Stefan Radovanovic has defied the odds by winning the 2017 Barry Round Medal for the Western Jets’ best-and-fairest.
Such a scenario would have been unthinkable for Radovanovic when he entered the TAC Cup season as a bottom-age player with a troubling recent injury history.
But he made his own luck through sheer persistence and hard work, taking out the top honour with 204 votes, seven clear of Lachlan Fogarty (197) and co-captain Nick Stuhldreier (180) came in third.
Jets coach Torin Baker said the win was an exciting one for the player.
“It’s rare that you see a bottom-ager win a TAC Cup club best-and-fairest,” Baker said.
“I think it’s only happened a couple of times at the Western Jets, so he’s in rare company.”
Radovanovic was on a modified training program leading up to the season.
Despite a limited pre-season, the 17-year-old managed to play 13 of the Jets’ 18 games with confidence, improving with every outing.
“He’s had a couple of years where he’d had not a lot of continuity with his football,” Baker said.
“One of the things with Stef that a lot of people don’t see – he’s had to be really diligent with his rehab and the amount of stretching that needs to be done to make sure that injuries don’t come back at him.
“From the moment he resumed playing footy this season, he hasn’t really missed a beat.
“He just got better and better through the middle part of the season.”
Radovanovic started the season as rebounding defender, but has evolved into one of the Western Jets’ best utilities.
The Keilor product impressed with his ability to play on talls and smalls in the defensive 50 and was damaging with his defensive exits.
“He’s around the 190-centimetre mark, but his ability to play on a variety of players makes him very valuable,” Baker said.
“He played on players that were almost 200 centimetres and then he’d play on players who were 175 centimetres.
“You look at a Ben Stratton at Hawthorn, who plays on talls and smalls – he’s in that sort of mould.”
As the season wore on, Radovanovic moved into the midfield.
His run, carry and tenacity were a feature, complemented by his tidy ball use.
“He’s got great run and carry and that comes through his speed,” Baker said.
“He’s really hard to tackle – he’s just a strong body and a neat kick.
“He’s got some really good offensive elements.”
With another year of under-18 football to come, Radovanovic will undoubtedly be closely monitored by the AFL scouts.
He will get one more chance to impress the recruiters this season when he takes to the field on Friday in the under-17 future stars game at Simonds Stadium.
Radovanovic will take on the nation’s best under-17 boys along with promising Jets teammates Buku Khamis and Zak Butters.
Jets top-ager Lachlan Fogarty will play in the under-18 all-star game at the MCG on grand final day.