Gunnedah Bulldogs AFL Club’s presentation was held at Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club last Saturday evening, honouring the best and fairest players, along with other club and team awards for the women’s Poochettes team and men’s Bulldogs side for the 2022 season.

Full forward James Mack was a runaway winner in the men’s Frogmore Cup as the side’s best player of the season, polling a total of 41 votes in front of runner-up Alistair Hillard with 30 votes.

Poochette Katrina Rekunow won her maiden gong as the women’s best player for 2022, with 47 votes ahead of runner-up and 2021 best and fairest Rani Grant, who polled 36 votes.

It turned out to be a fruitful season and evening for Mack who along with his best and fairest award, was voted by his playing peers as the ‘players’ player’ for the men’s side for the season. He also topped the charts of the club’s leading goal scorer aggregate with 41 majors for the season.

Mack was honoured to win the award and have his name etched on the Frogmore Cup alongside the likes of multiple best and fairest winners and club legends such as Andrew George, Scott Hardy and Brian Lenton to name a short few.

“There’s some unbelievable names on this (Frogmore Cup) and it’s an honour to be on there,” he said.

“Everyone chipped in throughout the year and it’s been a tough season result-wise but a lot of fun all the same.”

Mack was a clear winner and was the blueprint of the Bulldogs’ men’s side in 2022. When fully fit, Mack caused chaos in the opposition defence through movement but did his best work stationary, with the opposition knowing he was the Bulldogs’ main man in attack. 

Mack would often find himself double and triple teamed in the opposition’s attempt to nullify his aerial marking threat, but time and again he found a way to keep the Bulldogs in the majority of their matches.

Rekunow was a runaway winner in the women’s best and fairest – viewed by coach Jakob Vearing as one of the most important cogs in the Poochettes’ push for a second premiership, which ultimately fell short on the last day of competition – grand final day.

“She had a fantastic season, no matter where you put her position-wise she performed above and beyond what was asked of her,” Vearing said.

“There isn’t a more deserving winner.” 

Rekunow was humble in her response and also full of praise for her Poochettes side, expressing her surprise at being named player of the year for the Poochettes’ grand final side.

“It’s been an amazing season, I could think of others who are probably more deserving than myself,” she said.

“It’s such an honour and something I’m very proud of, but more so I’m extremely proud of all the girls, the club and of the season we have all had.” 

Other award winners on the night included acknowledging milestone matches for the Bulldogs club.

John Woolaston was recognised for his service to the club, notching up 200 games, having first played for the club in 2003.

During the Bulldogs’ 40th year anniversary in 2017, Woolaston was awarded life membership in honour of his lifetime commitment to the club. 

During his 200 games with the club, Woolaston has been renowned as a dependable backman, a multiple winner of the men’s backman of the year honour, a three-time premiership player of 2017, 2019 and part of the undefeated side of 2020.

Evergreen forward Mark Ewington – awarded life membership in 2020 – was also acknowledged as he touched the 150 game mark throughout season 2022.

Like Woolaston, Ewington is also a three-time premiership player in seasons 2017, 2019 and the undefeated side of 2020. 

A major highlight of his career for the Bulldogs to date was booting 15 goals in his 100th match in the premiership year of 2017.

The Bulldogs men will use the summer to attempt to generate a gameplan to ensure they are back into finals contention.

The Poochettes will also use the summer to prepare and are already smarting to resurrect their grand final heartbreak of 2022 in pushing for their elusive second women’s North West AFL premiership. 

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