COBURG co-captain Peter McEvoy has earned one of the biggest possible ticks for his leadership after being named captain of the VFL Team of the Year.
The side, announced on Thursday night, will be led by Footscray mentor Stewart Edge, who couldn't be overlooked as coach after guiding the Bulldogs to an undefeated 10-0 season.
Fifteen of the VFL's 22 clubs are represented in the 24-man Team of the Year, which is restricted to players who were not on an AFL list at the start of the season, and includes Box Hill Hawk Jai Newcombe and GWS Giant James Peatling, who were added to their club's AFL lists in the mid-season draft.
Coburg and Box Hill are the most represented clubs with three players each selected; Carlton, Port Melbourne, Southport, Werribee and Williamstown had two each and Aspley, Casey Demons, Footscray, Frankston, Geelong, GWS, North Melbourne and the Northern Bullants each had one player named.
Brisbane Lions, Collingwood, Essendon, Gold Coast, Richmond, Sandringham and Sydney players all missed out on selection.
It is a powerful line-up, with 11 former AFL players selected, plus the mid-season additions, while young Williamstown defender Charlie Dean is considered a great chance to make it 14 in November’s national draft after a stellar debut season at Downer Oval.
The spine is particularly strong, with former Sun Jack Leslie at full back, ex-Swan Jack Maibaum at centre half-back, Newcombe in the centre, McEvoy at centre half-forward and Frosty Miller medallist, former Brisbane Lion Matt Hammelmann at full-forward, ex-Blue and Power big man Matt Lobbe in the ruck, another former Sun in Jacob Dawson at ruck-rover and Bulldogs best-and-fairest winner Robbie McComb at rover.
Amazingly, only four members of the 2019 Team of the Year retained their positions in 2021, with Borough pair Harvey Hooper and Eli Templeton holding their half-back flank and wing respectively, and onballers Jimmy Munro and Marcus Lentini selected on the interchange.
VFL greats from on and off the field were rewarded for their many years of service with life memberships of the competition on Thursday night's awards video stream.
The competition's longest-serving CEO, Werribee's Mark Penaluna, was honoured for 28 years of tireless work at the helm of the Tigers in which he has carried out just about every task required to keep the club not only running smoothly, but growing into the respected standalone entity it is today.
And the VFL's best ruckman in recent years, behemoth Nick Meese earned his life membership for having played exactly 200 matches at the second highest level of football in the country (including representative football), winning Team of the Year honours on seven occasions and helping Williamstown to the 2015 Premiership.
Frankston stalwart John Davis received the Alex Gillon Volunteer of the Year award after 37 years of dedicated and tireless service to his beloved Dolphins, work which has been honoured at Skybus Stadium by having the main dining room named after him.
McEvoy, 30, enjoyed another terrific season for the Lions, leading from the front and often coming up with a clutch mark and goal just when his team needed it, with his accuracy also a key factor as he booted 22.9 from 10 matches, including his 100th career goal. He now has 108 goals in 74 matches for Coburg and Box Hill.
He was stunned at the honour of being named to lead such a powerful line-up and equally proud of Maibaum and Lentini's selections.
"That has absolutely floored me to be honest, it's very humbling indeed, I certainly did not expect to get any kind of accolade like that, so I'm very humbled and grateful," McEvoy said.
"(Awards) are not things I have ever thought about to be honest. We're so focused on our own journey at the club, from very humble beginnings in my time with a huge list turnover to building a competitive edge in our group. Being on the back end of some big losses three or four years ago to this year where we were so close in so many games with the best teams … (has been) one of the most enjoyable years of footy I've had in a long time.
"We were very disappointed that we ended up not where we thought we should have been on the ladder, but at the same time really optimistic about the journey we're on and the road ahead for next year.
"(Three Lions selected is) a credit to 'Sturg' (coach Andrew Sturgess) and (football manager) Seb (Spagnuolo), and as a leadership group in that we've been able to create an environment where a team-first approach is allowing everyone to shine and play their role.
"It is a huge credit to the club and the system and what we're trying to do, and I think that shows the strength of our list and the fact we are coming into that competitive space."
Edge was delighted to be named the VFL's best coach in his first year in the job after seven as a Bulldogs' assistant, giving the credit to the club’s dedication to the program.
"The opportunity to see young guys, particularly emerging talent, get on their way … it's always a great thing when you see young players go from being a fresh-faced draftee to cutting their teeth to varying degrees in the VFL and then consolidate themselves in the AFL," he said.
"This is a great coaching pathway too, I've really enjoyed my time as a senior assistant to both Ash Hansen and Danny Giansiracusa, and with the change of personnel it was an opportunity too good to resist to finally jump in the chair.
"It has been a priority of our club's VFL program seeing so many of our players come through and play in VFL premierships and progress to being really capable AFL players – quite a few of them running around last weekend.
"I'm very lucky Luke Beveridge creates such a high priority for this pathway for our players and that is supported right through the club, to the extent that our general manager of footy Chris Maple has coached a VFL premiership and our AFL assistant coach Ash Hansen has coached a VFL premiership.
"It is incredible to have these guys who have a strong belief in what our VFL program offers, and Jamie Maddox, who has been our head of development for the past two years, I haven't seen anyone better in that space and it is really a joint effort between he and I in getting this new-look VFL competition working well with our AFL program."
VFL TEAM OF THE YEAR
Charlie Dean (Wil) 9mt 14.8ds 7.3mk
Jack Leslie (Wil) 8mt 11.6ds 5.9mk
Damian Mascitti (Box) 10mt 22.9ds 5.1mk 6gl
Harvey Hooper (PM) 8mt 23.6ds 4.6mk 4gl
Jack Maibaum (Cob) 10mt 14.1ds 6.6mk
James Peatling (GWS) 11mt 23.1ds 7.0mk 3gl
Eli Templeton (PM) 9mt 31.2ds 7.1mk 5.6tk 10gl
Jai Newcombe (Box) 7mt 23.1ds 5mk 7tk 3gl
Nathan Freeman (Fra) 9mt 37.6ds 7.2mk 2gl
Jackson McLachlan (Gee) 9mt 17.8ds 9gl
Peter McEvoy (Cob, c) 10mt 12.1ds 6.5mk 22gl
James Parsons (Car) 9mt 21.0ds 4.2mk 9gl
Ben Crocker (Car) 9mt 14.8ds 8.3mk 29gl
Matt Hammelmann (Asp) 10mt 10.1ds 5.9mk 42gl
Vincent Adduci (Box) 9mt 17.3ds 13gl
Matt Lobbe (Wer) 9mt 13.9ds 4mk 33.9ho 3gl
Jacob Dawson (Sou) 10mt 34.7ds 6.6tk 5gl
Robbie McComb (Foo) 10mt 25.5ds 4.6mk 4.7tk 5gl
Matt Hanson (Wer) 9mt 28.6ds 4.4mk 5.1tk 5gl
Tom Wilson (NB) 10mt 24.2ds 6.7mk 2gl
James Munro (Cas) 9mt 21.2ds 8.9tk 6gl
Billy Gowers (Sou) 10mt 13.8ds 5.5mk 31gl
Flynn Appleby (NM) 8mt 17.1ds 6.3mk 1gl
Marcus Lentini (Cob) 10mt 34.5ds 3gl
COACH: Stewart Edge (Footscray)