IT PROMISES to be a busy, even exhilarating, time for Trent Cotchin this month in terms of personal accolades, but the Richmond ace has moved swiftly to identify key areas of improvement in his game.
Having already won the AFL Coaches Award this week, Cotchin has also been named The Age Footballer of the Year, winning a Hyundai which he will donate to his favourite charity. Last night he won a second successive Jack Dyer Medal as the Tigers' best and fairest.
Cotchin, 22, is almost certain to replace Chris Newman as captain, and was a clear winner ahead of Brett Deledio and Ivan Maric.
He is also a Brownlow favourite and could be named as the most valuable player by his peers at the AFL Players Association awards night next week.
''It's nice to be regarded as being a potential winner, but I think there are a few blokes a fair way in front of me,'' a typically modest Cotchin told The Age yesterday.
Newman warned his teammates last night not to take success for granted in 2013. ''The time has come to repay our fans and I am hell-bent on this happening in 2013,'' he said.
''The time has come for us to take the opportunities provided to us.''
Newman received a standing ovation after an emotional introduction from coach Damien Hardwick who preferred to talk about the future while acknowledging the disappointment of 2012. ''Clearly we are bitterly disappointed because we didn't play finals this year. It hurts all of us — not less the players and the coaching staff.''
Hardwick said the club's improvement in winning 10 games this season ''could have been 13 if we'd got some things right. It tells me the football club is building towards an opportunity, an opportunity we should take with both hands.
''I'm not waiting for sides to tip out of the eight. We're going to bloody well kick them out.
''The day we get to where we want to be we'll all share it. I can hardly wait for that day.''
Cotchin had a season to remember. Buoyed by a largely injury-free pre-season, he averaged a career-high 28 disposals per game, his poise, toughness and class making him one of the league's elite midfielders, while his ability to go forward and kick 21 goals in 22 games was also pivotal in the Tigers' 10 wins.
He also averaged career highs in tackles (5 per game) and inside-50s (5) and, highlighting his willingness to get to the contest first, had the biggest differential in the league in terms of free kicks, winning 51 and conceding just 16.
''I still have a fair bit of work to do on the defensive aspect of my game,'' Cotchin said.
''I think you can always improve on those obvious offensive things: goalkicking, general-play kicking, taking on a tackle, knowing exactly what way to roll with regards to the way we want to play as a team.
''I am really keen to work on my contested stuff, more so marking than on the ground, but, then again, clearance work as a midfielder is massive. There are so many things you continue to work on.''
Cotchin said he had improved defensively this season but he still was not entirely happy.
''I think you see the best players or the best defensive players tend not to have as many mental lapses as the players who aren't as well respected for it do,'' he said.
''That comes not only with fitness but experience and, obviously, the right attitude.
''I think I improved on that area in comparison to last year, but it's definitely something I can take to the next level.''
Cotchin said he had improved as a leader in recent seasons but had given little thought to replacing Newman as captain.
Age Footballer of the Year: Trent Cotchin (141 votes), Jobe Watson (126), Patrick Dangerfield (117), Gary Ablett (115).