The winner of the 2018 AFL Coaches Association Gary Ayres Award for best player in the AFL Finals series is Steele Sidebottom of the Collingwood Football Club.
Sidebottom’s scintillating form throughout the AFL Finals Series helped carry his side into their first Grand Final since 2011. A run of huge matches, which peaked in a 41 disposal and 13 mark preliminary final master class against Richmond, saw Sidebottom finish September on 23 votes from the coaches, five ahead of teammate Taylor Adams (18 votes), and six head of West Coast Eagles midfielder Jack Redden (17 votes).
Despite a disappointing outcome in the 2018 AFL Grand Final, Sidebottom’s performances showed a grit and determination to succeed that has been a trademark across his career.
“I congratulate Steele on a fantastic season and finals series. When I heard that he’d won I immediately thought he was a very worth winner. ” Gary Ayres said.
West Coast defeated Collingwood by five points in the 2018 Toyota AFL Grand Final, in one of the closest results in recent history. Huge performances from Norm Smith medalist Luke Shuey (10 votes), and winning goal kicker Dom Sheed (eight votes), helped get the Eagles over the line in the end.
Shuey had one of the great finals games, collecting 34 disposals, nine clearances, laying eight tackles and kicking a goal to be named the unanimous best afield by the coaches.
It was Sheed’s last minute set-shot from a difficult angle that proved to be the final blow in a game that the Magpies lead for the majority, and despite spirited efforts from Taylor Adams (six votes) and Tom Langdon (two votes), it wasn’t to be the Magpies’ day.
The Gary Ayres Award is presented in recognition of the player who has been adjudged as the best player throughout the AFL Finals Series, as voted by the Coaches on a weekly basis throughout the duration of the AFL Finals Series. Votes for the Gary Ayres Award are issued after every game of the AFL Finals series by the competing coaches, with each coach providing their 5-4-3-2-1 for the match. The award was first introduced by the AFLCA for the 2016 season, and is named in honour of one of the game’s great finals players.