Sam Walsh Makes Finals History Twice, Bags Gary Ayres Award


In a spectacle that will go down in history, Carlton stand out, Sam Walsh, established his dominance in finals history, not once, but twice, with astonishing September performances sure to ramp up hopes that the Blues will sprint one stage beyond in the 2024 season.

On his maiden venture into the finals, Walsh had the distinguished honour of being the first player to receive the Gary Ayres medal for his superior performance. This remarkable achievement was made all the more impressive as he didn’t even reach the grand final.

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Despite coming back from a hamstring injury only in Round 24, Walsh, known for his ball-possession prowess, snagged 23 votes out of a possible 30 across three games, an accomplishment endorsed by the coaches themselves.

Walsh ended his robust campaign with a comfortable lead of 2.5 votes over Brisbane’s protector, Keidean Coleman, second in line for the Norm Smith medal on the grand final day, and Collingwood’s prodigy, Bobby Hill crowned with the medal, came in third.

Carlton coach, Michael Voss, showered Walsh with accolades, praising his exuding charisma in the team’s semi-final victory over Melbourne where he demonstrated his skills with 32 disposals and two admirable goals. Walsh, he said, was born for September.

“Skillful grand stage performance comes down to meticulous preparation and very few players have I seen match the dedication shown by Sam Walsh,” said Voss. “We had vehement discussions about ‘seizing the moment’ and Sam resoundingly did just that. While his ball-in-hand capability often snags the spotlight, we highly esteem his spirit of selflessness, his defensive prowess and the manner in which he lifts up his fellow teammates, leading them from the front.”

Voss further illuminated on the leadership traits of Walsh, whose confidence remained unwavering even when pressure soared to its peak, throwing light on this virtuous display in his performance, something he can take great pride in and develop moving forward.

Despite his calm demeanor and not being one to wallow in personal recognition, winning the competition’s best finals player title, in his very first finals series, is quite an accomplishment that warrants celebration. Voss assures that each member of the Carlton team is extremely proud of what Sam was able to achieve.

Four-time premiership coach and AFL legend Leigh Matthews extolled the coaches’ votes as holding the highest integrity of all awards post Brownlow medal, adding even more weight to Walsh’s victory.

In his inaugural finals campaign, Walsh has now added the Gary Ayres Award to his already impressive array of honours, which include the 2019 AFL Rising Star, 2019 AFLPA Best First-Year Player, 2020 AFLCA Best Young Player, 2021 club best and fairest and All-Australian accolades.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.