WESTERN Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli has become the third player in 40 years to win the AFL Players Association's MVP and best captain double after an outstanding season that was celebrated on Thursday night. 

Bontempelli polled 1176 votes to win the Leigh Matthews Trophy in emphatic style ahead of Carlton midfielder Sam Walsh (426) and prolific Gold Coast ball-winner Touk Miller (411). 

Melbourne star Christian Petracca (338) and St Kilda captain Jack Steele (261) finished in the top five for the second straight season, with Steele also winning the Robert Rose most courageous award and finishing third in best captain voting. 

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First-time winner Bontempelli joined Brisbane champion Michael Voss and West Coast and Carlton great Chris Judd as players to have won the MVP and best captain awards in the same season. 

Western Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli with his AFLPA MVP and best captain trophies. Picture: Supplied

The Bulldogs skipper, who ranked top five in the League for both inside 50s (6.7 a game) and score involvements (7.3), received his awards while isolating ahead of Saturday's semi-final against Brisbane at the Gabba. 

Bontempelli has also averaged a career-high 27 disposals and kicked 26 goals, with AFLPA president and Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield declaring the 25-year-old had become the "prototype modern AFL midfielder". 

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"He's dominated the middle of the ground in 2021 and also hit the scoreboard so his impact has been far-reaching," Dangerfield said. 

"Put simply, there's been no better player across the 23 rounds this season than the 'Bont'. He's a worthy Leigh Matthews Trophy winner."

St Kilda's Jack Steele fires off a handball against Carlton in R20, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Bontempelli became the sixth separate winner of the Leigh Matthews Trophy in the past six seasons since Fremantle superstar Nat Fyfe went back-to-back in 2014-15. 

Five of the previous six winners have also gone on to win the Brownlow Medal, with Bontempelli among the leading contenders for this year's prestigious award.

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Melbourne captain Max Gawn (87 votes) finished runner-up to Bontempelli (224) in the best captain award, followed by Steele (83) and previous winners in Geelong captain Joel Selwood (60) and Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury (36). 

Exciting Sydney half-forward Errol Gulden (299) was named the best first-year player, ahead of Essendon tall Nik Cox (139) and Adelaide forward Riley Thilthorpe (56). 

Gulden, who was recruited by the Swans with pick No.32 in last year's NAB AFL Draft as an academy selection, also finished fifth in the NAB AFL Rising Star Award and was the highest-polling first-year player. 

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Gulden conjures something golden

Errol Gulden shows off his exciting raw talent with this stunning goal

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Voting for the Leigh Matthews Trophy starts with clubs nominating three players from their club each based on their players' votes, leading to a nomination list of 54 players across the 18 teams.

All players then vote for their MVP on a 3, 2, 1 basis from the nominees of the 17 other clubs, meaning they cannot vote for their teammates in the second stage of the process.

A similar process is followed for the best first-year player and most courageous player awards, with all captains automatically nominated for the best captain award.

AFLPA MVP 

Marcus Bontempelli (1176)
Sam Walsh (426)
Touk Miller (411)
Christian Petracca (338)
Jack Steele (261)

Most Courageous

Jack Steele (186)
Tom Doedee (118)
Liam Baker (61)
Liam Jones (55)
Tom Jonas (40)

Best First-Year Player 

Errol Gulden (299)
Nikolas Cox (139)
Riley Thilthorpe (56)
Tom Powell (27)
Tom Highmore (26)

Best Captain

Marcus Bontempelli (224)
Max Gawn (87)
Jack Steele (83)
Joel Selwood (60)
Scott Pendlebury (36)