Marcus Bontempelli has become just the second Western Bulldogs player to be voted football’s best player by his peers.
The Bulldogs skipper was on Thursday night announced as the 2021 AFL Players Association’s most valuable player, another string to the midfielder’s remarkable bow.
Marcus Bontempelli.Credit:Getty Images
Bontempelli, 25, claimed the Leigh Matthews Trophy with 1176 votes, well clear of Carlton’s Sam Walsh (426) and Gold Coast’s Touk Miller (411). Melbourne’s Christian Petracca and St Kilda co-captain Jack Steele rounded out the top five.
In the award’s four-decade history, Luke Darcy – a co-winner in 2002 alongside Michael Voss – had been the only Bulldog to claim the prestigious honour until Bontempelli, who was also voted 2021’s best captain by the league’s players.
The 2016 premiership hero’s resume also included three Dogs best and fairest wins, four All-Australian gongs and the 2019 AFL Coaches’ Association player of the year award.
He is among the favourites for the Brownlow Medal later this month.
“Marcus is the prototype modern AFL midfielder; tall and explosive with exquisite skills to match,” AFLPA president Patrick 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.”
Former Dogs skipper Easton Wood lauded Bontempelli for his leadership.
“When you’re someone at Marcus’ level it can be taken for granted because of how successful he’s been already, but to operate at that level it requires the utmost amount of diligence, dedication and consistency. Ever since he’s taken over (as captain) he’s been the focal point and worn it with absolute pride,” Wood said.
Another ex-Dogs captain, Bob Murphy, also heaped praise on Bontempelli.
“He’s tuned into the frequency of what a game needs as good as anyone I’ve seen in my time. Part of it is not nuanced, it’s not poetry, it’s not in the ether. He just wants it,” Murphy said.
Steele was meanwhile named the AFL’s most courageous player, while Sydney’s Errol Gulden was voted best first-year player from Essendon’s Nik Cox.
Errol Gulden and the Swans celebrate a goal in the victory over Essendon in round 20, Sydney’s fifth win in a row.Credit:Getty
“Errol’s a confident person who’s always willing to talk to people. Something that I admire about him is that he hasn’t changed in the AFL environment,” said Gulden’s teammate and fellow Swans academy graduate Braeden Campbell.
Collingwood’s Nathan Murphy, and AFLW players Nina Morrison of Geelong and Bulldogs Ellyse Gamble claimed an Education and Training Excellence Award.
Liz Walsh from the Adelaide Advertiser won the Grant Hattam Award for excellence in sports journalism.
WINNERS AND VOTES
Leigh Matthews Trophy for the Most Valuable Player
Marcus Bontempelli – 1176
Sam Walsh – 426
Touk Miller – 411
Christian Petracca – 338
Jack Steele – 261
Robert Rose Most Courageous Award
Jack Steele – 186
Tom Doedee – 118
Liam Baker – 61
Liam Jones – 55
Tom Jonas – 40
Best First Year Player Award
Errol Gulden – 299
Nikolas Cox – 139
Riley Thilthorpe – 56
Tom Powell – 27
Tom Highmore – 26
Marcus Bontempelli – 224
Max Gawn – 87
Jack Steele – 83
Joel Selwood – 60
Scott Pendlebury – 36
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