MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Sam Walsh of the Blues in action during the 2023 AFL First Elimination Final match between the Carlton Blues and the Sydney Swans at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 08, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Carlton gun Sam Walsh has earned his just rewards following a stellar September after being announced as the AFL Coaches Association's Best Finals Player for the 2023 season.

In earning the honour, the former No.1 draftee takes home the Gary Ayres Award, awarded to the player that accrued the highest number of coaches votes throughout the course of the finals period.

Despite his Blues falling at the season's penultimate hurdle following a preliminary final loss to the Lions, Walsh (23 votes) proved able to hold off Brisbane backman Keidean Coleman (20.5) and this season's Norm Smith medallist Bobby Hill (19)

Across the course of his three finals outings against Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane respectively, Walsh had the footy on a string, averaging 32 disposals and four clearances.

The Geelong Falcons product even proved potent in front of goal, bagging a brace during the Blues' lid-lifting semi-final win over the Demons before a heaving MCG crowd.

While Walsh is yet to comment on the honour, the ball magnet's coach, Michael Voss, heaped praise on the 23-year-old, claiming the youngster had lived up to his early billing.

“Performing on the big stage comes back to preparation, and there are few players I have seen who do that to the level of Sam Walsh,” Voss told Blues Media.

“As a group we spoke about ‘wanting the moment' and Sam certainly did that. The focus often goes to what he was able to do with ball-in-hand, however, it is his selflessness that we truly value. His defensive work, what he does to make his teammates better – he leads from the front in those areas.

“His leadership when the pressure was at its highest was also another shining light in his performance, which is something he should be proud of and can build on moving forward.

“Sam is not a player who dwells on personal accolades but to be named the competition's best finals player, in your very first finals series, is an achievement that deserves to be acknowledged: no doubt every Carlton person is proud of what Sam was able to do.”


23 votes Sam Walsh CARL
20.5 Keidean Coleman BL
19 Bobby Hill COLL
17 Tom Green GWS
16 Jack Crisp COLL
12 Josh Kelly GWS
10 Stephen Coniglio GWS
10 Jordan De Goey COLL
10 Josh Dunkley BL
10 Hugh McCluggage BL
9 Blake Acres CARL
9 Nick Daicos COLL
8.5 Joe Daniher BL
8 Max Gawn MELB
8 Jesse Hogan GWS
8 Steven May MELB
8 Isaac Quaynor COLL
8 Lachie Whitfield GWS
7 Connor Idun GWS
5 Tom McCartin SYD