Cobden export Sam Walsh has been awarded one of the AFL's highest individual honours, taking out the coveted 2023 Gary Ayres Medal.
The star Carlton midfielder, who grew up in the south-west, was recognised as the AFL's best finals player after a brilliant series for the Blues who reached a preliminary final.
The award, which is voted on by the AFL coaches and named after Ayres - a five-time VFL-AFL premiership player - adopts the same voting as the Champion Player of the Year Award with competing coaches handing in votes on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis after each finals match
Walsh, who already has a stacked football resume with an All Australian gong in 2021 and a club best and fairest, is the first player to win the award despite his team not playing in the grand final.
Across the three-week finals campaign, the Hampden league product averaged an impressive 32 disposals, seven tackles, eight inside 50s and four clearances to dominate through the midfield.
Carlton coach Michael Voss told carltonfc.com.au it was a testament to Walsh's high standards.
"Performing on the big stage comes back to preparation, and there are few players I have seen who do that to the level of Sam Walsh," he said.
"As a group we spoke about 'wanting the moment' and Sam certainly did that. The focus often goes to what he was able to do with ball-in-hand, however it is his selflessness that we truly value. His defensive work, what he does to make his teammates better - he leads from the front in those areas.
"His leadership when the pressure was at its highest was also another shining light in his performance, which is something he should be proud of and can build on moving forward.
"Sam is not a player who dwells on personal accolades but to be named the competition's best finals player, in your very first finals series, is an achievement that deserves to be acknowledged: no doubt every Carlton person is proud of what Sam was able to do."
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