Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn has flown home to claim the 2018 Shadforth Financial Group AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award, pipping Carlton star Patrick Cripps and Hawthorn ball magnet Tom Mitchell for the prestigious award.
Gawn came from seven votes down at the end of round 21, polling a maximum 10 votes in the Demons’ finals-securing 17-point win over West Coast in round 22 and backing it up with seven votes in Melbourne’s 45-point win over Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.
The star big man tallied a total of 97 votes for the season, six ahead of Cripps (91) and nine ahead of Mitchell (88) – who polled just one vote in the final two rounds after being heavily tagged by Saint Jack Steele and Sydney’s George Hewett respectively.
Cripps was Gawn’s biggest challenger, but the fact he was not in the votes against the Western Bulldogs in round 22 ultimately cost him from taking home the AFLCA award.
Collingwood big man Brodie Grundy finished in fourth place (82 votes), with Dayne Beams, Jack Macrae and Clayton Oliver all finishing in equal-fifth on 72 votes.
Gawn became the first ruckman to win the award on the back of a season where he became the first player to amass 1000 hit-outs in a season, averaging career-highs in hit-outs (45.5), dispels (16.3) and marks (4.6).
The Demons big man also joined coach Simon Goodwin in winning the award, with the former Crows player taking home the trophy in 2006, becoming the first player-coach combination to do so.
“(Goodwin’s) votes shows that you’ve played the role that you get that sort of reward during the week when you speak to Goody,” Gawn told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
“It’s the one from the other coach that probably gets you the most. The fact that that coach thinks that you’re the reason why they almost lost or did lose the game. That’s probably the one where you get a little bit more sentimental value for.”
AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw said Gawn’s season was one of rare quality and added he had been the catalyst behind Melbourne’s return to finals for the first time since 2006.
“We think the coaches award is the most prestigious of all the individual awards in the AFL, because the 18 groups of coaches take such care in allocating their votes,” Brayshaw said.
“Also, coaches have a unique perspective on what succeeds in each of the 198 games in the AFL’s home and away season … Max should be very proud to win this award.
“AFL ruckman often don’t get the plaudits that they deserve, but Max’s year has been off the charts. He’s rightly been rewarded for that. The Demons’ resurgence … to play finals for the first time in 12 years … is due, in no small part, to his efforts,” Brayshaw said.
The AFLCA Player of the Year Award is presented in recognition of the player who has been adjudged as the Champion Player of the Year based on their performance throughout the season, as voted by the coaches (5,4,3,2,1) on a weekly basis throughout the AFL season.
97 Max Gawn (MELB)
91 Patrick Cripps (CARL)
88 Tom Mitchell (HAW)
82 Brodie Grundy (COLL)
72 Dayne Beams (BL)
72 Jack Macrae (WB)
72 Clayton Oliver (MELB)
70 Dustin Martin (RICH)
70 Lachie Whitfield (GWS)
68 Dyson Heppell (ESS)