Wonderful servant of North Eastern football and the Blyth-Snowtown Football Club, its captain Gareth “Ruffa” Ottens collected the association’s highest individual honour, the 2018 Mail Medal count held at Riverton on Monday night.
Now 32 and a member of all four Cats flags at A grade level, Ottens, a 188cm, 96 kg utility is originally a BSR junior and came across to the Cats in his mid-teens.
Ottens, ever team-orientated and noted for his strong marking and fierce attack on the ball, suggested it was a bit of a surprise that he collected the award and he'd been happy with his team’s effort in 2018.
“Across this year I felt I've been consistent, but I also felt that I've had better seasons previously,” Ottens laughed.
“Maybe our similar haircuts help in me securing as many votes as I did.
“A major mentor in my football life has been Nick Ashby.
“We have always had a strong team focus at the Cats.
“When I was at BSR I’d get a game every three weeks because of the oversupply of players and Nick Ashby farm next to ours, so he got us across to the Cats.
“That 2002 Senior Colts Grand Final team has always been important start to our golden era, along with people like Simon McCormack and Nick Humphrys who done the hard yards before.”
Cats coach Carey Payne said that he has three superstars in his team Ryan Darling, Caleb Lloyd and ‘Ruffa” Ottens.
“Gareth has been outstanding captain and is a natural leader of men,” Payne continued.
“He puts his body on the line for the team and has played in the midfield all this year.
“He is a true ‘team first’ footballer and a highly deserving winner of the award.”
Runner up to last year’s winner, Hawk Patrick Clark, Ottens won the 2018 award with 23 votes.
He was two votes ahead of RSMU ruckman Justin Schahinger, who collected 21 votes, with Min-Man midfielder Steve Rusca, third on 19.
BSR Jack Haarmsa collected 17 votes while Hawk Mitch Sandery and pre-count favourite Caleb Lloyd both finished with 16
North Clare hard-working midfielder Jake Panaho finished with 15 votes as did Tigers talented lead up forward Lachlan Wilsdon.
No less than 16 different players collected 11 or more votes in the 2018 A grade count.
Evergreen BSR veteran Adam MacKenzie was selected as captain of the Northern Argus – NEFL Team of the Year, while Ottens claimed honours as his deputy.
Blyth-Snowtown first year mentor Carey Payne collected the coach of the year award, an award he called a big personal highlight.
RSMU Hawk on-baller Matt Norman won the Geoff Pink Memorial Trophy, the B grade best and fairest with 21, while BBH’s Daniel Mills was runner up with 18.