There is nobody with a better understanding of the league’s Most Valuable Player than the AFL players themselves.
The reason for this is simple.
Journalists are able to view the game from afar, and umpires judge the game on its merits, but only players know what has occurred behind the scenes and the amount of time and strategy that has gone into minimising the impact of the opposition’s star players.
When preparing to play Carlton, every player has sat through intensive sessions outlining a strategy on how to minimise the impact of Chris Judd, yet we are continually left in awe as he manages to change the course of a game despite having two opponents wrestling him for an entire match.
He is the complete package as a player, combining amazing skill with electrifying speed and an ability to win the inside ball even in the tightest constraints and release his teammates. But the values which have earned him respect are far more simple. These are the values by which players judge their peers. He puts his head where others may fear to venture and shows a never ending willingness to compete and give everything for his team. These are the values which inspire his teammates and these are the values which underpin this award and which every player strives to be known for.
“This award will never be won by a loose, outside player who racks up possessions by winning the easy ball. It is for the brave.”
These are the values which one player embodies above all others – the legendary Leigh Matthews.
The toughest player of the modern era, and arguably all time, Leigh was a leader of men who combined amazing courage and aggression with skill and versatility and although he never won a Brownlow he is considered by many the greatest player of all time.
He is the ultimate player’s player and for an AFL player to have their name associated with an award named after him would be an incredible honour.
This award will never be won by a loose, outside player who racks up possessions by winning the easy ball. It is for the brave. It is for the player who puts his head where others fear to look and for the team man who runs back with the flight when it is his turn.
It is for the men like “The King” Wayne Carey, who crashed packs and put terror into opposition backmen and changed the way the game was played, yet ironically never won a Brownlow but was voted the MVP.
It is for the forwards like Gary Ablett Snr, who combined freakish ability with a fearsome attack on the contest and fellow goal-kicking machine Jason Dunstall who was a dead-eye kick and had a ruthless competitiveness, yet both never won a Brownlow but were voted by their peers as the league’s best.
It is an award for those players who do not follow the prescribed training routine, and as players we know who they are, but rather endure the extra blood, sweat and tears because they are competitors and want to do anything to win.
And most of all it is for the players who are leaders of men who inspire their teammates and intimidate their opponents. These men have earned the right to have their name etched next to legends like Harvey, Lockett, Stynes, Williams, Voss and many more and for those who are fortunate enough to be recognised with this award they will have the honour from their peers of forever being known as having been considered the league’s Most Valuable Player.