Bont awarded top gong by peers

Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli has been recognised by his peers as the game’s best player, collecting his second AFL Players’ Association Most Valuable Player award on Wednesday night.

The Bulldogs captain edged out fellow Brownlow Medal frontrunners Nick Daicos and Zak Butters to claim the Leigh Matthews Trophy, becoming the sixth player to receive the honour multiple times after he also won in 2021.

Bontempelli also took out the Best Captain award from Toby Greene and Darcy Moore, while Butters received the Robert Rose Most Courageous Player award ahead of Tom Liberatore and Jack Viney.

Harry Sheezel, who was one of North Melbourne’s three nominations for the MVP award, was crowned Best First-Year Player, edging out Will Ashcroft after the Brisbane young gun’s season was derailed by an ACL injury in round 19.

The halfback earlier won the Rising Star award with a convincing 54 votes from Ashcroft (39), St Kilda utility Mitch Owens (33) and Fremantle leading goalkicker Jye Amiss (28).

Presented with the award by last year’s winner Nick Daicos, Sheezel thanked his family and friends and paid tribute to coach Alastair Clarkson.

“He’s instilled so much belief in me, like sending me to halfback, and there’s just a lot of trust,” Sheezel said.

“(Daicos) has had an unbelievable two years and he’s definitely someone that I model my game on, especially playing a similar role.”

Brisbane’s Darcy Fort and Sydney’s Robbie Fox were also recognised with the Education and Training Excellence award for their commitment to tertiary studies.

In a further insight into how Brownlow Medal night may unfold next month, Toby Greene finished fourth and Christian Petracca fifth, with no room for Coleman medallist Charlie Curnow on the dais.

All players voted for the MVP award in a 3-2-1 system, with three players eligible to be voted on from each club after an earlier round of voting by their teammates.

After becoming a multiple Best Captain recipient, Bontempelli was lauded by teammate Jamarra Ugle-Hagan for his commitment to his teammates.

“His ability to impact games and lead from the front is what separates him from others,” Ugle-Hagan said.

“He senses big moments and, at times, carries us on his shoulders. Bont’s had a massive impact on me. He’s been like a big brother across the journey and is helping me improve every game I play. I look up to him and the footballer and person he is.”

Originally published as AFL 2023: Bontempelli edges out Daicos, Butters to claim AFLPA MVP award

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