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Rischitelli the Lions' best in 2010

09/09/2010 11:31:08 PM Comments (0)

Gold Coast-bound midfielder Michael Rischitelli broke down in tears during an emotional acceptance speech after winning the Brisbane Lions' best and fairest award on Thursday night.

Rischitelli, who signed a three-year $1.5 million deal for the fledgling club starting in 2011, struggled to compose himself at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

"I didn't think it was going to be this hard," he said.

The 24 year-old announced his decision to leave the club two days ago but said he still had a strong emotional connection to the Lions.

"There'll always be a spot in my heart for this club and I want to wish all the boys well for 2011," he said.

Rischitelli polled 37.5 votes to eclipse midfield ball magnet Simon Black (34.5) and skipper Jonathan Brown, who polled 28.5 votes despite missing six matches, at the gala dinner.

Winning the award brought an end to Brown's stranglehold on the honour, having won the past three club champion awards.

Rischitelli was cheered by more than 500 guests although there was one notable face missing - controversial full-forward Brendan Fevola.

Fevola was ordered not to appear at the count because of an investigation by police and the AFL following allegations he exposed himself to a woman at a family fun day last Saturday.

It's the second consecutive best and fairest count the 29-year-old has been told not to attend because of off-field controversy.

Last year he was strongly advised not to attend Carlton's award night after his antics at the Brownlow Medal and allegations of impropriety toward a female journalist.

Ironically, Rischitelli's decision to leave the Lions to play for the fledgling Suns and his best and fairest win have been shadowed by Fevola.

Rischitelli was not pleased about being offered as trade bait for Fevola at the end of last season and while he stayed to honour his contract with the Lions, he has taken the first opportunity to leave.

The police investigation into Fevola was an unnecessary distraction for the Lions who have been under close scrutiny after losing 15 of the last 18 games of the season.

Their football department is under review by a contracted third party and important swingman Jared Brennan remains out of contract and possibly headed elsewhere because of a salary cap squeeze.

Black, a three-time winner of the award, was bridesmaid for a fourth time and it was the eighth top 10 finish in the Merrett-Murray medal for the 2002 Brownlow Medallist.

Had Brown played every match this season he may well have owned his fourth straight Merrett-Murray medal as he polled almost half of his votes (13) in the first four rounds.

Merrett-Murray Medal points: Michael Rischitelli 37.5, Simon Black 34.5, Jonathan Brown 28.5, Luke Power 27.5, Jack Redden 26.5, Ashley McGrath 25.5, Brent Staker 25, Daniel Rich 24.5, Matthew Leuenberger 24, Todd Banfield 23.5.

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