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Skipper recognised as best of the Blues

Marc Murphy has developed into one of the league's best leaders - Carlton Blues,Marc Murphy,Sam Docherty,Matthew Kreuzer
Marc Murphy has developed into one of the league's best leaders
As captain, Marc sets an outstanding example to his teammates
Brendon Bolton

CARLTON skipper Marc Murphy's outstanding bounce-back season earned him a second John Nicholls Medal as the Blues' best and fairest on Friday night at Crown Palladium.

The prolific midfielder amassed 174 votes to edge out All Australian defender and 2016 victor Sam Docherty (169) and Matthew Kreuzer (164), who enjoyed a renaissance-of-sorts to again be considered among the AFL's best ruckmen.

Veterans Bryce Gibbs (130) and Kade Simpson (103) rounded out the top five.

"I'm enormously proud … to be a two-time winner of the John Nicholls Medal is pretty special," Murphy told AFL.com.au.

"My family is probably enjoying it as well. I think my old man (John) won six best and fairests and my grandpa (Leo) won two, so I join them, which is good."

Murphy put aside a serious right ankle injury that ruined his 2016 campaign to average a career-high 29.8 disposals (10.2 contested), 5.7 score involvements, 4.6 clearances, 4.4 inside 50s and 3.9 tackles.

The 30-year-old, who was the No.1 pick in the 2005 NAB AFL Draft, also finished ninth in the competition for effective possessions.

Murphy played every game for the first time since 2011, when he won his other John Nicholls Medal in what was the only other season he averaged more than 29 disposals.

"I think I was pretty consistent," he said.

"I kicked more goals in 2011 (22 to 11 this year) and was a bit more dominant in that area, so going into next year that's something I'm really focusing on; spending a little more time forward and trying to kick one or two a game."

Carlton most recently played finals in 2013 and won only 24 of 88 games in the past four seasons, but Murphy is confident the club made progress this season despite winning one fewer game.

He believes he still has "three or four" seasons left in his career and wants to make them count with team success.

"I'd be naïve to think I've got a long time in the game to go and I can wait and slowly progress. I'm trying to push the players as hard as I possibly can," he said.

"Whether that's next year we start pushing sides more and start to win more games or it's the year after – obviously, I'd like it to be next year, being a 30-year-old.

"If you just look at it on pure numbers and see we're 16th on the ladder, you think you're a long way off it, but if you really look at the games and the way in which you played, I think we're not too far off it.

"You can look at the sides over the last couple of years, like Richmond and where they finished last year. You can turn it around really quickly."

Murphy and his wife, Jessie, are expecting their first child – a boy – in January and the 236-gamer is looking forward to the life milestone.

"I'm 30, so it's about time I started churning one out," he said with a laugh.

"We're both really excited about it. Both my brothers have got little girls and a lot of my mates here at the footy club have got little children, so it's a good time."

Docherty, 23, became the Blues' first All Australian selection since Murphy and Chris Judd both made the team six years ago.

The former Brisbane Lion averaged 27.9 disposals, nine marks, 503.9 metres gained and six rebound 50s, and looks set to spend more time in the midfield in 2018.

Kreuzer's return to form coincided with him playing his 150th AFL game in round 12 against Greater Western Sydney after being the top pick in the 2007 NAB AFL Draft.

The gentle giant averaged 15.3 disposals, 5.1 tackles and 31.7 hit-outs and kicked 12 goals. His 9.8 contested possessions each week were the most among the League's ruckmen.

Patrick Cripps, the 2015 John Nicholls medallist, placed eighth despite breaking his left leg in round 16 and taking no further part in the season.

Born-again defender Liam Jones was also rewarded with his first top-10 best and fairest finish at the Blues or his former club the Western Bulldogs.

John Nicholls Medal top 10
1. Marc Murphy (174 votes)
2. Sam Docherty (169)
3. Matthew Kreuzer (164)
4. Bryce Gibbs (130)
5. Kade Simpson (103)
6. Matthew Wright (96)
7. Lachie Plowman (95)
8. Patrick Cripps (92)
9. Liam Jones (84)
10. Charlie Curnow (81) 

Other awards
Hyundai MVP Award: Marc Murphy and Sam Docherty
William A. Cook Trophy (Carltonians' Best Player): Matthew Kreuzer
Virgin Australia Best First Year Player: Sam Petrevski-Seton
Best Clubman: Dennis Armfield
Spirit of Carlton Award: Matthew Kreuzer
Inner Blue Ruthless Award: Matthew Kreuzer