By Jess Webster, neafl.com.au
Aspley champion Matthew Payne has stormed home to claim an unprecedented third NEAFL MVP trophy and further strengthen his incredible legacy in the competition.
Payne, who turns 33 next month, sealed victory at the end of Round 20 following nine votes against Redland, finishing first ahead of Sydney ruckman Darcy Cameron.
Payne sat second on the leaderboard behind Canberra’s Mitch Maguire at the end of Round 16 when voting became withheld from the public.
He polled four votes in Round 17 to assume the lead again, but he certainly had some competition.
Another twist came the following round when Southport midfielder Josh Clayton hit the lead for the first time after polling the maximum 10 votes against Canberra.
But Payne hit back with 17 votes in the next two weeks, sealing his fate with one round left to play.
He added six more votes in the final round against Canberra to add icing on the cake, becoming the first player in NEAFL history to surpass 400 career votes at an impressive average of 3.2 per game.
As co-captain of the Hornets, Payne polled MVP votes in 15 of his 18 matches – seven times polling eight or more votes – whilst averaging 29 disposals, 4.5 inside 50s and over six clearances per game.
It adds to his NEAFL MVP triumphs in 2014 (inaugural winner) and 2016 to ensure he goes down as arguably the competition’s greatest ever player.
Together with his NEAFL Northern Conference Grogan Medal in the competition’s inaugural 2011 season, it means Payne has been crowned the NEAFL’s best player in four of the seven seasons he has played.
Cameron, whose dominant NEAFL form earned an AFL debut this year, made a stunning run for the award in the finals rounds, polling 39 votes out of a possible 40 in the final four weeks to finish runner-up on 87 votes.
Clayton (84 votes), Maguire (80), Craig Bird and Andrew Boston (76 each) rounded out the top five.
2018 NEAFL MVP FINAL LEADERBOARD
95: Matthew Payne (Aspley)
87: Darcy Cameron (Sydney)
84: Josh Clayton (Southport)
80: Mitch Maguire (Canberra)
76: Craig Bird (Sydney Uni)
76: Andrew Boston (Southport)
57: Michael Barlow (Gold Coast)
56: Andrew Swallow (Aspley)
55: Abraham Ankers (NT Thunder)
50: Alex Smout (Canberra)
NEAFL RISING STAR
Canberra midfielder Mitch Maguire claimed the 2018 NEAFL Rising Star Award after a stunning breakout season for the Demons.
The 20-year-old Riverina product was a heavy favourite to claim the award after a season where he averaged 27 disposals and five clearances per game.
Maguire polled the most MVP votes for his club and was a key instigator in Canberra sealing a maiden finals berth in 2018.
NEAFL TEAM OF THE YEAR
The coveted NEAFL Team of the Year was also announced at the awards ceremony, with Sydney University and Aspley leading the way with four players from those clubs included.
Southport coach Stephen Daniel was named Coach of the Year, and Aspley midfielder Matthew Payne named captain.
2018 NEAFL Team of the Year
B: Ryan Hebron (Sydney University) Adrian Williams (Redland) Colin O’Riordan (Sydney)
HB: Cameron Ilett (NT Thunder) Liam Dawson (Brisbane) Adam Gulden (Sydney University)
C: Josh Clayton (Southport) Matthew Payne (Aspley) Ben Warren (Aspley)
HF: Mitch Hardie (Canberra) Jackson Paine (Redland) Michael Manteit (Southport)
F: Tom Wilkinson (Southport) Matt Hammelmann (Redland) Tom Young (Sydney University)
Foll: Darcy Cameron (Sydney) Andrew Swallow (Aspley) Mitch Maguire (Canberra)
Inter: Jake Spencer (Aspley) Abraham Ankers (NT Thunder) Jacob Dawson (Gold Coast) Aidan Bonar (GIANTS) Craig Bird (Sydney University)
Coach: Stephen Daniel (Southport)
Captain: Matt Payne (Aspley)
NEAFL Mark and Goal of the Year
Sydney University forward Damien Bonney claimed the NEAFL Goal of the Year for his huge bomb against Sydney at the SCG in Round 9, where he played on from earning a free kick for holding ball, and letting go from 60m from the boundary.
NT Thunder livewire Liam Patrick took home the Mark of the Year for his spectacular effort against Redland in Round 14.
NEAFL Leading Goalkicker Award
Redland spearhead Matt Hammelmann won his first NEAFL Leading Goalkicker Trophy after finishing with 60 goals for the season. Hammelmann was on top of the leaderboard for most of the season, edging out five-time winner Darren Ewing by eight goals to win the award.
NEAFL Umpires of the Year
The NEAFL Umpires of the Year were awarded to Taylor Mattoli (goal), Alex Donoghue (boundary), and joint field umpire winners Andrew Adair and Nic McGinness.
Photo: TJ Yelds/NEAFL.
This story first appeared here.