Dane Swan (left), the winner of the AFL Players Association's Most Valuable Player award, is congratulated by AFL legend Leigh Matthews, after whom the trophy is named. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
DANE Swan has dethroned Gary Ablett as the AFL's most valuable player, in the eyes of his peers at least, ending the three-year hold the Geelong champion had on the award.
Accepting the trophy last night that has been won by only one other Collingwood player - the late Darren Millane, who was recognised in the Magpies' last premiership year of 1990 - Swan said he felt humbled.
"The respect that the players have for this award is enormous, and as the only player-voted awards it is one of the highest honours you can receive in this game.
"It is very humbling and a great honour to win this award voted by my fellow players,'' he said at a function held at Melbourne's casino, which could yet prove the precursor to a bigger win on Brownlow Medal night in a fortnight.
The past eight winners of the AFLPA's Leigh Matthews' trophy have gone on to play that year's grand final, and the majority have played in winning sides.
Swan took out the award convincingly, polling 972 votes to beat Hawk Luke Hodge, with 603 votes.
Ablett was third with 562 votes, ahead of Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands (279) , and Cat Joel Selwood (166).
The award's criteria recognises versatility, skill, leadership, respect for teammates and the opposition, and the ability to play under pressure.
There are two steps to the voting process. Initially, every listed AFL player gives 3, 2 or 1 votes to three of their teammates. Those votes are then tallied to provide three nominations from each club. That list of 48 players is then disseminated to every playing group, and each player votes again on a 3, 2, 1 basis.
Hodge was rated the most courageous player in the league this year, ahead of Selwood and St Kilda's Lenny Hayes.
Fremantle's Michael Barlow won a clear majority of votes in the best first-year-player award, despite the fact he was cut down by injury in round 14.
Swan has averaged 31.9 disposals a game in his eighth season, and in round 22 became the first player in history to gather 30 possessions, or more, in 11 consecutive matches.
TAB Sportsbet has Swan Brownlow Medal favourite $2.50, ahead of Ablett ($4) and Hodge ($9). Sandilands is seventh favourite and Selwood 12th.