He may have only played eight games in 2021, but that was enough for Chris Ryall to become the first Kilmore player to win an NFNL football best and fairest.
The Blues midfielder won the Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 award with 15 votes, finishing two ahead of Heidelberg West’s Masaki Miki. Ryall’s teammate Chris Barton and Mernda’s Josh Mazzarella were third on 12 votes.
Ryall’s triumph capped an outstanding awards night for Kilmore, with Barton taking out the 2021 Heidelberg Golf Club Division 3 Coaches MVP Award, while Alex Vasilevski tied for the reserves best and fairest.
Speaking to NFNL.org.au, Ryall was proud of not only winning the best and fairest, but also the representation of Kilmore on the night.
“I’m stoked to be representing Kilmore on that front,” Ryall said.
“We had a really good representation from Kilmore throughout the whole awards night with myself, we had the reserves best and fairest and Chris Barton winning the MVP award.
“It’s a really good place where everyone’s contributing.”
Ryall said he was surprised to take out the award after his season ended prematurely following a knee injury sustained in the Round 11 win away to Heidelberg West.
“My money was on my teammate Chris Barton because I knew what a great season he had,” Ryall said.
“I also know what type of player Masaki Miki is. We played him twice this year and he showed up against us in both games.
“I wasn’t really confident at all to be winning it, nevertheless I’m just as happy that I did.”
Ryall was a standout in the opening half of the 2021 season.
The prolific midfielder polled 15 votes in his first seven games and booted 14 goals.
He also held the lead in the Coaches MVP voting before being surpassed after sitting out the final three games.
Ryall’s best and fairest win continued an outstanding start to his senior career.
He claimed Caulfield’s best and fairest as 19-year-old in 2018, before sharing Kilmore’s club champion award with Leigh Irons in his first year with the club in 2019.
Since making the move from Caulfield, Ryall has thoroughly enjoyed his time up in the countryside.
“Going to Kilmore, I knew there were going to be a lot of people I already knew there since I went to Assumption College,” he said.
“I went in with an open mind and all the boys immediately made me feel at home.”
After playing off in a semi-final in 2019 and sitting in third place this year before the season was cancelled, Ryall said Kilmore was on the right track to contend again in 2022.
“We have an elite calibre of players that we think can give us that edge. They can step up and perform week after week to get us there at the end of the year,” he said.
“We’ve already got players wanting to come and play with us and be around the club.
“We (will) look to really improve on this year and take that extra step to go to Division 2 next year.”