performance of 30 possessions, eight marks, six inside 50s, five tackles and two goals.
That took him to 30 votes for the season to be crowned the 2021 Sandover Medallist to cap off what has been a remarkable rise for the 24-year-old, and right now it is difficult to argue with his teammate Bolton that he is the best player in the WAFL.
It turned out to be a thrilling vote count too and if you look at the leaderboard, it's difficult to argue that at least the competition's superstar midfielders weren’t all the ones contending for the medal.
Seven players polled 15 or more votes in the Sandover Medal count for 2021 and all of them deserve to be considered among the elite players in the competition.
Rogers ended up winning on 30 votes on the back of his remarkable finish the season where he received three best on ground votes in the last four games.
He pipped teammate Jye Bolton (25) who was ahead of Subiaco's Greg Clark (22), South Fremantle's Haiden Schloithe (22), West Perth's Aaron Black (22), Subiaco captain Leigh Kitchin (21) and Swan Districts' Frank Anderson (15).
As it turned out, all seven of those leading players were named as part of the starting 18 in the WAFL Team of the Year, and were among the top 10 finishers for how many times they were named in the Teams of the Week throughout the season.
At one stage it did appear it would be Bolton running away with his third Sandover Medal triumph as he delivered another remarkable season as part of his X-game career with Claremont that already includes those two league fairest and best awards and four Simpson Medals.
It would have put Bolton in rare company had he made it three Sandover Medal victories and he delivered a host of match-winning performances for Claremont during 2021 as he desperately tried to help his Tigers to that elusive premiership.
However, as the season unfolded Bolton made public his view that Rogers had become the best player in the competition and that has now been confirmed on Sandover Medal night.
Rogers was always a star Claremont player in the making going to school at Marist, vice-captaining WA's State 18s team and playing in colts premierships at the Tigers in 2013 and 2015.
He made his league debut in 2015 but cemented his place in the side by 2016 as an attacking defender who could run and carry the ball impressively, but then be incredibly damaging with his kicking skills.
It would be that role which he made his own up until 2021 and he had done it well, but this season new coach Ash Prescott wanted to try him as a midfield and it brought about incredible results.
Rogers would go on to show that he could win his own ball in the midfield as well as get out in space to be damaging, and then with ball in hand he could be remarkable damaging driving the ball into attack for the Claremont forwards to benefit.
Having mastered playing as a defender and midfielder, Rogers went forward late in the season and into the finals for Claremont where he also showed if he did that permanently, he'd threaten for the Bernie Naylor Medal with his one-on-one contested ball winning ability and kicking skills.
His form only got better as the 2021 season went on and was fitting to see him overrun his remarkably decorated teammate in Bolton to claim the Sandover Medal.
Quite simply, Rogers became the most efficient, damaging, cleanest ball handling and best kicking player in competition by the end of 2021 – all things you hope to see in a Sandover Medallist.
Rogers credits Bolton and Prescott as being the driving force behind him getting the midfield opportunities that are behind him now being a Sandover Medal winner.
"I can’t believe it’s around my neck, I don’t think it will sink in for a while. I’m still in shock but it’s an absolute honour. I can’t thank my family, my girlfriend, my teammates and my coaches enough," Rogers said.
"Jye has been pushing for the last few years to get me into the midfield and I spent a couple of games in there last year.
"When the new coach came in, Jye spoke to Ash a fair bit I believe and I expressed my feelings towards playing midfield to him as well. He gave me a crack early and I just had to make the most of it and I think I did."
The Sandover Medal triumph for Rogers with Bolton runner-up will help sooth the blow somewhat for Claremont after their preliminary final exit, but Grand Finalists Subiaco and South Fremantle were well represented high in the vote count with Clark, Schloithe and Kitchin.
Other major award winners announced on the night included Claremont's Rylie Morgan winning the Prendergast Medal as the reserves fairest and best and East Fremantle's Josh Browne as best player in the colts.
Peel Thunder's premiership winning WAFLW coach Steve Markham won the JJ Leonard Medal as Coach of the Year while Trent McPhee claimed the Montgomery Medal as Umpire of the Year and Claremont claimed the Rodriguez Shield.
The Sandover Medal count was combined with the WA Football Hall of Fame ceremony too with Matthew Pavlich, Jim Krakouer, Dennis Cometti and Matthew Priddis all inducted.
TOP SANDOVER MEDAL VOTE WINNERS
Bailey Rogers (Claremont) – 30 Votes
Jye Bolton (Claremont) – 25
Greg Clark (Subiaco) – 22
Haiden Schloithe (South Fremantle) – 22
Aaron Black (West Perth) – 22
Leigh Kitchin (Subiaco) – 21*
Frank Anderson (Swan Districts) – 15
Sam Fisher (Swan Districts) – 13
Jonathon Marsh (East Fremantle) – 11
Harry Marsh (Subiaco) – 11
Angus Scott (East Perth) – 11
CLUB BY CLUB
Bailey Rogers – 30
Jye Bolton – 25
Lachlan Martinis – 5
Kane Mitchell – 4*
Oliver Eastland – 3
Jonathon Marsh – 11
Cam Eardley – 7
Josh Schoenfeld – 7
Luke Strnadica – 5
Kyle Baskerville – 5
Angus Scott – 11
Aidan Lynch – 10
Angus Schumacher – 10
Jackson Ramsay – 8
Scott Jones – 5
Tyrone Thorne – 8
Connor Blakely – 5
Lloyd Meek – 4
Luke Valente – 4
Brady Grey – 7
Corey Byrne – 4
Austin Davis – 2
Andrew Fisher – 2
Haiden Schloithe – 22
Tom Blechynden – 7
Jake Florenca – 6
Dylan Main – 6
Mason Shaw – 5
Greg Clark – 22
Leigh Kitchin – 21*
Harry Marsh – 11
Lachlan Delahunty – 8
Ben Sokol – 5
Frank Anderson – 15
Sam Fisher – 13
Jesse Turner – 8
Aidan Clarke – 5
Matt Riggio – 5
WEST COAST EAGLES
Mark Hutchings – 8
Hamish Brayshaw – 5
Xavier O'Neill – 4
Jackson Nelson – 3
Jake Waterman – 3
Aaron Black – 22
Tyler Keitel – 10
Shane Nelson – 10
Tent Manzone – 5
Conal Lynch – 3