Group 20 rugby league
HE wasn't even meant to play on this year but Tullibigeal-Lakes United's Brent Pike is sure glad he did.
The 28-year-old prop forward was crowned Group 20's best and fairest player on Friday night at the competition's annual awards ceremony at the Griffith Leagues Club.
Pike finished on 20 votes, four ahead of Bidgee Hurricanes skipper and Country Seconds rep Chris Bamford and Darlington Point-Coleambally lock Nick Briggs.
Not bad considering the former Leeton star was "seriously considering" hanging up the boots at the end of last season.
"I wasn't going to play," he said.
"But changing clubs gave me a new lease on life and it's just made me feel better about footy.
"I was thinking about retiring but I came out to Lakes, had a couple of runs, enjoyed it and decided to push on. It was a good decision."
Signed as a player only, the circumstances surrounding TLU playmaker Jaden Kelly and his ill son saw the captain-coach title fall into his lap.
"That's the joke going round, that I'm not really the captain-coach that's Jado," he laughed.
"But I'm glad I got it. I really enjoyed the extra responsibility."
The award was Pike's first individual honour in his rugby league career, and it came as something of a shock.
"It was a bit surprising it was a pretty tight competition all year and a lot of players could have won it," he said.
"You just dont know how to feel and react when it happens.
"I haven't even won a best and fairest at club level so to get the group award as my first is unreal definitely one of the proudest moments in my career so far."
Pike was coy when asked if that career would extend into 2014 and beyond.
"I just want to get next week over and done with and win a premiership for Lakes first," he said.
"That'd cap the year off, to win the comp in my first year at the club and first year as captain-coach.
"I'm not real sure what I'm going to do next year. We'll wait for things to settle down after the grand final and then I'll think about it."
Pike was one of three TLU players picked in the Group 20 team of the year, along with James Williams and Michael Mogliotti.
West Wyalong were the big winners with four players chosen for the honour, while, perhaps surprisingly minor premiers Leeton saw just two players named try machine Kolo Lomu and coach Willie McDonald.
The Greens were, however, handed the overall club champions award on 133 points ahead of TLU and DPC.
Yenda prodigy Shorne Ngu was also honoured for his breakout year with the Rapid Clean 2013 Rising Star gong.