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Leigh Matthews Trophy

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Dec 15, 2021

The Leigh Matthews Trophy is an annual award given by the AFL Players Association to the Most Valuable Player in the Australian Football League. It is named in honour of Leigh Matthews, who won the first MVP award in 1982, when the league was still known as the Victorian Football League. The trophy was first awarded in 2002, and all previous VFLPA/AFLPA MVPs were retrospectively given the Matthews Trophy in 2005. It is awarded at a special AFL Players Association awards ceremony.

Award for most valuable player in the Australian Football League

The voting procedure for the award is:

  • At the end of the regular season, each team votes for three players (previously two) to be considered for election.
  • Two weeks into the finals, the AFLPA sends a final ballot to all players throughout the league. Players cannot vote for their own teammates; in fact, the ballots sent to each team are redacted to remove that team’s nominees. Each player awards three votes to the player he believes is the best in the league, two votes to the second-best, and one vote to the third-best.[1] The leading vote-getter receives the trophy.

Prior to 2011, each player cast a single vote for the award.

The award is roughly analogous to the Brownlow Medal, the traditional “best and fairest” award in the league. However, the voting system is completely different: the Brownlow Medal awards votes on a game-by-game basis, while Leigh Matthews Trophy awards a single vote based on the entire season. In particular, this has meant that key-position players have been more likely to win this award than the Brownlow Medal. For example, Wayne Carey, generally regarded as one of the league’s all-time great key-position players, never won the Brownlow Medal, but he won this honour twice.

The Leigh Matthews Trophy is strictly for the most valuable player, not the best and fairest as is the case with the Brownlow Medal. A league disciplinary suspension, which renders a player ineligible for the Brownlow, does not exclude a player from contention for the Matthews Trophy. In 1996, Corey McKernan finished tied in the Brownlow voting with that season’s winners James Hird and Michael Voss, but he was disqualified from the Brownlow because of a disciplinary suspension. However, McKernan won the AFLPA MVP award that season.

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Year Player Team Position
1982 Leigh Matthews Hawthorn Midfielder
1983 Terry Daniher Essendon Midfielder
1984 Russell Greene Hawthorn Midfielder
1985 Greg Williams Geelong Midfielder
1986 Paul Roos Fitzroy Defender
1987 Tony Lockett St Kilda Forward
1988 Gerard Healy Sydney Midfielder
1989 Tim Watson Essendon Midfielder
1990 Darren Millane Collingwood Midfielder
1991 Jim Stynes Melbourne Ruckman
1992 Jason Dunstall Hawthorn Forward
1993 Gary Ablett, Sr. Geelong Forward
1994 Greg Williams Carlton Midfielder
1995 Wayne Carey North Melbourne Forward
1996 Corey McKernan North Melbourne Ruckman
1997 Robert Harvey St Kilda Midfielder
1998 Wayne Carey North Melbourne Forward
1999 Shane Crawford Hawthorn Midfielder
2000 Anthony Koutoufides Carlton Utility
2001 Andrew McLeod Adelaide Midfielder
2002 Luke Darcy
Michael Voss
Western Bulldogs
Brisbane Lions
Ruckman
Midfielder
2003 Michael Voss Brisbane Lions Midfielder
2004 Nick Riewoldt St Kilda Forward
2005 Ben Cousins West Coast Midfielder
2006 Chris Judd West Coast Midfielder
2007 Gary Ablett Jr. Geelong Midfielder
2008 Gary Ablett Jr. Geelong Midfielder
2009 Gary Ablett Jr. Geelong Midfielder
2010 Dane Swan Collingwood Midfielder
2011 Chris Judd Carlton Midfielder
2012 Gary Ablett Jr. Gold Coast Midfielder
2013 Gary Ablett Jr. Gold Coast Midfielder
2014 Nat Fyfe Fremantle Midfielder
2015 Nat Fyfe Fremantle Midfielder
2016 Patrick Dangerfield Geelong Midfielder
2017 Dustin Martin Richmond Midfielder
2018 Tom Mitchell Hawthorn Midfielder
2019 Patrick Cripps Carlton Midfielder
2020 Lachie Neale Brisbane Lions Midfielder
2021 Marcus Bontempelli Western Bulldogs Midfielder

. . . Leigh Matthews Trophy . . .

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. . . Leigh Matthews Trophy . . .