AFL Players’ MVP

Who better to select the game’s most valuable player than the players themselves? It’s no surprise that the AFL Players’ MVP honour roll includes the very best footballers of the modern era.

Matthews, Ablett Jr and Sr, Carey, Voss, Fyfe, Dangerfield, Martin, Mitchell and most recently Bontempelli, are just some of the superstars in this exclusive club. Big or small, the MVP is open to any footballer who displays leadership, versatility, ability to play under pressure, skill and courage.

Whilst their outstanding performances on the football field sees these players gain many accolades during their careers, the MVP stands alone for what it represents – the respect of their peers. With every player having the opportunity to vote, the winner is truly the players’ choice.

Thirty-eight years that have passed since the MVP was first presented to Leigh Matthews in 1982 and renamed in his honour in 2002. In that time its prestige has grown enormously.

The Leigh Matthews Trophy winner is now celebrated in a dedicated event with a room full of colleagues, AFL greats and industry representatives. It’s truly the players’ night with the best captain, best first year player, most courageous and 22under22 team also revealed.

With the restrictions brought about because of COVID-19, the 2021 event was a collaboration with Channel 7’s Front Bar, with Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli claiming the first MVP award of his already decorated career.

Jack Steele (Most Courageous), Bontempelli (Best Captain), Errol Gulden (Best First Year) and Nathan Murphy, Ellyse Gamble and Nina Morrison (Education and Training Award) were also recognised with individual awards.

The voting process

Every AFL player is asked to nominate the three teammates they deem worthy of the Leigh Matthews Trophy. In stage two of the voting process, players are asked to select their MVP from the list featuring three nominees from every club. However, players can’t vote for their teammates in stage two. Players nominate just one teammate for the second round of voting for the Most Courageous and Best-First Year player awards. All captains are automatically nominated. Unlike the Brownlow Medal, players remain eligible for the awards even if suspended.

AFLW Players’ MVP

The AFLW Players’ Most Valuable Player award was first presented in 2017 to coincide with the inaugural season of the national women’s competition and Adelaide Crows co-captain Erin Phillips was the recipient. Phillips won the award again in 2019, a year after Courtney Gum stunned the field to claim the honour in her first season. 

With COVID-19 again impacting the 2021 AFLW season, an in-person event to present the AFLW Players’ MVP award was not able to take place. However, star Pie Brianna Davey was voted by her peers as the MVP and was recognised in a special collaboration with Channel 7’s Front Bar.

Adelaide’s Chelsea Randall was recognised with the AFLW Players’ Most Courageous award for the fourth time, while Ellie Blackburn was bestowed with the Best Captain Award. Richmond rising star Ellie McKenzie was recognised with the Best First Year Player award.

The voting process

Every AFL player is asked to nominate the three teammates they deem worthy of the AFLW MVP. In stage two of the voting process, players are asked to select their MVP from the list featuring three nominees from every club. However, players can’t vote for their teammates in stage two. Players nominate just one teammate for the second round of voting for the Most Courageous and Best-First Year player awards. All captains are automatically nominated. Unlike the Brownlow Medal, players remain eligible for the awards even if suspended.

Honour roll

The MVP award was first presented in 1973, but re-named the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1992, and the AFLW MVP was introduced after the inaugural AFLW season in 2017. Gary Ablett Jnr has won the Leigh Matthews Trophy on five occasions while Greg Williams, Wayne Carey, Michael Voss, Chris Judd, Nat Fyfe and Erin Phillips are the other multiple winners. 

The Best Captain award was first presented in 1986, the Most Courageous Award in 1991 and the Best First Year Player in 1998. The AFLW Most Courageous and AFLW Best Captain Awards were introduced in 2017, but AFLW Best First Year player came in the second season of the competition. 

The Awards presented by the AFL Players’ Association are:

  • Leigh Matthews Trophy
  • AFLW Players’ Most Valuable Player Award
  • Best Captain
  • AFLW Players’ Best Captain award
  • Best First Year Player Award
  • AFLW Best First Year Player Award
  • Robert Rose Most Courageous Player Award
  • AFLW Players’ Most Courageous Player Award
  • Education and Training Award
  • #22Under22 team
  • Grant Hattam Award for Journalism Excellence

22UNDER22

22Under22 is a fan-voted concept that recognises the best 22 players aged 22 and under for the entirety of the season. The concept was first introduced in 2013 to reward the young players who make an impact on their club and the competition so early in their careers. After the major success of the male competition, the inaugural AFLW team was announced in 2020 to help celebrate the achievements of the best and brightest stars of the female competition.

How the voting works

  • The AFL Players’ Board selects a squad of 40 players
  • Fans then have the opportunity to decide the final 22 by voting on the AFLPA website
  • The fan whose team is the best match for the final team wins a prize
  • Players selected in the final team are presented with 22Under22 jumper

History

The 22Under22 concept was introduced in 2013 as a way to reward the young players across the competition who are able to have an impact on their side early in their careers. The AFLPA saw an opportunity to recognise this age bracket given there was a gap in the industry awards between the Rising Star and All-Australian selection. To launch the concept, the AFLPA revealed a retrospective team for 2012 to demonstrate the strength of the young talent across the competition. Unlike other AFLPA awards, it was decided that 22Under22 would have a fan-voted element to give footy fans some ownership of the concept. Since then, 22Under22 has grown to be widely recognised across the industry as a showcase of elite talent and selection is something eligible players strive for. 

AFL

2021 22Under22 team

2020 22under22 team

2019 22Under22 team

2018 22Under22 team

2017 22Under22 team

2016 22Under22 team

2015 22Under22 team

2014 22Under22 team

2013 22Under22 team

2012 22Under22 team

AFLW

2021 AFLW 22Under22 team

2020 AFLW 22under22 team

Captains

2021 – Sam Walsh

2021 – Chloe Molloy (AFLW)

2020 – Andrew McGrath

2020 – Chloe Molloy (AFLW)

2019 – Harris Andrews

2018 – Marcus Bontempelli

2017 – Marcus Bontempelli

2016 – Marcus Bontempelli

2015 – Jake Stringer

2014 – Dyson Heppell

2013 – Dyson Heppell

2012 (retrospective) – Patrick Dangerfield