When Tim Membrey’s name was called out as a podium finisher at this year’s Trevor Barker Award, even he admitted it was a surprise he didn’t see coming.
But it was no surprise to his teammates and those within the four walls at RSEA Park.
Elected as co-vice-captain for the first time among a new-look leadership group and becoming a first-time dad, Membrey embraced new responsibilities amid a rollercoaster 2021.
While regarded for his vertical leap prowess and contested marking ability, Membrey’s most valuable asset this season continued to be his ability to stay figuratively grounded.
Much like previous seasons, the dynamic forward's campaign was developed around his innate selflessness and dedication to building up those around him, often at the expense of his own numbers.
A glance at the stats sheet may indicate a dip in impact around goal (44 goals in 2019 opposed to 34 in 2021), but you only need to look at the rise of teammates such as Max King to appreciate the key forward’s team-first mentality.
So much so, that Membrey regularly found himself down back as the last line of defence - moving comfortably between lines in an effort to help his teammates.
“Skunk’s a bit of an everywhere man. He’s always willing to do whatever the team needs him to do,” Seb Ross told saints.com.au.
“He runs like a mid but can play key-forward if he has to, he can also play that selfless role in blocking for Max and if we need him behind the ball late in quarters to go back and mark a few to stem the flow, he can do that too.
“I think I look up to him so much because we’re the same height and I get to see him do things in the forward line (like jumping off two feet over Max Gawn a few years ago) and I just think to myself: there’s no way that I could do that.
“He’s someone I’ve always admired and loved playing with.”
Often regarded as the team's barometer for effort, his drive to help the club progress is well documented.
Following a series of disappointing losses in the early parts of the season, the 27-year-old used the mid-season review as an opportunity to demand more, appealing for "absolute effort" from his teammates.
With a season and reputation on the line, Membrey's plea would help shift the momentum and set a standard for the new gelling forward line in King, Jack Higgins, Dan Butler, Ben Long and Cooper Sharman.
“Tim’s someone I look up to a lot in terms of leadership," Callum Wilkie told saints.com.au.
“He has such passion for the football club, he bleeds the Saints colours. Every time he walks through the door you can see he’s grateful to be here and he wants to repay that.
"That's something I've learnt from him. It's touching to see how much he cares."
Appreciating and recognising those who have pulled on the guernsey before him, Membrey understands the importance of legacy. His acknowledgement of the club's past and its home Moorabbin have helped shape the co-vice-captain into the leader he is today.
And while a podium finish may acknowledge the effort and selflessness displayed by the Traralgon local in 2021, Membrey's sights remain solely on helping the club rise up the ladder and bringing reward to the St Kilda faithful.
“I think the great history and the terrific players that have been here before us is what I love most about this club,” Membrey said upon receiving his award.
“It’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of.
“We’ve had some terrific players come through before us and we’re only a one premiership club - so now to be a part of a side that’s really exciting with talented players, I believe we can do something and turn that one premiership into two and hopefully even more.”