Hard work pays off for Ricky Whitehead

HDFL - CKS Swifts Ricky Whitehead received Horsham District Football League's highest accolade, taking home the best and fairest for 2012 at Holy Trinity Lutheran School in Horsham on Monday night.

Whitehead had an outstanding season for Swifts and was a key play maker for the Baggies, providing many highlights as both an onballer and small forward.

He polled 24 votes to take home the Horsham Tyre and Battery Service best and fairest award, edging out Edenhope-Apsley's James Dixon and Taylor Lake's Patrick Purcell who both finished with 23 votes.

Last year's winner, Tim Wade from Kalkee, rounded out the top four with 21 votes.

Whitehead said he didn't really expect to win.

"I thought I was a bit of a chance but I was pretty surprised in the end," he said.

Swifts coach Paul Hanns said it was a great win for Whitehead.

"He was right up there in the mix. Once I saw he was in the top five halfway through the count, I knew he had a pearler of a second half of the year and could go on to win," he said.

"It's a great achievement for him. All the hard work he put in through the year has finally paid off."

It was a slow start to the year for Whitehead, who didn't do a pre-season and it took a while to find his rhythm in a new-look Baggies outfit.

"His commitment to training wasn't the best, through pre-season and start of the year. He didn't do a pre-season, which is different for Rick. We just sat him down and got things back on track," Hanns said.

Whitehead was dropped back to the reserves earlier this season, with Hanns saying it was 'a big wake up call' for his regular senior player.

"We wanted him to start doing team things. Ricky's a pretty proud person and he wanted to be a part of the senior group. He realised that the fitter he is, (the more) he can have a hell of an impact for Swifts through the season," Hanns said.

"He's pretty hard to match up on for opponents because he has so many traits to his game."

This year, Whitehead has had more of a run through the midfield due to the Baggies picking up the likes of Julian Carr and Brett Hargreaves moving forward to provide another avenue to goal.

"We were able to get Rick up in the middle and his fitness lifted again. He took the most of his opportunities," Hanns said.

Whitehead clearly relished in his new-look role, saying he prefers to play in the midfield.

The talented onballer has re-signed for 2013 and is looking forward to helping his teammates go one better next year and reach the HDFL grand final.

Whitehead has been playing with the Swifts since he was 14 and has had just one year at Stawell in the under 17s as well as a stint with Coolangatta in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) before returning to the Baggies midway through 2011.

"They're a great bunch of blokes there. I feel comfortable playing there and don't mind the oval. It's nice and flat, with a bit of space and has a good feeling about it," Whitehead said.

"Thanks to all the volunteers that help out round Swifts and to Rob and Deb Carey (Swifts football and netball presidents) for their support and what they've done for the club."

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