There was some romance about Tom O’Sullivan receiving the Frank Johnson Medal for the Peter Jackson VFL’s best player in the State Game against the WAFL on Saturday.
The VFL may have been defeated by 63 points, but at his home ground of North Port Oval, the Port Melbourne midfielder distinguished himself to claim the honour named after a Borough legend.
Frank Johnson played 165 games for Port Melbourne from 1950-57, winning the J.J. Liston Trophy in 1952, a VFA premiership in 1953 and five club best-and-fairest awards. He captain-coached the Borough in 1956-57 and was later named captain of the Port Melbourne Team of the Century. Johnson is also the only VFA/VFL player to have been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame (in 2007).
With his father having passed away in July last year aged 84, Johnson’s son Frank jnr presented the Frank Johnson Medal to O’Sullivan at the conclusion of the State Game for his hard-nosed performance of 28 disposals, six clearances, six tackles and a goal. Johnson’s grandson Adrian also tossed the coin before the match.
“I was pumped to receive (the Medal) off (Frank’s) son,” O’Sullivan said on Monday night’s VFL Rewind program on 94.1FM 3WBC. “It was a good feeling to get it off a good Borough person.
“Being my fifth year in the league this year, I was pretty pumped to finally get the chance to have a crack with the Big V jumper on. The day didn’t go as planned for the Big V but I was pretty happy with my own performance.”
26-year-old O’Sullivan has quietly gone about turning himself into one of the VFL’s most consistent and effective inside midfielders since arriving at Port Melbourne in 2013.
He is a two-time VFL Team of the Year member (in 2014 and 2016) and is currently the competition’s third-ranked player for total contested possessions and disposals (first for handballs).
- CLICK HERE for a photo gallery from the game
Now with a Frank Johnson Medal to his name, O’Sullivan is in the same category as Borough champions John Baird (2012) and Chris Cain (2013), as well as star Williamstown midfielders Adam Marcon (2014) and Michael Gibbons (2016), to have been adjudged the VFL’s best performer in a State Game.
Baird was Port Melbourne’s captain when O’Sullivan started his VFL journey before current skipper Toby Pinwill took over in 2015, and some have suggested O’Sullivan could one day follow in their footsteps.
“That’d be a huge honour if that did eventuate,” O’Sullivan said. “I was real lucky to come to the club in 2013 when you had John Baird leading the club and Toby Pinwill is one of the better captains I’ve ever had. They just set a good standard and make sure that it’s an enjoyable environment, and I think that’s what the Borough can hold their hat on.
“I really bought into the place – even just going for a beer with a couple of the old fellas at the Port Melbourne bowls club, just listening to all the old war stories probably with a bit of mayonnaise on the top. You’ve got to buy into the whole Borough spirit and that’s probably what gets us over the line every now and again when it gets a bit tough on the field. You can rely on the boys really dipping in for the jumper.”
See full highlights from the state game below.