Marcus Bontempelli underlined his status as an AFL superstar by taking home his second MVP award while several new faces were named in the All-Australian side.
Bontempelli was awarded the Leigh Matthews Trophy after a stellar season and the Western Bulldogs kingpin was also named the captain of the year.
However, GWS leader Toby Greene was named captain of the All-Australian team which featured 12 first-timers.
Bontempelli was named vice-captain in his fifth All-Australian selection.
Greene, who landed 60 goals to lead the Giants to the finals after the team’s slow start to the year, was named in an impressive forward line alongside Carlton’s Charlie Curnow and Brisbane Lions ace Charlie Cameron with Bontempelli part of a potent centre trio with Collingwood’s Josh Daicos and Sydney’s Errol Gulden.
At the back, James Sicily, Callum Wilkie and Tom Stewart were recognised for their defensive prowess with Jack Sinclair, Darcy Moore and Dan Houston combining across the half-back line.
The rucks were Tim English, Zak Butters and Nick Daicos with Connor Rozee, Taylor Walker and Christian Petracca completed the starting side as the half-forwards.
Adelaide’s Jordan Dawson, North’s Nick Larkey, Essendon’s Zach Merrett and Fremantle’s Caleb Strong were named on the bench.
At 33, Adelaide forward Taylor Walker became the oldest player to earn his first selection since the AFL era started in 1990.
Magpies duo Nick and Josh Daicos are the first brothers to make the same All-Australian side since Port’s Chad and Kane Cornes in 2007.
Richmond, Gold Coast and West Coast were the only three teams who did not have a player selected in the All-Australian squad.
Harris Andrews (Brisbane), Isaac Quaynor (Collingwood), Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs), Lachie Neale (Brisbane) and Dustin Martin (Richmond) were unlucky to miss out after being named in the initial 44-man squad on Monday.
Bontempelli won the MVP award for the first time in 2021 and this season edged out Collingwood young gun Nick Daicos and Port Adelaide midfielder Zak Butters for the prestigious trophy.
The 27-year-old has joined an elite club of multiple MVP winners alongside all-time greats Greg Williams, Wayne Carey, Michael Voss, Chris Judd, Gary Ablett jnr and Nat Fyfe.
Sheezel crowned Rising Star
North Melbourne first-year sensation Harry Sheezel is the 2023 AFL Rising Star, beating out a stacked field of young guns. He was also named the best first-year player.
Pick 3 in last year’s draft, the young Roo racked up an AFL record 622 disposals in his debut year, playing every game and starring off half-back despite North’s disappointing three-win season.
Brisbane father-son gun Will Ashcroft and St Kilda Academy prodigy Mitch Owens were named second and third respectively.
The first Rising Star nominee of the season following a 34-disposal debut effort in the Roos’ Round 1 win over West Coast, Sheezel has been the favourite to claim top honours for virtually the entire season, despite stiff competition from Ashcroft, who may have even won the award had it not been for missing the last five games of the season with a ruptured ACL.
With 41 goals for the season, Fremantle spearhead Jye Amiss was unlucky to miss out on the top three.
Sheezel polled 54 votes, one shy of the maximum 55, with 10 of the 11 Rising Star judges awarding him five votes.
Ashcroft’s 39 had him well behind in second, with Owens third on 33, Amiss in fourth with 28, and Brisbane half-back Darcy Wilmot finishing with four votes.
Making Sheezel’s stunning debut season all the more impressive is that, up until the 2023 pre-season, he had never played at half-back before.
“I haven’t really played there in juniors or anything,” Sheezel said of his new position speaking to Fox Footy.
“A couple of weeks before the season, when we played the Bulldogs in a practice game, it was three quarter time, he [coach Alastair Clarkson] just came to me and said ‘go to half back’. I played a quarter there and went alright.
Leading into Round 1, he [Clarkson] told me I’d play half-back… I trust him, he’s obviously got an unbelievable footy brain, so I trust whatever he wants.”
Despite just three wins for the season, Sheezel still expressed his delight in his first year at the highest level, and suggest a Round 24 victory over Gold Coast, one that ensured the Roos avoided a third consecutive wooden spoon, can be a good building block for future success.
“The season as a whole was so good. We obviously didn’t get the wins, or do too well on the ladder or anything, but we still grew so much,” Sheezel said.
“Even just winning the last game last week against Gold Coast was really good, and we can take that into the off-season and really build.”
Smooth as Butters: Power gun pips Daicos, Bontempelli as Coaches Association MVP
Port Adelaide star Zak Butters has capped off a breakout season by being named as the AFL Coaches Association Most Valuable Player for 2023.
Butters, among the leading candidates for the Brownlow Medal, was seven votes behind Collingwood’s Nick Daicos heading into the final two rounds of the season, but a 30-disposal performance in the Power’s win over Richmond, with Daicos missing the last three home-and-away rounds with a knee injury, was enough to squeeze past the Magpies star, as well as teammate Connor Rozee, Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli and Melbourne gun Christian Petracca.
Butters finished with 109 votes, including the maximum 10 in seven rounds, to finish well ahead of Bontempelli (102) and Daicos (99), with Petracca (98) and Brisbane’s Lachie Neale (91) rounding out the top five.
Bontempelli’s six votes in the Bulldogs’ final-round win over Geelong left Butters needing to poll against Richmond to claim outright honours, which he duly did with seven as the Power bested the Tigers to secure a third-placed finish.
Butters averaged 27.5 disposals per game in a dominant season as a full-time midfielder, with the highlight a 41-disposal, two-goal effort in the Power’s thrilling win over Melbourne that was among the finest individual performances of the year.
“Considering his size, he is fearless with the way he attacks the ball, and he’s got this amazing ability to make special things happen for our team and to influence a game like not many others can,” Power coach Ken Hinkley said of Butters.
“I believe that being voted by the coaches as the League’s Champion Player is one of the highest honours a player can receive, and I could not be prouder that Zak has been recognised with this award.”
Butters was also awarded the Robert Rose Most Courageous Player honour.
Daicos, however, would be named the AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player, awarded to the first- or second-year player with the most Coaches votes for the season, awarded in every match by both participating coaches on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.
His 99 votes were nearly double the next best by an eligible player – Essendon wingman Nic Martin’s 50 votes; while 2021 No.1 draft pick Jason Horne-Francis finished third with 34.
Among the other awards, Carlton spearhead Charlie Curnow was officially awarded the 2023 Coleman Medal as the league’s leading goalkicker, with his 78 goals ahead of Adelaide’s Taylor Walker (76) and North Melbourne’s Nick Larkey (71).
Full list of AFL Awards
AFL Rising Star: Harry Sheezel (North Melbourne)
Coleman Medal: Charlie Curnow (Carlton)
AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year: Zak Butters (Port Adelaide)
AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player: Nick Daicos (Collingwood)
AFL Players Association Best First Year Player: Harry Sheezel (North Melbourne)
Robert Rose Most Courageous Player: Zak Butters (Port Adelaide)
AFL Players Association Best Captain: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
Leigh Matthews Trophy: Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs)
Full AFL All-Australian Team
Backs: James Sicily (Hawthorn), Callum Wilkie (St Kilda), Tom Stewart (Geelong)
Half-Backs: Jack Sinclair (St Kilda), Darcy Moore (Collingwood), Dan Houston (Port Adelaide)
Centres: Errol Gulden (Sydney), Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs, vice-captain), Josh Daicos (Collingwood)
Half-forwards: Connor Rozee (Port Adelaide), Taylor Walker (Adelaide), Christian Petracca (Melbourne)
Forwards: Charlie Cameron (Brisbane), Charlie Curnow (Carlton), Toby Greene (GWS, captain)
Followers: Tim English (Western Bulldogs), Zak Butters (Port Adelaide), Nick Daicos (Collingwood)
Interchange: Jordan Dawson (Adelaide), Nick Larkey (North Melbourne), Zach Merrett (Essendon), Caleb Serong (Fremantle)