THANE Bardenhagen's second attempt at State League football has paid off in a big way.
The 21-year-old's outstanding season was yesterday rewarded with the Matthew Richardson Medal for rookie of the year.
The medal is awarded to the best player under the age of 23 who has played less than 20 games at the start of the year.
Bardenhagen, a midfielder-half-forward, has averaged 24 touches and five tackles a game, as well as kicking 28 goals as the Bulldogs ended the home and away season on top of the ladder.
This season is his second in the competition, after spending 2011 with North Launceston before returning to play in Lilydale's NTFA division 2 premiership.
He said his year away had increased a desire to get back to the State League.
``I always had this doubt in my mind after going back to Lilydale, and I wanted to have another crack,'' Bardenhagen said.
``I was at uni (when I was at North), had a fair bit on my plate and found it difficult to cope with the training load, but I've learnt to deal with that.''
Bardenhagen was persuaded to join the Bulldogs by good mate and coach Mitch Thorp, and the move helped solidify South's inside midfield stocks.
``In the leagues that I've played in before the speed and intensity and skills required are a lot lower than in the State League,'' Bardenhagen said.
``In the preseason Mitch worked with me on my skills under pressure, building a fitness base and strength base.
``This year we've had a lot of recruits come to the club and the team as a whole has improved, and that's helped me push along with my football.''
Thorp was full of praise for Bardenhagen as the club continues its build-up to Saturday's semi-final against Launceston.
``He finds lots of the football, tackles very well and hits the scoreboard, and as a coach it is very enjoyable to have him in the side,'' Thorp said.
``I knew the work he had put in from early November, he trained his backside off, and the things that were deficient are now his strengths, as he's a very good kick and very good decision maker.''