WESTERN Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli has enhanced his case to be considered the best player to ever wear the red, white and blue after adding a fifth Charles Sutton Medal on Wednesday night.
The 27-year-old polled 342 votes to finish 64 votes ahead of veteran midfielder Tom Liberatore on 278 votes, with gun half-back Ed Richards accruing 193 votes to finish on the podium for the first time in his career.
Bontempelli earned All-Australian selection for the fifth time this season – he was also named vice-captain – and finished runner-up in the Brownlow Medal for the second time in three years, this time to Brisbane co-captain Lachie Neale.
Only two players have won more best and fairest awards in the club’s history – Scott West (seven) and Gary Dempsey (six) – with Bontempelli now level with iconic figures Ted Whitten, John Schultz and Norman Ware with five Charles Sutton Medals on his CV.
Bontempelli produced another brilliant campaign in his tenth season in the AFL, averaging career-high numbers for disposals (27.7), contested possessions (14.5), tackles 7.5), clearances (7.6) and metres gained (484.9) across 23 appearances in 2023.
After falling narrowly short to Josh Dunkley in last year’s count, Liberatore finished runner-up for the second straight year after placing third in 2021 when the Bulldogs lost the Grand Final to Melbourne in Perth.
The 2014 Charles Sutton Medallist was incredibly unlucky to miss out on selection in the All-Australian team after producing arguably the best season of his 216-game career, averaging 27.3 disposals, 14.5 contested possessions, 7.9 clearances and 6.7 tackles from 21 games.
Richards narrowly held off 2020 best and fairest winner Caleb Daniel to finish in third spot after a career year, despite the 24-year-old missing a month of games due to a hamstring strain.
Recruit Liam Jones missed five games but still managed to finish in fifth spot after producing a brilliant return to not only the Western Bulldogs, but also the AFL after spending 2022 playing for Palm Beach-Currumbin in the QAFL.
The 32-year-old also received the Scott West Most Courageous award, while Tim English collected the Tony Liberatore Most Improved Player award after earning his first All-Australian blazer as the game’s best ruckman in 2023.
After starting the year at Essendon Cricket Club, Category B rookie James O’Donnell received the best first-year player award after playing 12 games for Luke Beveridge’s side, improving the longer the season went on.
Charles Sutton Medal Top 10:
1. Marcus Bontempelli - 342 votes
2. Tom Liberatore - 278
3. Ed Richards - 193
4. Caleb Daniel - 190
5. Liam Jones - 172
6. Adam Treloar - 165
7. Tim English - 160
8. Bailey Dale - 152
9. Aaron Naughton - 141
10. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan - 128
Other award winners:
Chris Grant Best First Year Player: James O’Donnell
Tony Liberatore Most Improved Player: Tim English
Brad Johnson Best Team Player: Caleb Daniel
John Van Groningen Domestique Award: Marcus Bontempelli
Scott West Most Courageous Award: Liam Jones
Coaches Award: Adam Treloar
Footscray Best and Fairest: Lachie Sullivan
John Schultz Community Award: Buku Khamis
VU Education Award: Lachie McNeil
In each game of the season, Luke Beveridge and four assistants give each player between zero and five votes. Players can receive a minimum of zero or a maximum of 25 votes for any game.