Such is the quality of Fremantle’s returning players, defender Luke Ryan said he could be going from 2020 Doig Medallist to the WAFL player in 2021.

A mature-aged no.66 pick at the 2016 NAB AFL National Draft, the humble 24-year-old also said he found it difficult to wrap his head around joining the likes of Matthew Pavlich, Nat Fyfe, David Mundy and Aaron Sandilands as a Doig Medallist.

With the win, Ryan became the first defender to take out the award since Dale Kickett in 1997.

“It’s an unreal feeling to be honest, coming from where I’ve come from,” Ryan said.

“Obviously, I’m so happy and so proud of what my family has done for me. I’m really privileged to be a part of the elite crew that’s been in my position (as Doig Medallsits).”

Ryan was full of praise for his teammates after taking out the biggest individual accolade at the club, saying his best and fairest win wouldn’t be possible without his fellow defenders at his side. 

“JL’s (senior coach Justin Longmuir) brought in a different system and I think I’ve relished that role,” Ryan said.

“Joel and Alex going down was a massive loss for us but to get the help that I’ve had from the back six was massive and they’ve helped me a lot. I think it’s a back six medal, not my medal.”

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Luke Ryan | Doig Medallist media conference

Luke Ryan spoke to WA media after being presented with the Doig Medal.

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Even as a Doig Medallist, Ryan won’t be taking his place in the team for granted as the competition is set to heat up in the back six with potentially four best 22 players a chance to return next year. 

“I’ll probably be down to Peel! We have a few good players coming in, Hayden Young, Alex Pearce, Joel Hamling and Grififn Logue,” Ryan said.

“It’s going to be hard down there for spots and it’s exciting times for us. We want it to be like that and obviously it’s going to be hard for JL to pick a side.

“Whoever comes in will do their job and I’m really excited. If I’m playing at Peel it means Freo’s doing their job and playing well so I’ll be happy for it.

“It wasn’t just me, I’ve played on keys (as has) Ethan Hughes, Taylin Duman and Tobe Watson. It gives you a whole lot of confidence that if we do go a man, or two or three down, we have lots of blokes who can come in to play that role.

“It’s really exciting times for us.”

Luke Ryan playing for Peel in 2017