Harris marks top debut with Mulrooney Medal
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Harris marks top debut with Mulrooney Medal

Belconnen goal sneak Shane Harris might be the smallest player in the NEAFL eastern conference but his Mulrooney Medal proves he is not the least.

The diminutive Belconnen forward has capped a stunning debut season with the Magpies by taking out the eastern conference's best-and-fairest award in a nail-biting final round of votes at the Hellenic Club last night.

Front from left Cameron Campbell, Steven Coate, Mulrooney Medallist Shane Harris, Jye Bohm, James Kavanagh, rear from left, Kieran Ferns, Matt Lokan, Matt Porter and Stewart Boyd from the Belconnen Magpies Football Club at the NEAFL Gala Presentation Night at the Hellenic Club Woden.

Front from left Cameron Campbell, Steven Coate, Mulrooney Medallist Shane Harris, Jye Bohm, James Kavanagh, rear from left, Kieran Ferns, Matt Lokan, Matt Porter and Stewart Boyd from the Belconnen Magpies Football Club at the NEAFL Gala Presentation Night at the Hellenic Club Woden.Credit:Jeffrey Chan

Going into the 21st and final round of the home-and-away season, Harris and Ainslie's Marcus Crook were tied on 14 votes.

While Crook failed to poll against Sydney University, Harris picked up two votes for his seven goals against the GWS Giants reserves.

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While Harris is only 167 centimetres tall, he backed up coach Matthew Lokan's claim he was the best small forward in the competition.

Harris kicked 61 goals this season - mostly from outmarking much bigger opponents.

Lokan rated Harris as one of the best contested marks, pound-for-pound, in the NEAFL.

''I think he [Harris] is. Don't take anything away from [Ainslie's Nic] Paine, he's a good player, but I think as a small forward Harro's been doing the job for us and kicking a lot of goals,'' Lokan said.

That was why Lokan lured Harris across from SANFL club Port Adelaide, where Lokan was vice-captain of the seniors.

It was clearly a year where small forwards caught the eye of the umpires.

Paine, who finished equal second with Crook on 14 votes, booted 64 goals in the home-and-away rounds and both he and Harris finished in the top four on the goalkicking chart, which was topped by Sydney Swan Mitch Morton with 75.

Not surprisingly, Queanbeyan playing coach Kade Klemke was named coach of the year after guiding the Tigers from second last to the minor premiership in his first season with the club.

The Tigers have already signed him up for next season.

Klemke was rookie-listed by the Essendon Bombers but released without playing a game.

He then played for South Adelaide reserves in the SANFL before returning home to Henty in country Victoria for family reasons.

Last season, he took Culcairn to the minor premiership of the Hume League but the club bowed out in the finals.

Klemke is desperate to take the Tigers further this year. ''If we go out in both these finals I don't see it as a successful year that I would've liked, especially in the situation we are at the moment - and I was in that situation last year. ''You ask any coach and they'll say the premiership is the one they want in their trophy cabinet,'' Klemke told The Canberra Times.

Eastlake forward Liam Flaherty won the Rising Star award, while Belconnen's Elise O'Dea won the Mary Ann Bainrot Medal as the AFL Canberra women's best-and-fairest.