Although not capped off with the ultimate prize, Josh Kennedy’s magnificent September/October has been recognised with the first ever Gary Ayres Award. The Award struck by the AFL Coaches Association, named after one of the games’ most decorated players, to reward the player of the AFL Finals Series.
Related Articles: Recognition of Finals Excellence – The Gary Ayres Award
In announcing Kennedy as the winner, AFLCA CEO Mark Brayshaw pointed to his consistency as proof of his deserved victory. “Josh’s performance in the Grand Final was wonderful, but he’s the inaugural winner of our Gary Ayres Award because he polled votes in three of the Swans’ four finals. He’s had a mighty September of football and is a deserved winner,” he said.
One vote was his after picking himself off the mat following a heavy hit from Stevie Johnson in the Qualifying Final. A herculean Semi Final, where he helped himself to 42 disposals and 10 clearances, saw him awarded a perfect 10 score for the game with both coaches judging him best on ground.
Curtailed a little in the second half, Kennedy’s first was outstanding, his performance a major factor in the Swans slender half time lead. His 34 disposals and 3 goals enough for the coaches to award him seven votes, which was enough for him to claim the award by one vote from Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen, and Isaac Heeney two votes further back.
Luke Beveridge and John Longmire’s votes for Grand Final day in the end were very similar to the Norm Smith judges. Johannisen’s mighty performance, which included 33 touches and nine inside 50’s, almost saw him claim the Gary Ayres Award too. It would have been fitting in a lot of ways for the young pup to claim the prize. If not just that his unique hair stylings would be befitting of a winner of an award named after a man with the most resplendent head of hair.
Heeney’s remarkable debut season continued into his first finals campaign. Heading into the Grand Final he was the favourite to win the award, but he can hold his head high being judged the third most influential player of the finals series. The Bulldogs remarkable September reflected in Ayres Award voting with Liam Picken, Luke Dahlhaus, Caleb Daniel and Clay Smith all joining Johannisen in the Top 10.
At its unveiling, 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.”
In time, this will prove to be the case as players seek to emulate Josh Kennedy’s 2016 and be adjudged Player of the Finals Series. The Gary Ayres Award will soon be both a highly considered and coveted line on a Players CV.
Gary Ayres Medal Voting
18 – Josh Kennedy (SYD)
17 – Jason Johannisen (WB)
15 – Isaac Heeney (SYD)
14 – Liam Picken (WB)
12 – Joel Selwood (Gee)
10 – Eddie Betts (Ade)
10 – Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
10 – Luke Dahlhaus (WB)
10 – Caleb Daniel (WB)
10 – Clay Smith (WB)
For those of you interested in those kind of things below you will find the votes from each final to date:
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)
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)
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)
Syd v WB
9 – Johannisen (WB)
8 – Boyd (WB)
7 – Kennedy (Syd)
2 – Picken (WB)
2 – Wood (WB)
1 – Hamling (WB)
1 – Macrae (WB)