YOUNG superstar Sam Walsh has tonight claimed his first John Nicholls Medal, capping a superb 2021 season.
Polling 183 votes, the gun midfielder was announced as the Club’s 2021 best-and-fairest player after finishing just 11 votes clear of reigning club champion Jacob Weitering (172 votes) and the season’s Coleman Medallist Harry McKay (118 votes) in Thursday night’s virtual event.
Following his second-place finish in 2020, the 21-year-old took out the top honour in addition to receiving the Bill Lanyon Inner Blue Ruthless Award, recognising his bravery, resilience and commitment each week.
Walsh also claimed the Carltonians William A. Cook Trophy after the Club’s longest serving and premier match-day coterie voted him the Blues’ best and fairest for the second year running.
Walsh’s award-laden evening came as no surprise with the young gun’s 2021 season affording him 30 Brownlow votes with a fourth-place finish in the League’s esteemed vote count, a sixth-place finish in the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year, his first All-Australian blazer and his third consecutive call-up as well as being made captain of the AFLPA’s 22under22 side.
Featuring in every game again this season and notching up his 50th match in Round 12, Walsh dominated on the wing with just shy of a 30-disposal average and 12 goals, proving his unmatched impact and influence among the Navy Blue outfit as he ranked No.1 at the Club for tackles, uncontested possessions and score involvements.
Trailing Walsh by only five votes to finish runner-up, last year’s John Nicholls Medallist Jacob Weitering consolidated his career-best season as one of the Blues’ most reliable, once again.
Named in the 40-person All-Australian squad for the second straight year, the star full back carried his 2020 form into his sixth season, as reliable as ever in one-on-one contests while he averaged eight spoils per game and ranked elite among key defenders for rebound 50s and metres gained.
The 23-year-old joined Walsh in taking home multiple honours on Thursday evening as the recipient of the Coaches Award and the Most Valuable Bluebagger Award.
Winning the 2021 Coleman Medal and standing alongside Walsh in the 2021 All Australian team, McKay’s third-place finish saw him take to the Navy Blue podium for the first time.
Kicking 58 goals across 19 appearances this season, the 23-year-old hit the scoreboard in all but one match where he was subbed out early against West Coast in Round 12.
With a career-high seven-goal haul in Round 3, the stage was set early for a dangerous season up forward for McKay who ranked No.1 in the competition for marks inside 50 and contested marks per game.
Carlton Head of Football Brad Lloyd acknowledged the significance of the accolade for Walsh who was destined to enter the Club’s best and fairest ranks.
“When Sam was drafted to our football club in 2018 he was determined to succeed and make an impact in the Navy Blue and tonight serves as recognition for doing just that,” Lloyd said.
“What he has achieved in his career to date is extraordinary and becoming a John Nicholls Medallist marks another very special moment for him, which we and the whole Carlton family should be extremely proud of.
“While he is an undeniable talent, it has been extremely rewarding for our entire football club to see him continue to progress over the course of the last three years and enjoy another prolific season.
“He has worked unbelievably hard to become the player that he is, and after getting extremely close last year, we are thrilled that Sam has been duly recognised tonight.
“Once again Jacob was outstanding for us this season, putting his body on the line each week and commissioning our back half while curtailing the competition’s best forwards.
“Consistently demonstrating our team values to the highest standard, he continues to thrive from a leadership perspective and his hunger to grow and progress in his role is inspiring for all of our players.
“Harry took a big leap forward in his game this year and as an emerging leader of our group.
“To win the Coleman Medal at just 23 years of age is a significant achievement for him as is finishing third this evening.
“The professionalism he has shown towards developing his craft is a great reflection of the person he is and his desire to succeed at our football club, which was further endorsed when he recommitted to the Club earlier in the year.
“Sam, Jacob and Harry are all held in extremely high regard at our football club and their undeniable talent and efforts on the field are equally matched by their contributions to our culture.
“Their leadership, driven by their team and Carlton-first mentalities make them vital members of our playing group and we look forward to them continuing to drive our high standards, while progressing their own games with their best footy still on the horizon.”
Rounding out the top 10 in the count was co-captain Patrick Cripps (112) in fourth place, followed by Ed Curnow (100), Adam Saad (97), Lachie Plowman (86), Liam Jones (80), Eddie Betts (75) and Jack Silvagni (71).
The 10th-placed Silvagni, who enjoyed a breakout season averaging 13 disposals, five marks and a total of five goals across 15 games, took home the Spirit of Carlton Award, receiving acclaim for his relentless effort in demonstrating the true spirit of the Carlton Football Club both on and off the field.
Liam Stocker was recognised for his growth across his third year at the elite level with the Best Young Player Award. Featuring in 17 games in 2021, the 21-year-old secured his spot in the senior line up after managing five games in his debut season in 2019, averaging14 disposals and ranking first among the League’s rising stars for rebound 50s.
Recognised for his impact and contribution both on and off the field, the recently re-signed Marc Pittonet was named Best Clubman.
2021 John Nicholls Medal leaderboard:
- Sam Walsh 183 votes
- Jacob Weitering 172 votes
- Harry McKay 118 votes
- Patrick Cripps 112 votes
- Ed Curnow 100 votes
- Adam Saad 97 votes
- Lachie Plowman 86 votes
- Liam Jones 80 votes
- Eddie Betts 75 votes
- Jack Silvagni 71 votes
2021 award winners:
- The Carltonians William A. Cook Trophy: Sam Walsh
- Spirit of Carlton Award: Jack Silvagni
- Bill Lanyon Inner Blue Ruthless Award: Sam Walsh
- Best Young Player Award: Liam Stocker
- Best Clubman Award: Marc Pittonet
- Coaches Award: Jacob Weitering
- Most Valuable Bluebagger Award: Jacob Weitering