HAWTHORN ball-magnet Tom Mitchell has capped off a remarkable 2018 by winning his first AFL Players' Association Most Valuable Player award. 

Mitchell tallied 773 votes, ahead of Carlton onballer Patrick Cripps (529) and Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn (412).

Last year's winner, Richmond superstar Dustin Martin, was fourth (304) while the Virgin Australia AFL All Australian captain, Sydney superstar Lance Franklin, finished fifth (291). 

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Mitchell averaged 35.7 disposals per game this year and set a record for the most in a single match with 54 against Collingwood in round one.

That wasn't the only time he hit the half-century, accumulating 50 against Greater Western Sydney in round 15.

In half of his matches, he notched up at least 40 disposals.

The 25-year-old played every game and amassed 786 disposals, just one short of the all-time mark he set last season.

Mitchell revealed he had drawn upon the experience of a dual Brownlow medallist who played with his father Barry at both Sydney and Carlton, especially in terms of dealing with close opposition attention.

"I've had a lot of people in my corner who have experienced similar things and gone through similar situations," Mitchell said.

"Greg Williams has been a bit of a mentor for me over the years, away from the footy club, and at the footy club, Brett Ratten's another one who, throughout his career, experienced it as well."

Ratten has been an assistant coach at Hawthorn for the past six seasons, but will join St Kilda once the Hawks' finals campaign is over.

Mitchell came up to receive his award from Cape Schanck, more than an hour south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, where the rest of his teammates are enjoying the Hawks' now-traditional pre-finals catch-up.

Bonding is the focus, rather than training.

"It's just a bit of a get-together in a new environment, talking about experiences and refelecting on the season. It's good to have each others' company," Mitchell said.

AFLPA president and 2016 MVP Patrick Dangerfield paid tribute to the Hawks star.

"Tom has been in rare touch this year, highlighted by his incredible ability to get from contest to contest and win a truckload of footy throughout the season," Dangerfield said.

"He may seem like an unassuming figure off the field but he is as competitive as anyone on the park.

"He's been the League's most consistent performer and a massive factor in Hawthorn's resurgence into a premiership contender."

The voting process sees each player nominate three teammates for the award, while each of the monthly MVPs are automatically eligible.

This meant West Coast forward Jack Darling was a nominee, despite not being selected as one of three Eagles who could win, after an injury-interrupted campaign.

Players then gave votes in the 3-2-1 style from that list but weren't allowed to pick their teammates.

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The most courageous award went to Greater Western Sydney co-captain Callan Ward, ahead of Western Bulldogs defender Dale Morris.

Best captain went to Richmond premiership skipper Trent Cotchin, while Tim Kelly's outstanding debut season was acknowledged after he was the runaway winner of the best first-year player award, ahead of Collingwood's Jaidyn Stephenson.

Dual Bulldogs best and fairest Marcus Bontempelli was named in the 22Under22 team for the fifth successive year, and was named captain.

Award winners

Leigh Matthews Trophy for the Most Valuable Player 
1. Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn) – 773
2. Patrick Cripps (Carlton) – 529
3. Max Gawn (Melbourne) – 412
4. Dustin Martin (Richmond) – 304
5. Lance Franklin (Sydney) – 291

Robert Rose Most Courageous Award, presented by the Movember Foundation
1. Callan Ward (GWS) – 129
2. Dale Morris (Western Bulldogs) – 115
3. Joel Selwood (Geelong) – 77
4. Kade Simpson (Carlton) – 73
5. Ben Stratton (Hawthorn) – 53 

Best First-Year Player Award, presented by The Line
1. Tim Kelly (Geelong) – 380
2. Jaidyn Stephenson (Collingwood) – 173
3. Cam Rayner (Brisbane) – 38
=4. Jack Higgins (Richmond) – 25
=4. Ed Richards (Western Bulldogs) – 25 

Best Captain, presented by the Vintage Football Jumper Company
1. Trent Cotchin (Richmond) – 249
=2. Shannon Hurn (West Coast) – 68
=2. Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood) – 68
4. Joel Selwood (Geelong) – 51
5. Callan Ward (GWS) – 42

AFLPA 22Under22 team for 2018
Alex Witherden (BL), Harris Andrews (BL), Andrew McGrath (Ess)
HB: Conor McKenna (Ess), Tom Doedee (Adel), Jayden Short (Rich)
C: Angus Brayshaw (Melb), Clayton Oliver (Melb, v-capt.), Isaac Heeney (Syd)
HF: Jade Gresham (StK), Charlie Curnow (Carl), Jordan De Goey (Coll)
F: Ben Ronke (Syd), Eric Hipwood (BL), Jaidyn Stephenson (Coll)
Foll: Sean Darcy (Frem), Marcus Bontemptelli (WB, capt.), Zach Merrett (Ess)
I/C: Ed Langdon (Frem), Christian Petracca (Melb), Tom Phillips (Coll), Dan Butler (Rich)