MOST people don’t play for 12 months after a knee construction.
Levi Dare returned in nine – and won a league best and fairest.
The Cobden ruckman, who rarely trained in his comeback season, paid tribute to Hampden league president Hugh Worrall on Sunday after joining the former Bomber midfielder as one of only three players to win three Maskell Medals.
South Warrnambool legend Ron Hoy is the other member of the illustrious club.
Dare polled 26 votes count to win from Koroit captain Isaac Templeton – himself chasing a third Maskell after back-to-back wins – on 20.
The newly-appointed Bombers coach’s triumph was his first outright after sharing the honour in 2010 and 2012.
Dare said he was humbled to etch his name alongside Worrall’s in Hampden league history.
“Hughy Worrall is a three-time Maskell Medallist – 1970, ‘72 and ‘79 – and his photo is on the wall at Cobden and you see it every home game and at training,” he said.
“He’s had some very nice things to say to me over my time at Cobden and being in his company now is pretty special.
“Hughy’s given me the greatest compliment that I’ve got in my career.
“After the 2012 preliminary final win against North Warrnambool...I was just taking a bit of time out, sat to the side a bit and Hughy sat down next to me.
“He didn’t say anything and someone walked past and said ‘how are you going, Hugh?’ and he said ‘I’m sitting next to a champion’.”
Dare played every game coming off his knee surgery and was named best-on-ground in eight.
He was surprised to poll as strongly as he did given his limited preparation, saying “I dodn’t consider myself a three-time league best and fairest player”.
“I was only able to train once after round nine and that was because we were coming off a bye,” Dare said.
“I thank the club for that. They knew I had the gym in Camperdown and was doing my own stuff in my own time but to get on the park I was just too sore most weeks.”