THERE'S been plenty of chatter about where some of the country's brightest prospects might land when the 2023 AFL Draft kicks off tonight.
With the highly touted Harley Reid expected to go No.1, he will be the inaugural recipient of the Allen Aylett Medal.
The AFL announced in September that the Allen Aylett Medal would be presented to the first selection at the men's national draft, named in honour of former North Melbourne champion and VFL president, Dr Allen Aylett.
Dr Aylett, who passed away last year, was an influential figure both on and off the field.
While he played 220 games for North Melbourne and earned a spot in the club's Team of the Century, he is perhaps best remembered as a pioneering administrator of both the Kangaroos and the VFL, where he oversaw the introduction of live Grand Final broadcasts, Sunday football, Friday night football and the first steps to the national competition.
AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder said Dr Aylett was one of the key figures in the game's successful growth nationally, and the medal was a way to recognise his talents as a player and his national view of football.
With the first Allen Aylett Medal to be presented tonight, we thought we'd take a look at some of the AFL's other awards and the stories behind them.
The League's most prestigious individual award, the Brownlow Medal is named in honour of Charles Brownlow who was one of the most significant figures – both on and off the field – in the early days of the game. Charles, or 'Chas' as he was more commonly known, spent 40 years with Geelong as a player and administrator. He began his playing career in 1880 with the Cats in the Victorian Football Association (VFA), before the formation of the VFL, and captained the club to a premiership in 1883 before hanging up the boots after the 1884 season. Brownlow stayed involved in football following his retirement, serving as an administrator up until a year before his death in 1924. He was Geelong's secretary from 1885 to 1923, as well as a delegate on the VFL board from 1902 until 1922. In that capacity he also served as the VFL's vice-president and delegate to the Australasian Football Council (1911-16), as chairman of the permit and umpires committee (1911-22), and as caretaker VFL president (1918-19). Brownlow was also president of the Australasian Football Council from 1919 up until his death. The first Brownlow Medal was awarded in 1924, with the inaugural winner being Geelong star Edward 'Carji' Greeves.
Norm Smith Medal
The Norm Smith Medal, presented to the player judged best afield in the Grand Final, was introduced in 1979. It honours famous Melbourne Football Club identity Norm Smith, who also had coaching links to Fitzroy and South Melbourne. Smith played 227 games for Melbourne and Fitzroy between 1935 and 1950, and coached 452 games, predominantly with Melbourne. He coached every year between 1949 and 1972, except 1968, and was named the coach of the AFL Team of the Century. During his 310-game tenure in the Demons' top job, he took the club to every Grand Final between 1954 and 1960 and won six premierships (1955-57, 1959-60, 1964).
The Coleman Medal, named after Essendon full-forward John Coleman, is awarded to the leading goalkicker each season. Coleman played 98 games for the Bombers and kicked 537 goals, including 12 on debut in 1949. Coleman capped what was a brilliant first year in impressive fashion, booting his 100th goal in the dying moments of Essendon's Grand Final win over Carlton. As of 2023, he remains the only player to kick 100 goals in his debut year. Sadly, Coleman was forced into premature retirement due to a major knee injury in 1954. Coleman was elevated to AFL Legend status in 1996 and was named the full-forward in the AFL Team of the Century. While the award was introduced in 1981 (Richmond's Michael Roach was the inaugural winner), the AFL later moved to recognise all previous leading goalkickers post-Coleman's retirement with the award.
Jock McHale Medal
The Jock McHale Medal is awarded to the premiership coach each season. The medal honours legendary Collingwood coach James 'Jock' McHale, who led the Magpies in a staggering 714 matches. McHale coached the Magpies to eight premierships, including a never-equalled four in a row between 1927 and 1930, in a career that made him the most successful coach in VFL/AFL history. The medal was introduced in 2001 and was retrospectively awarded to all premiership coaches from 1950 onwards, the year after McHale's retirement from Collingwood. As a player, McHale played 261 games and was the League's first player to hit the 250-game milestone.
Gary Ayres Award
One of the AFL Coaches Association's awards, the Gary Ayres Award is given to the best player in the finals series. Ayres' illustrious playing career included 269 games between 1978 and 1993. He was a member of five Hawthorn premierships (1983, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1991) and on top of that, was a two-time Norm Smith medallist – one of only four players in history to do so. Ayres also coached 223 games at Geelong (116 games) and Adelaide (107). Votes for the annual award are issued by the competing coaches on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis after each finals match.
Leigh Matthews Trophy
The Leigh Matthews Trophy is awarded by the AFL Players' Association to the Most Valuable Player (MVP), as voted by the players themselves. Matthews, one of the greatest to ever play the game, was the inaugural recipient of the first player-voted award back in 1982 and it was renamed in his honour in 2002. Matthews was also an inaugural inductee of the AFL Hall of Fame, and was later elevated to Legend status, and was named in both Hawthorn's and the AFL's teams of the century. He polled 202 Brownlow Medal votes over the course of his career, which makes him the highest polling player never to win a Brownlow Medal and is third on the all-time list of vote-pollers. Matthews played in seven grand finals, he was a club best and fairest winner eight times, and he kicked 915 goals – a record for goals kicked by a non-full forward.
The McClelland Trophy, which was struck in 1951, recognises the contributions of William McClelland, who was a former Melbourne captain, premiership player, president of the Melbourne Cricket Club and VFL president from 1926-55. McClelland's contribution to the game was recognised in 1996 when he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame as an administrator. The trophy was originally awarded to the best-performing club across seniors, reserves and under-19 grades, but since 1991, the trophy has been awarded to the club that finished first on the AFL ladder. It was relaunched this year to include the AFLW competition and is awarded to the best-performed club across the men's and women's competitions, beginning a new era for the historic award as a 'Champion Club' honour.
Allan Jeans Award
The Allan Jeans Award is another one of the AFL's peer-voted honours, and is awarded to the coach of the year. At the end of the season, all AFL coaches give 3-2-1 votes to the senior coaches they think have performed the best over that season. Jeans played 77 games with St Kilda between 1955-59, but it was his outstanding coaching career for which he is best remembered. He coached the Saints over an astonishing 16-year period from 1961, including successive grand finals in 1965-66 and another Grand Final in 1971. The 1966 premiership remains the Saints' only VFL/AFL flag to this day. He stepped down from his role at the Saints in 1976 before reviving his coaching career in 1981 at Hawthorn where he established them as the most dominant team of the 1980s. The Hawks played in seven consecutive grand finals, and won the premiership in 1983, 1986 and 1989.
Ron Evans Medal
The Ron Evans Medal, awarded to the AFL Rising Star each season, was named in memory of former AFL Commission Chairman Ron Evans who had a long involvement with football as a player and administrator. He kicked 210 goals in just 64 games with Essendon from 1958 to 1962. Evans left a lasting legacy in his role on the AFL Commission, where he served for 13 years between 1993-2006, including the last eight years as chairman. He was also Essendon Football Club's president between 1988-92. While the Rising Star award has been around since 1993, it became the Ron Evans Medal in 2007. Each round, one Rising Star nominee is chosen and at the end of the home and away season, a panel of experts vote for the winner.