Much-loved St Kilda champion Lenny Hayes has been awarded the 2014 AFL Players’ Madden Medal, in front of 650 industry guests and peers at the Grand Ballroom, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.
The AFL Players’ Association Madden Medal is awarded to the retiring player who has best demonstrated on-field excellence, personal development and growth, as well as community spirit over the course of his playing career. The Award is voted on by the AFL Players’ Association Board, as well as past Madden Medal winners.
This year’s poll saw Lenny finish ahead of Brisbane’s Jonathan Brown, and Collingwood pair Luke Ball and Nick Maxwell, who rounded out the top four.
“He is the ultimate competitor and respected industry wide both as a footballer and a person” – AFL Players’ CEO Paul Marsh
Other Madden Medal nominees included Ben Rutten (Adelaide), Dom Cassisi (Port Adelaide), Daniel Jackson (Richmond), Dean Cox (West Coast), Darren Glass (West Coast), and Daniel Giansiracusa (Western Bulldogs).
Hayes becomes the second Saint in the Award’s eight-year history to take home the prestigious Madden Medal, following in the footsteps of Robert Harvey (2008).
Lenny was on stage to accept the Award from 2012 Madden Medalist Luke Power, and thanked his former teammates and club for their support throughout his career.
“I’m so grateful to have played for 16 years – the support from both my teammates and the supporters towards the last few weeks of my career was fantastic,” Hayes said.
“It means a great deal to have even been nominated amongst the likes of Jonathan Brown and Nick Maxwell. Any one of the guys who retired this year would have been a worthy winner, as they have all had fantastic careers.”
Hayes was selected by St Kilda with pick 11 in the 1998 AFL Draft after taking out the Morrish Medal in the TAC Cup, and made his AFL debut in 1999 – receiving a Rising Star nomination late in the year. He won his first Best and Fairest Award in 2003 and also received an All-Australian selection in that same year.
A strong leader, Hayes was named captain of the club in 2004 and went on to win a further two Best and Fairest Awards (2010 and 2012) and two more All-Australian selections (2005 and 2009).
His reputation was further enhanced during the drawn 2010 Grand Final, where he almost lifted the Saints to victory, collecting 32 disposals, laying 12 tackles in a Norm Smith Medal-winning performance.
Champion teammate Nick Riewoldt was one of many to heap more significant praise on Hayes.
“He’s just the ultimate teammate, the ultimate player and… off the field he’s the nicest, best, and most fiercely loyal guy that you could ever meet,” Riewoldt said earlier this season.
“off the field he’s the nicest, best, and most fiercely loyal guy that you could ever meet” – Nick Riewoldt
“Of all the people I’ve ever met in football, he’s the best person and the best player as well.”
AFL Players’ CEO, Paul Marsh said Lenny leaves the game as undoubtedly one of the most respected players of the past decade.
“Lenny is a three-time St Kilda Best and Fairest winner, three-time All-Australian and a Norm Smith Medalist – it’s safe to say that he will be remembered as a champion footballer and an even better bloke.
“He is the ultimate competitor and respected industry wide both as a footballer and a person. He’s now the record-holder for most tackles ever laid in a career, surpassing last year’s Madden Medal winner, Jude Bolton.
“Lenny’s fierceness on the field is equally matched by his passion off the field, where he has given so much back to the game and the community” said Marsh.
Hayes has also been a valued contributor to the wider community, undertaking ambassador roles for Keep Your Cool, who promote fair play in sport, and the Eli Hayes Healy Foundation, which works to relieve the financial burden on families with children in the Intensive Care Unit at the Monash Hospital.
Hayes has also been committed to study, completing a Diploma of Sports Management, Diploma of Management, Certificate 4 in Frontline Management and Certificate 3 and 4 in Fitness.
Hayes joins Jude Bolton (2013), Luke Power (2012), Cameron Ling (2011), Brett Kirk (2010), Michael O Loughlin (2009), Robert Harvey (2008) and Glenn Archer (2007) as winners of this prestigious award.