Marcus Bontempelli has been rewarded with the Leigh Matthews Trophy as the 2021 AFL Players’ Most Valuable Players, presented by Snaffle, for his outstanding season with the Western Bulldogs.
Bontempelli, who ranks in the competition’s top 20 for disposals, tackles, clearances, inside 50s and goal assists in 2021, was the runaway winner, receiving 1176 votes from his peers, ahead of Carlton’s Sam Walsh (426 votes) and Gold Coast’s Touk Miller (411).
Rounding out the top five for the coveted trophy were dynamic Melbourne midfielder Christian Petracca (338 votes) and St Kilda captain Jack Steele (261) – both players finished in the top five in last year’s award.
Bontempelli then completed a rare double when he was announced as the Best Captain, presented by The Diamond Guys, by the competition’s playing cohort, with the 25-year-old receiving 224 votes, ahead of Melbourne captain Max Gawn (87 votes). He joins Michael Voss (2002 and 2003) and Chris Judd (2011) in winning the MVP and Best Captain awards in the same season.
Bontempelli received the MVP and Best Captain awards while isolating in Tasmania ahead of the Western Bulldogs’ semi-final in Queensland this weekend and joined a special presentation of the MVP awards through Channel Seven’s The Front Bar, via Zoom.
AFLPA President Patrick Dangerfield said Bontempelli, who at just 25 years old has already put together an impressive football resume, is a worthy recipient of the AFLPA MVP Award.
“Marcus is the prototype modern AFL midfielder; tall and explosive with exquisite skills to match,” Dangerfield said.
“He’s dominated the middle of the ground in 2021 and also hit the scoreboard, so his impact has been far-reaching. Put simply, there’s been no better player across the 23 rounds this season than the ‘Bont’ – he’s a worthy Leigh Matthews Trophy winner.”
Steele also didn’t go home empty handed in 2021, winning the Robert Rose Most Courageous Award, presented by Our Watch, with 186 votes, beating Adelaide defender Tom Doedee (118 votes). The 25-year-old St Kilda skipper managed a top five finish in all awards he was eligible for, finishing fifth in the MVP and third in the Best Captain Award, alongside his Most Courageous Player Award win.
Fresh from his 14-disposal, six-inside 50 effort in the elimination final loss to the Giants on the weekend, Sydney youngster Errol Gulden took out the Best First Year Player Award, also presented by Snaffle, with 299 votes, ahead of Essendon’s Nik Cox (139 votes).
Collingwood youngster Nathan Murphy, Geelong’s Nina Morrison and the Western Bulldogs’ Ellyse Gamble were each presented an Education and Training Excellence Award, presented by Torrens University Australia, for their commitment to their studies away from the football field.
For her terrific feature piece on North Melbourne’s Kaitlyn Ashmore and Mia King discovering their Indigenous heritage, the Adelaide Advertiser’s Liz Walsh took out the Grant Hattam Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism, presented by Thomson Geer Lawyers.
WINNERS AND VOTES
Leigh Matthews Trophy for the Most Valuable Player, presented by Snaffle
Marcus Bontempelli – 1176
Sam Walsh – 426
Touk Miller – 411
Christian Petracca – 338
Jack Steele – 261
Robert Rose Most Courageous Award, presented by Our Watch
Jack Steele – 186
Tom Doedee – 118
Liam Baker – 61
Liam Jones – 55
Tom Jonas – 40
Best First Year Player Award, presented by Snaffle
Errol Gulden – 299
Nikolas Cox – 139
Riley Thilthorpe – 56
Tom Powell – 27
Tom Highmore – 26
Best Captain, presented by The Diamond Guys
Marcus Bontempelli – 224
Max Gawn – 87
Jack Steele – 83
Joel Selwood – 60
Scott Pendlebury – 36
MVP Voting Process
MVP voting is a two-stage process, beginning with each player voting for the three teammates they consider to have been the most valuable this season. Each club’s votes are then tallied to form a nomination list comprising 54 players across the 18 teams.
In the second round of voting, all players vote for their MVP on a 3, 2, 1 basis from the nominees of the 17 other clubs. The votes are tallied and the player with the highest score wins the honour of MVP. Players cannot vote for their own teammates in stage two of the process.
A similar process is followed for Best First Year Player and Most Courageous Player, but every captain is automatically nominated for the Best Captain Award.