Porter, Johnstone head Esam Medal betting

MERRIVALE jet Alister Porter and Allansford workhorse Nick Johnstone will start favourites to win the J. A. Esam Medal tonight.

The Warrnambool and District league will award its league medal at City Memorial Bowls Club tonight, with Porter and Johnstone in line for the honour.

Porter has been the standout player for Merrivale during a season in which it won 14 of its 18 matches and rose to second on the ladder.

He has featured in the Tigers’ best players 12 times. He was listed as the first-best on five occasions, including a three-week stretch from rounds 16 to 18.

League leading goalkicker Brad Kelly, onballer James Kelly and ruckman Manny Sandow could also poll strongly for the Tigers.

Johnstone has led the way for the Cats, despite battling leg pain for much of the second half of the season.

Ominously, his statistics — 25 goals and among the best players nine times — suggest he enjoyed a better campaign than two years ago.

Minor premier Panmure is also likely to have players at the pointy end of the leaderboard.

The Bulldogs have been rapt with speedster Shamus O’Beirne while Taylor McKenry, Daniel Roache and Thomas White have enjoyed solid campaigns.

Of the other top-five sides, Brandon Edwards has played every match for Dennington and has earned a spot in the best 13 times — a sign of consistency.

Luke Duncan is another who should poll well. The key-position player has been in vintage form coming back from a knee reconstruction.

Aaron Williams, Colby Rix, Jack Dunkley and Nathan Forth have been instrumental leading Old Collegians’ rise up the ladder.

South Rovers’ Braden Hotker and Nirranda’s Nathan Couch are outside chances for the medal after solid seasons in sides which finished outside the top five.

The  A grade netball best-and-fairest count could go down to the wire with a host of top players in contention.

Old Collegians won every match this season, with returned defender Jodie Maybery crucial to their success.

But players stealing votes off each other could work against the Warriors. Shooters Steph Townsend and Sophie Ballinger have also enjoyed big seasons.

Marlie Boyd has been important for Dennington in the goal circle and midcourt. Boyd finished third last season and is eye-catching when on the court.

Emma Roache was superb for Panmure as it finished third while Merrivale has benefited from a spread of contributors.

Kolora-Noorat is another side which has relied on an even effort to qualify for finals, although defenders Kelly Mullen has enjoyed a top season.

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