TOM LIBERATORE has been rewarded for his standout season, winning his maiden Charles Sutton Medal at the Western Bulldogs' best and fairest count at Crown Palladium on Wednesday night.
Just 24 hours after being selected in the All Australian squad for the first time, the midfielder won his club’s most prestigious award by a comprehensive 67 votes, ahead of second year player Jack Macrae.
Following a breakout year in 2013, Liberatore, the son of Brownlow medallist Tony, took his game to new heights this year.
The 22-year-old finished the season ranked the No.1 player in the League for tackles and clearances and was fourth for contested possessions.
Liberatore capped off an outstanding season with not just one, but four awards, adding the team first, most courageous and best team player accolades to his Charles Sutton Medal.
"Firstly I'd like to thank my teammates," Liberatore said after being announced as the winner.
"Over my four years so far I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of blokes to be associated with. In terms of my development, the coaching staff have been great. It's been a great start to my career and I'm very appreciative of what this club has done for me.
"I'm obviously humbled to win this award."
Coach Brendan McCartney was full of praise for the young midfielder.
"I'm so proud of you [Tom], and what you've achieved," he said.
"We've had meetings with half our list over the last two days. I spoke to Tommy yesterday and I said to him quite openly and honestly that I felt he played the game most like the way we want to play. There's no better accolade for a player.
"He's tough, he uses the ball well, he cares deeply about this club and he's a fighter. You're looking at an extraordinary young player, who's got so much more to go."
Runner-up in the best and fairest count, Macrae, was one of the League’s most promising youngsters, finishing the year as the Bulldogs’ No.1 player for disposals and marks in just his second season of AFL.
The 20-year-old gathered 25 possessions or more in 15 of his 21 games in 2014, and was the youngest AFL player ever to reach 40 disposals or more in a game, when he amassed 43 touches against Gold Coast in round 17.
Macrae didn’t go home empty handed though, named the most improved player at the Bulldogs in 2014.
After a slow start due to a back injury, skipper Ryan Griffen finished the season strongly to place third in the best and fairest, while former rookie Luke Dahlhaus was rewarded for his best season with a top-four finish.
The final tally means three of the top four ranked players are just 22 years old or younger, highlighting the depth of young talent coming through the Dogs' ranks.
Veteran Bob Murphy rounded out the top five, adding to his strong showing in recent years, having placed in the top six players at the club for the fifth consecutive year.
Young gun Marcus Bontempelli, who finished just one vote behind Brisbane Lion Lewis Taylor in the NAB Rising Star Award earlier on Wedensday, capped off his stellar debut season by being named the club’s best first year player.
2014 Charles Sutton Medal tally
1. Tom Liberatore (235 votes)
2. Jack Macrae (168)
3. Ryan Griffen (154)
4. Luke Dahlhaus (138)
5. Robert Murphy (133)
6. Dale Morris (124)
7. Matthew Boyd (118)
8. Stewart Crameri (117)
9. Liam Picken (112)
10. Mitch Wallis (99)
Doug Hawkins medallist (second place): Jack Macrae
Gary Dempsey medallist (third place): Ryan Griffen
John Van Groningen Team First Award: Tom Liberatore
Scott West Most Courageous Award: Tom Liberatore
John Schultz Community Award: Will Minson
Chris Grant Best First Year Player: Marcus Bontempelli
Tony Liberatore Most Improved Player: Jack Macrae
Brad Johnson Best Team Player: Tom Liberatore
VFL Best and Fairest: Brett Goodes
VFL Coaches Award: Mitch Jensen
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