The race to decide the AFL’s Most Valuable Player, as judged by his peers, is nearing completion – with the nominees for the 2014 AFL Players’ MVP Award released this week.
The AFL Players’ MVP remains the only football award decided by those who know the game best: the players. The winner of the Leigh Matthews Trophy will be announced next Tuesday, September 9 at Peninsula, Docklands in Melbourne.
Players from all 18 clubs have voted internally to elect their three most valuable players in Season 2014. From here, every player in the competition will award a set of three, two and one votes to the three most valuable players from the 17 rival clubs.
In part one of six, our club-by-club look at the three players shortlisted by their teammates begins with Adelaide:
The competition’s leading hard-ball winner – ranked first in contested possessions as well as centre clearances – Patrick Dangerfield’s ability to break a game wide open in an instant makes him one of the Crows’ stars. His hardness at the contest is why his teammates have elected him in their top three.
Scott Thompson returned to near-career best form in 2014 and collected more disposals per game than any other Crow, averaging 27.6 per game. His composure in traffic complements his ball-finding ability and having played 19 consecutive games before being felled by some leg trouble, he isn’t showing any sign he’s allowing his age to get the better of him.
Toward the other end of the club’s age demographic, half-back Brodie Smith had a breakout 2014. He was leading the competition for metres gained at multiple points throughout the year and when coach Sanderson tried to deflect attention away from his young gun, the opposition taggers came to stop his run. 24 disposals at 100 percent efficiency in a vital win in Melbourne against Collingwood was a phenomenally high point for a gun still in just his fourth year – a star for the future no doubt.
During a year spent exposing some youngsters to AFL-level footy, there were some clear shining lights for the Lions who bade farewell to their sole remaining premiership star, Ash McGrath, at season’s end.
In midfield, Tom Rockliff was among the competition’s elite all season long and produced some massive numbers on regular occasions. He doesn’t just find the ball either, with his tackle count also ranking among the league’s best. Hit some really hot form as the year drew to a close with an astonishing disposal per game average of over 40 from Round 18 onward.
Another running half-back on this shortlist is Irishman Pearce Hanley, who continued onto another level this season following a stellar 2013. His speed, run and penetrating kick from half-back is un-rivalled – not just up in Brisbane, but among many clubs throughout the competition – joined Rockliff in dominating the Suns in Round 18 with a huge 40-possession effort.
Stefan Martin didn’t feature in the first half of the season but once he did take the field, he excelled . He strung together games of near or over 30 hitouts to make the most of his run in the side while also showing great mobility around the ground and a keen eye for goal when thrown up forward. These all-round performances led to ex-Lions coach Michael Voss suggesting Martin would be in all-Australian contention if he’d been in the starting 22 from Round 1.
Marc Murphy led from the front as Malthouse’s men showed some impressive form late in the season. The skipper averages nearly 26 possessions a game and he’s among the leading tacklers and clearance players at the club.
Malthouse: "Marc Murphy's leadership is just getting better and better."
— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) August 15, 2014
Behind Murphy, Bryce Gibbs has grown to a new level of stardom and achieved greater consistency, marginally shading his captain stats-wise to show he’s well worth the new deal negotiated mid-year. Gibbs looks ready to become a figure of leadership as Carlton grows into a finals contender from 2015 onward.
Chris Yarran has enjoyed a re-birth as a half-back in 2014, providing plenty of run between the arcs, improving his ball-usage to become a ‘go-to’ player for the Blues. Averaged nearly a goal per game too, which suggests his eye for goal or ability in the forward line hasn’t diminished since moving to defence.
Be sure to check back tomorrow to read part two, featuring Collingwood, Essendon and Fremantle. The winner of the 2014 Leigh Matthews Trophy will be announced at the AFL Players’ MVP Awards on Tuesday September 9. Who has been the most valuable player of 2014? Vote in the poll on our homepage to have your say.