By ZAC MILBANK
South Adelaide midfielder Bryce Gibbs and Woodville-West Torrens ball magnet James Tsitas have been crowned joint winners of the 2021 Magarey Medal.
Highly-credentialed Panther Gibbs and Eagles ball-magnet Tsitas polled 21 votes, to be the first players to share SANFL’s prestigious individual award in nine years.
In what proved to be an enthralling count, three players – Gibbs, Tsitas and Glenelg’s Matthew Snook – were a chance to win with one round to be counted.
Tsitas, who failed to attract a vote in Round 19, was joined on 21 by Gibbs, who was awarded two in the Panthers’ final minor round win against West Adelaide.
Snook, who polled two votes in Round 19, finished joint runner-up with Eagles star Jack Hayes, who drew level with Snook on 20 votes when he was adjudged best afield in his team’s final minor round win against Central District.
The winners of the past two Magarey Medals – North Adelaide’s Campbell Combe (2020) and Glenelg’s Luke Partington (2019) – finished equal third with 17 votes each.
Gibbs’ strong start to the season resulted in him leading the count after eight rounds, en route to finishing with four first preferences, four second preferences and one third preference.
The 32-year-old is the eighth South Adelaide player to win the Magarey Medal, joining Panthers’ greats such as Dan Moriarty, Mark Naley and the retiring Joel Cross.
Featuring in his first full SANFL season since playing with Glenelg in 2006, Gibbs averaged 27 disposals, six tackles and six clearances to have a major influence in his team’s run to the Preliminary Final.
Tsitas, the first Woodville-West Torrens player to win the Magarey Medal since the Warriors and Eagles joined forces in 1991, joins illustrious names such as West Torrens’ Lindsay Head and Woodville’s Malcolm Blight in earning SANFL’s prized trophy.
A former captain of Geelong’s VFL team, Tsitas has thrived since arriving at Oval Avenue at the start of the 2020 season, playing in a League premiership in his first SANFL season.
The 26-year-old touched the ball more than any other player during the 2021 minor round, averaging 29 disposals, five tackles and five clearances to be a consistent driving force for the Eagles inside the centre square.
Tsitas also attracted four first preferences while tallying three second preferences and three first preferences before hitting the lead for the first time in Round 18.
It is the 15th occasion multiple players have won the Magarey Medal and 13th that joint winners have been honoured, with South’s Joel Cross and Central’s Brad Symes the most recent in 2012.