Steven May’s barnstorming finish to 2016 cemented his place as one of the AFL’s premier young defenders.

To highlight May’s prominence over the final two months of the season, the SUNS vice-captain polled 70 of his 98 club best and fairest votes in the last seven rounds, earning himself three AFL Team of the Week gongs in the process.

Two elite performances really stood out, with May’s contribution against Fremantle in round 18 immense, stemming many Dockers attacks. May finished that day with 24 disposals, 13 marks and 14 one-percenters.

A couple of weeks later, the key defender bettered that with 27 disposals at 89% efficiency and 14 marks in the eight-point loss to GWS.

Despite the massive positives, the Northern Territorian’s season will likely be remembered for his devastating hit on Lions ruckman Stefan Martin in round four, which cost May five weeks on the sidelines.

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“He started okay. Obviously his five-week suspension knocked us around a bit but his back half of the year was fantastic,” assistant coach Matthew Primus told

“He obviously beat every player he played on. Gave us great drive and rebound and really grew in his leadership role too. Him and Tommy Lynch really had to step up and that aspect of his footy really grew and obviously took his game day stuff to another level also.

“So a really good springboard for him to set up a terrific career for him from now.”

May’s growth in leadership has been well documented, promoted to the position of joint vice-captain in the pre-season.

When skipper Gary Ablett went down with a shoulder injury in round 16, May and fellow leader Tom Lynch were thrust into the role of acting captains.

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In his first game leading his side out in Cairns, May delivered a passionate half-time speech to fire up his troops and led from the front on-field, starting a sparkling run of form in the closing stages of 2016.

But it is his leadership behind closed doors that generates the most praise from within the four walls of Metricon Stadium.

“I think you notice it most Monday to Friday and his leadership was terrific,” Primus said.

“He was able to be a really good leader for us and didn’t affect his form game day, which some guys struggle with, but Steven was really able to drive the group, the training standards, all those sorts of things really well and still become a ruthless competitor for us on the weekend.”