Club champ after 26 games: Young Bomber’s historic triumph

AFL New Zealand Heritage Team squad member Jordan Ridley has claimed the Essendon Bombers’ best and fairest as he capped his remarkable rise into the game’s elite defenders.

The club’s brightest spark this season was on Sunday awarded the 2020 Crichton Medal ahead of second-placed Bomber Zach Merrett and third-placed Adam Saad.

Ridley’s extraordinary jump came after he entered the season having played only nine senior games in three years at the club. But the 21-year-old played every game this year and grew into one of the leading intercept defenders in the AFL, pushing himself into Virgin Australia AFL All Australian contention.

Essendon’s Jordan Ridley in action against Sydney in round two. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

After just 26 games, he is the third-most inexperienced player to claim the Essendon’s best and fairest in the club’s long and successful history, behind John Coleman (1949, 21 games) and Albert Thurgood (1901, 22 games).

Ridley, who is edging towards a contract extension of up to four years, finished on 333 votes in the count, which was held online on Sunday night, ahead of Merrett (308 votes) and Saad (292).

“This is a season in which Jordan announced himself as a key part of the club’s future and he should be incredibly proud of his commitment, drive and output this year,” outgoing coach John Worsfold said.
“Jordan is an unassuming, determined and driven young man who is a wonderful teammate and has commanded the respect of the playing group, and especially fellow defenders. Since he arrived at the club, his work ethic and commitment to get the best out of himself has been obvious to all.
“He has worked closely alongside Michael Hurley and Adam Saad to further understand the game and hone his craft and we know that Jordan continually wants to improve and build his game and at only 21 years of age, there is much more improvement to come for Jordan which is really exciting.”

Essendon’s Jordan Ridley marks against North Melbourne in round six. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

It is Merrett’s fourth top-three finish, having claimed the Crichton Medal in 2016 and 2019, while Saad has finished in the top four in his three seasons with the club.

Kyle Langford, who was named the Bombers’ best clubman, finished fourth, while Andrew McGrath, named its most courageous, finished fifth. Ridley was confirmed as the Bombers’ most improved player, while Sam Draper was named its rising star.

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