Recognition of Finals Excellence – The Gary Ayres Award


The Premiership Cup, Premiership Medals, Jock McHale Medal and Norm Smith Medal are awards that most people would know are up for grabs this Saturday. Did you know there is another that will be awarded after the AFL Grand Final? That’s right folks the Premiership decider will also determine the first ever Gary Ayres Award with the winner to be announced on Monday.


Inaugurated this year by the AFL Coaches Association, the Award is to be awarded to the best finals performer this season and recognise one of the games great big game performers. Ayres a five-time Premiership player was the first to win the Norm Smith Medal twice.


The incredibly maned Ayres was best a field in the Hawks Premiership wins of 1986 and 1988. Poised and assured he was unbeatable in both games. In 1986 he had the task of minding David Rhys-Jones who had towelled Hawthorn up in the Second Semi-Final. In one of the great Grand Final performances he completely eclipsed the Blues’ star while helping himself to 23 touches and a goal.


In the Hawks 1988 demolition of Melbourne, despite a first quarter cheek bone fracture, Ayres stood tall again. Blanketing Greg Healy, Ayres was a driving force for Hawthorn, rebounding the ball out of defence. As solid as oak consistent and durable, Ayres was a September specialist, officially listed as one of Hawthorn’s best in 11 of his 28 finals.

At the Awards unveiling it was announced that it was to be decided similarly to the AFLCA Player of the Year Award. At the end of each final both coaches award 5-4-3-2-1 votes to the five players they deem the best on ground.  AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw spoke of Ayres and the prestige he expected to develop around the award named in his honour. “We’re pleased to initiate the Gary Ayres Award for the best finals player in the 2016 finals series, in recognition of a former AFL coach who was also one of the all-time great grand finalists,” Brayshaw said “We believe the Gary Ayres Award will be an honour to win and will quickly become a well-regarded part of the finals series.”

With three rounds of finals played Swans Rookie Isaac Heeney is the favourite to win the award with Liam Picken and Josh Kennedy the next best chances of the 12 players still in the running. Below are all the players still able to claim the first Gary Ayres Award.


Gary Ayres Medal Leaderboard

15 – Isaac Heeney (SYD)
12 – Liam Picken (WB)
11 – Josh Kennedy (SYD)
10 – Luke Dahlhaus (WB)
10 – Caleb Daniel (WB)
10 – Clay Smith (WB)
9 – Dane Rampe (SYD)
8 – Jason Johannisen (WB)
8 – Jack Macrae (WB)
8 – Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
6 – Lance Franklin (SYD)
6 – Nick Smith (SYD)

On Monday the tradition will truly commence and a worthy winner will receive an award that will quickly become highly valued. Individually, to be deemed the best player in the finals will be an honour hard to top.

For those of you interested in those kind of things below you will find the votes from each final to date:

Week 1:

WCE v WB                        Gee v Haw                        Syd v GWS                        Ade v NM

10 – Daniel (WB)             8 – J. Selwood (Gee)       10 – Cameron (GWS)      10 – Betts (Ade)

6 – Dahlhaus (WB)          6 – Lewis (Haw)               7 – Coniglio (GWS)          8 – Smith (Ade)

4 – Picken (WB)               5 – Blicavs (Gee)              7 – Whitfield (GWS)        5 – Lynch (Ade)

3 – Hamling (WB)            5 – Guthrie (Gee)            2 – Hannebury (Syd)       5 – Walker (Ade)

3 – Johannisen (WB)      3 – Burgoyne (Haw)        2 – Smith (GWS)              1 – Crouch (Ade)

2 – Hunter (WB)              2 – Bruest (Haw)             1 – Kennedy (Syd)           1 – Talia (Ade)

2 – Liberatore (WB)        1 – Dangerfield (Gee)


Week 2:

Haw v WB                        Syd v Ade

8 – Bontempelli (WB)     10 – Kennedy (Syd)

8 – Macrae (WB)             7 – Heeney (Syd)

8 – Picken (WB)               6 – Smith (Syd)

4 – Burgoyne (Haw)        3 – Hannebury (Syd)

1 – Dunkley (WB)            2 – Franklin (Syd)

1 – Liberatore (WB)        2 – Papley (Syd)


Week 3:

Gee v Syd                         GWS v WB

9 – Rampe (Syd)              10 – Smith (WB)

8 – Heeney (Syd)             5 – Johannisen (WB)

4 – Franklin (Syd)            4 – Dahlhaus (WB)

4 – Mitchell (Syd)            4 – Dickson (WB)

4 – J. Selwood (Gee)       3 – Scully (GWS)

1 – Dangerfield (Gee)     2 – Shiel (GWS)

1 – Greene (GWS)

1 – Haynes (GWS)

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