MASKELL Medal-winning ruckman Manny Sandow says the launching pad his former club provided is a key reason for his rise in the Hampden league.
Sandow, 23, arrived at South Warrnambool two seasons ago, eager to test himself at a higher level after climbing up the ranks at Warrnambool and District league club Merrivale.
He credited the Tigers’ commitment to his development when he took out his first Maskell Medal on Sunday.
Sandow polled three votes in the final round to finish with 25 – three clear of another ruckman, the ineligible Cobden coach and three-time winner Levi Dare.
Port Fairy utility Jackson Hollmer was runner-up with 19 votes.
Seagulls captain Dan Nicholson – the pre-count favourite – finished third with 18.
Koroit midfielders Brett Harrington (17) and Damian O’Connor (15) rounded out the top five.
Sandow, who was embraced by his Roosters teammates and provided an entertaining winner’s speech, said Merrivale took a punt on “a short fat kid just running around at full-back”.
He was thrown into a senior ruck role at 17 and developed his craft courtesy of help from Luke McInerney and Rhys Raymond.
“One pre-season game I played a quarter in the ruck,” Sandow said.
“I was lucky because I had Al Porter onball, so you just tap it to him and he makes you look good all the time.
“It was lucky (for me) but unlucky for Luke because he hurt his calf in the second game that year and so I got the chance to ruck by myself.”
Sandow said his introduction to Hampden league in 2016 was an eye-opener.
He believes playing against the league’s high-calibre ruckmen, such as Dare, Port Fairy’s Sandy Robinson and Koroit’s Jeremy Hausler, had helped elevate his own game.
“It’s been brilliant. They take you to the ball and you have to man them up because they’re good players,” Sandow said.
Sandow, who tries to avoid weights but has worked hard on his running, completing a marathon earlier this year, said he was humbled to win the Maskell.
“I was shocked. As I said in my speech, Huss (James Hussey) has been unreal all year and I came here to watch him,” he said.