Crowning the fans’ favourite MVP winner

Crowning the fans’ favourite MVP winner

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

The prestige of the AFL Players’ Most Valuable Player Award, better known as the Leigh Matthews Trophy, is underlined by the fact the players are voting for and then recognised by their peers.

But this time fans will have the unique opportunity to select their favourite AFLPA MVP winner of all time.

Through the social media-driven, fan-voted bracket competition, the public will be able to determine the fans’ favourite Leigh Matthews Trophy recipient.

With Leigh Matthews’ legacy unquestioned as the ultimate AFL Players’ MVP,  Leigh has been separated from the rest of the pack and is considered untouchable when it comes to crowning the fan favourite MVP and has not been included in the bracket.

The AFL Players’ MVP (then VFL) was first presented to Leigh Matthews in 1982 and renamed in his honour in 2002. In that time the prestige of the award has grown enormously. Gary Ablett Jnr has won the Leigh Matthews Trophy on five occasions while Greg Williams, Wayne Carey, Michael Voss, Chris Judd and Nat Fyfe are the other multiple winners.

rOUND ONE:

Greg Williams v Russell Greene 

Greg Williams: Making his name as one of the greatest midfielders in the competition, Williams played 250 games for three clubs (Geelong, Sydney and Carlton) from 1984-1997. Williams was crowned a dual Brownlow medallist, a dual AFLPA MVP, was named Best on Ground in Carlton’s 1995 premiership and is in both Carlton and Sydney’s Team of the Century.

Russell Greene:  Playing 304 games with St Kilda and Hawthorn from 1974 to 1988, Greene had a decorated career. The former midfielder won three premierships with the Hawks (1983, ’86 and ’88), was a three-time All Australian, is an AFL and Hawthorn Life Member and was awarded the coveted Leigh Matthews Trophy (then known as the AFLPA MVP) in 1984, the same year he won Hawthorn’s best-and-fairest.


Chris Judd v Luke Darcy 

Chris Judd: Recognised as a great for his careers at both West Coast and Carlton, Judd is arguably one of the most successful players of the modern era. Judd captained both West Coast (2006-2007) and Carlton (2008-2012), becoming a dual Brownlow medallist, six-time All Australian, two-time Leigh Matthews Trophy winner, AFLPA best first-year player and Madden Medallist upon retirement. At his peak, Judd was lauded for both his ball-winning and ability to play as an outside midfielder.

Luke Darcy: The son of former Footscray player David Darcy, Luke quickly became one of the Bulldogs’ most successful ruckmen. In 2001 Darcy was named the club’s best-and-fairest, before earning All Australian honours and being voted by his peers as the Leigh Matthews Trophy winner (shared with Michael Voss) in 2002. Darcy retired in 2007 after 226 games and 183 goals for the Bulldogs.


Terry Daniher v Darren Millane

Terry Daniher: One quarter of the famous Daniher family, Terry played 313 games across a 16-year career with South Melbourne and Essendon. The former forward finished his career a three-time All Australian, including the captaincy in 1985, a two-time VFL premiership player with Essendon and was voted by his peers as the MVP in 1983. Daniher also captained the club for five years and was named in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Darren Millane: A highly skilful midfielder, Millane was adored by Collingwood fans. Named on the wing in Collingwood’s Team of the Century, Millane was also a club best and fairest winner in 1987, and a premiership player in 1990, the same year he won the Leigh Matthews Trophy. Millane was killed in a fatal car accident in 1991 at the age of 26.


Patrick Dangerfield v Dustin Martin

Patrick Dangerfield: Debuting for Adelaide in 2008, Dangerfield made a lasting impression on the AFL for his explosiveness and consistency. Since debuting in 2008, Dangerfield has a long list of accomplishments including a Brownlow Medal, the Leigh Matthews Trophy, the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year, a dual best and fairest winner at the Crows and the Cats and a seven-time All Australian. Off-the-field, Dangerfield is the President of the AFLPA.

Dustin Martin: Making his debut in the opening round of the 2010 season after being taken with pick No. 3 in the 2009 Draft, Martin became a Richmond cult hero for his fend-offs and tough edge. Since then, Martin has notched up 225 games, two premierships, two Norm Smith medals, two club best and fairest’s, three All Australian honours and the Leigh Matthews Trophy. In 2017, Martin became the first player in the history of the AFL to win a Brownlow Medal, premiership and Norm Smith in the same season.


Tony Lockett v Jason Dunstall

Tony Lockett: The leading goal kicker in V/AFL history with 1,360 goals from 281 games, Lockett, better known as ‘Plugger’, was a much loved figured while playing with St Kilda and Sydney. Lockett was awarded the Brownlow Medal in 1987, the same year he won the Leigh Matthews Trophy, and finished his career as a five-time All Australian, four-time Coleman medallist, and three-time club best and fairest winner and is a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame with Legend Status.

Jason Dunstall: Sitting at No. 3 on the all-time V/AFL goal scorers list, Dunstall kicked 1,254 goals across his 269-game career with Hawthorn. In a career spanning 13 seasons, ‘the Chief’ was Hawthorn’s leading goal-kicker a staggering 12 times, a four-time premiership player, a three-time Coleman medallist, a two-time All Australian and two-time VFL team of the year selection, and was recognised by his peers with the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1992. Dunstall, who captained the Hawks from 1995 until his retirement in 1998, is a Legend in the club’s Hall of Fame and is a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame.


Dane Swan v Nat Fyfe

Dane Swan: After a slow start to his career, managing 30 games in his first four seasons for Collingwood, Swan finished his career as one of the most prolific midfielders of the modern era. Across 14 seasons, Swan played 258 games and kicked 211 goals before a lisfranc foot injury ended his career in 2016. Swan is a premiership player, Brownlow Medallist, three-time club best and fairest, five-time All Australian and was awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy in Collingwood’s premiership season, 2010.

Nat Fyfe: Pick No. 20 in the 2009 National Draft, Fyfe immediately made an impact for the Dockers. Since 2010 he has played 174 games, kicked 148 goals, been selected to the All Australian team three times, won the club best and fairest award on three occasions, is a two-time Brownlow Medallist (2015, 2019), and dual Leigh Matthews Trophy winner (2014, 2015). Fyfe has also captained Fremantle since 2017.


Shane Crawford v Michael Voss

Shane Crawford: A much-loved figure at the Hawks and one of the greatest midfielders of the modern era of AFL football, Crawford played 305 games from 1993 to 2008. In 1999, he became the captain of the club, also winning football’s highest individual honours in the Brownlow Medal and the Leigh Matthews Trophy. Crawford is also a four-time club best and fairest winner. In 2008, he was a member of Hawthorn’s premiership team and made the decision to retire, finishing his career on a high note.

Michael Voss: Considered one of the greatest players of all time, Voss had a brilliant career with Brisbane. From 1992 to 2006, Voss played 289 games and kicked 245 goals in the club’s most dominant era. Voss is recognised as one of the game’s best captains, leading the Lions to three consecutive flags (2001-03). He finished his career a five-time All Australian, a five-time club best and fairest winner, a four-time AFLPA Best Captain, a two-time Leigh Matthews Trophy winner and a Brownlow Medallist.


Jim Stynes v Wayne Carey

Jim Stynes: In his 264-game career with Melbourne, Stynes became one of the game’s most prominent figures, breaking the record for most consecutive games of V/AFL football (2004). Stynes, who hailed from Ireland, is the only non-Australian born V/AFL player to win the Brownlow Medal, which he achieved in 1991. He finished his career as a four-time club best and fairest, a two-time All Australian and is in both the Melbourne and Australian Football Hall of Fame. Stynes was recognised by his peers with the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1991, the same year he won the Brownlow Medal. In 2012, Stynes died following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Wayne Carey: Nicknamed ‘The King’ and ‘Duck’, Carey is a dual-premiership captain at North Melbourne, a four-time North Melbourne best and fairest and seven-time All Australian. Carey is also a member of North Melbourne’s Team of the Century, and is recognised in both the North Melbourne and Australian Football Hall of Fame. Carey finished his career on 272 games and kicked 727 goals after 12 years with North Melbourne and two seasons at Adelaide.


Andrew McLeod v Ben Cousins

Andrew McLeod: The games record holder for Adelaide, McLeod played 340 games from 1995 to 2010. A member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, McLeod is a five-time All Australian, three-time club best and fairest winner, two-time premiership player and two-time Norm Smith Medallist. One of the greatest players to don a Crows guernsey, McLeod was also recognised by his peers with the 2001 Leigh Matthews Trophy.

Ben Cousins: During a 14-year (including a one-year hiatus), 270-game career with West Coast and Richmond, Cousins won several of the league’s highest honours. The midfielder was awarded the 1996 AFL Rising Star, was a six-time All Australian, four-time West Coast best and fairest winner, a premiership player and a Brownlow Medallist. Cousins was also awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy in the same year he won the Brownlow Medal (2005). He also served as co-captain in 2001 and club captain from 2002-2005.


Paul Roos v Gerard Healy

Paul Roos: A versatile key position player, Roos played 356 games from 1982 to 1998 with Fitzroy and Sydney. Roos is a seven-time All Australian (two-time captain), five-time Fitzroy best and fairest, two-time VFL Team of the Year member, Leigh Matthews Trophy winner (1986), and member of the Fitzroy and Australian Football Hall of Fame. Roos also captained Fitzroy for two stints from 1988-1990 and 1992-1994.

Gerard Healy: During an 11-year career with Melbourne and Sydney, Healy played 211 games. He was awarded the Brownlow Medal in 1988 and won the Leigh Matthews Trophy in the same year. Healy finished his football career as a five-time VFL Team of the Year representative, a three-time All Australian, a three-time Sydney best and fairest, Melbourne best and fairest, and is a member of the Sydney Swans Team of the Century.


Nick Riewoldt v Erin Phillips

Nick Riewoldt: The No. 1 pick from the 2000 AFL Draft, Riewoldt went on to become one of St Kilda’s greatest players. The forward was known for his marking ability, holding the record for most marks in V/AFL history. Riewoldt finished his career as a six-time club best and fairest, five-time All Australian, four-time club leading goalkicker, AFL Rising Star (2002) and the MVP in 2004. He also served as St Kilda’s captain in 2005 and from 2007-2016, becoming the club’s longest serving captain with 220 games.

Erin Phillips: A former professional basketballer and current co-captain of Adelaide’s AFLW team, Phillips is the ultimate cross-code athlete. The 34-year-old is still playing for the Crows and in her four years in the AFLW has already achieved a significant level of achievements. Phillips is a two-time premiership player, two-time league best and fairest and two-time AFLW MVP. She missed the 2020 season with an ACL injury she sustained in the 2019 AFL Grand Final.


Tim Watson v Gary Ablett Snr.

Tim Watson: Making his mark as the fourth-youngest player to debut in the V/AFL competition, Watson played 307 games for Essendon in a career spanning from 1977-1991 and then coming out of retirement in 1993 to play a further two seasons. Watson is a four-time Essendon best and fairest, a three-time premiership player, including the 1993 premiership the year he returned to the side, a two-time member of the VFL Team of the Year and was awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1989. Watson is also a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the Essendon Team of the Century and served as the captain of the club from 1989 to 1991.

Gary Ablett Snr: Nicknamed ‘God’, Ablett Snr is one of the greatest players to take to the AFL field. Ablett Snr remains Geelong’s all-time leading goal kicker with 1,021 goals (1,031 total) across 248 games (six with Hawthorn). His accolades are extensive, including being Geelong’s leading goal kicker nine times, a four-time VFL Team of the Year member and four-time All Australian, three-time Coleman Medallist and club best and fairest. Ablett Snr is part of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, the AFL Team of the Century, Geelong’s Team of the Century, and was named Geelong’s greatest ever player.


Gary Ablett Jnr. V Corey McKernan

Gary Ablett Jnr: The eldest son of Gary Ablett Snr, nicknamed ‘the Little Master’, Ablett Jnr is recognised as one of the AFL’s greatest midfielders. Starting his career in 2002, Ablett has played 346 games with Geelong and Gold Coast. Ablett is an eight-time All Australian, a record five-time AFLPA MVP, a six-time club best and fairest (four at Gold Coast), three-time AFLCA Champion Player of the Year, two-time Brownlow Medallist and a two-time premiership player. Ablett also served as captain of Gold Coast from their inception in 2011, through to the end of 2016. He returned to the Cats ahead of the 2018 season.

Corey McKernan: In a career spanning 11 years, McKernan played 237 games for North Melbourne and Carlton, kicking 310 goals. McKernan played in two AFL premierships with North Melbourne and was awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1996. In 2002, McKernan joined the Blues for two seasons and was their leading goal-kicker and best and fairest in 2002 before returning to North Melbourne for one final season ahead of his retirement.


Jasmine Garner v Patrick Cripps

Jasmine Garner: An inaugural member of Collingwood’s AFLW team, Garner made her name as a key forward. Ahead of the 2019 AFLW season, Garner joined North Melbourne and began her transformation from forward to elite midfielder. In 2020, Garner took her career to the next level earning the AFLW MVP and winning North Melbourne’s best and fairest.

Patrick Cripps: Serving as Carlton’s co-captain since 2019, Cripps is quickly making a name for himself as one of the best midfielders in the AFL competition. Since his debut in 2014, Cripps has played 102 games and kicked 47 goals, and has won three club best and fairests, selected in the All Australian team twice, was voted in to the AFLW 22Under22 team twice, and was recognised by his peers with the 2019 Leigh Matthews Trophy.


Robert Harvey v Anthony Koutoufides

Robert Harvey: Recognised as one of the top 50 players of all time to commemorate 150 years of AFL football, Harvey was admired by St Kilda and football fans alike. In a career spanning 20 years with the Saints, Harvey played 383 games and kicked 215 goals. Harvey finished his career as an eight-time All Australian, including in six consecutive seasons from 1994-1999, a four-time St Kilda best and fairest, a back-to-back Brownlow Medallist (1997-98) and was awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1997. Harvey was also named in St Kilda’s Team of the Century and was awarded the AFLPA’s Madden Medal in 2008, which 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.

Anthony Koutoufides: Considered one of the most powerful and athletic players of all time Koutoufides played 278 games between 1992 and 2007 with Carlton. Koutoufides is a two-time All Australian, and AFL and Carlton Life Member, a premiership player and AFLPA MVP. ‘Kouta’ is also a member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame and served as Carlton captain from 2004-2006.


Tom Mitchell v Courtney Gum

Tom Mitchell: The games record holder for the most disposals in an AFL match, Mitchell has become one of the AFL’s most dominant midfielders in recent seasons. The son of former Sydney, Carlton and Collingwood player, Barry Mitchell, Mitchell spent five years on Sydney’s list, playing 65 games. Since joining the Hawks ahead of the 2017 season, Mitchell has played 47 games. In a record-breaking 2018 season, Mitchell became the first person to amass 50+ disposals multiple times in a year and broke the disposal record tally with 848 touches. Mitchell is a two-time All Australian, a two-time club best and fairest, a Brownlow Medallist and winner of the Leigh Matthews Trophy.

Courtney Gum: Joining the GWS Giants ahead of the 2018 AFLW season, Gum made a name for herself and was crowned the AFLW MVP that year. Gum was also named in the 2018 All Australian team before announcing her retirement at the conclusion of 2019. She was talked out of retirement ahead of the 2019 Draft and joined the Adelaide Crows for the 2020 season.

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