Most Courageous - a badge of honour

Most Courageous - a badge of honour

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There’s nothing glamorous about the Robert Rose ‘Most Courageous’ Award – but that’s the point. Previous winners cannot be described as ‘glamorous’ footballers and wouldn’t want to be thought of that way.

Glenn Archer – who won the award a record six times during his 16-year career at North Melbourne – wasn’t the longest-kicking, highest-marking or most skilful footballer of his time, but he was the bravest. He remains one of the most respected footballers in the game’s recent history.

Sydney’s Paul Kelly stood at just 179cm during his 234-game career for the Swans but his courage and commitment made his teammates walk taller every time he took the field. Kelly won the Brownlow Medal in 1995, but was also voted the game’s ‘Most Courageous’ player by his peers on five occasions.

Of those still playing, Jonathon Brown has won the award three times, while Joel Selwood has been awarded ‘Most Courageous’ twice. The Cats skipper is in contention to win the award for a third time; it would be a remarkable feat considering 2013 is just his seventh season at AFL level. But while Selwood would be a worthy winner, there are a number of others who could also lay claim to the mantle of the game’s ‘Most Courageous’.

Young Swan Daniel Hannebery has gone from one of the AFL’s rising stars to one of its fiercest competitors in the blink of an eye. While Nick Malceski’s snap late in the final quarter ultimately sealed last year’s Grand Final, Hannebery’s gutsy mark running with the flight is the image that best encapsulates the Swans’ day. It was the sort of effort that sticks in people’s minds, but one the 22 year old has lived up to ever since.

North Melbourne’s Jack Ziebell is building a similar reputation as one of the AFL’s tough nuts. At just 22 years of age he’s the Kangaroos’ vice-captain, and sets the standard for attacking both the ball and the opposition with a ruthless ferocity.

But there’s more to courage than simply intimidating opponents. Playing under physical duress says plenty about a player’s character too; the round 20 match between North Melbourne and Adelaide certainly said a lot about Rory Sloane. Sloane had missed the previous week’s match with a torn retina but, after undergoing laser surgery on his eye, returned to lead the Crows to victory with an inspiring best on ground performance.

There are a handful of nominees who don’t have a story quite so dramatic, but simply put their heads over the football each and every week. Collingwood’s Luke Ball, St Kilda’s Jarryn Geary and Richmond’s Steven Morris all fit in that bracket.

Possibly the greatest aspect of the AFL Players’ ‘Most Courageous’ Award is the fact it’s decided by players. Only those who play the game in 2013 have an understanding of what it takes to compete at the highest level; they’re in the best position of anyone to identify who is truly the game’s bravest.

While those in the mainstream media marvel at the courage of the likes of Luke Hodge and Jobe Watson, the deeds of teammates such as Ben Stratton and Mark Baguley can sometimes go unnoticed. The latter two have been nominated by teammates as their clubs’ representatives for this year’s ‘Most Courageous’ award.

Consider two of last year’s nominees for the ‘Most Courageous’ Award: Joel Selwood and West Coast’s Beau Waters. While the former is a three-time Premiership player who’s amongst the favourites to win this year’s Brownlow Medal, the latter is a rugged defender who simply does everything possible to play his role for his side. At last year’s AFL Players’ MVP Awards the two were judged equally courageous, and shared the Robert Rose trophy.

This year’s batch of nominees again features some of the AFL’s big names alongside some of the game’s unsung, courageous warriors. We can guess who might head home with the Robert Rose Trophy, but the decision will ultimately be left to the players, which will be announced at the 2013 Be the Influence AFL Players’ MVP Awards. After all, it’s the players who are the only people who can truly know what it takes to stand above the rest at AFL level.