Kicking off Grand Final week, AFL Broken Hill’s night of nights was held on Monday, and saw South captain Marc Purcell win the 2023 Lionel Johnston Medal and South midfielder Abby Stevens awarded the 2023 Jan Corey Medal as the best men’s and women’s players this season.
JAN COREY MEDAL
In the Jan Corey Medal count, it was a three-way race between Stevens, North’s Rebecca Deer, and last year’s runner-up, Central’s Ashleigh Anderson. Deer led the count after Round 5, two votes in front of Stevens.
Stevens shot ahead in the votes between Round 6 and Round 10 as Deer managed just two votes in that time that saw the South superstar lead by seven votes going into the final stretch of games.
Despite a strong finish from Deer, Stevens finished the count on 27 votes (ahead of Deer on 23 votes and Anderson on 14) to claim her first Jan Corey Medal.
“I’m lost for words. I honestly thought Rebecca Deer had it in the bag. I’m over the moon. It’s so much to take in,” Stevens – who also celebrated her 100th game this season – said after winning the award.
“I think it’s always in the back of your mind, but I didn’t think I would do as well as I did. I thought about it, but you can never be too confident with it.”
LIONEL JOHNSTON MEDAL
South and North who polled heavily in the early stages of the count, with Purcell chased by teammate and 2022 runner-up Cody Schorn, and North’s Luke Jones on the leaderboard too.
After Round 6, Purcell was two votes in front of Jones and by the end of Round 11 was on 23 votes – 10 votes ahead of Jones. But Schorn, the competition’s leading goalkicker, entered the race with 14 votes to his name.
The final few rounds saw Jones poll well, but Purcell held on to win with 24 votes (ahead of Jones on 18 and Schorn on 17) and claim his fourth Lionel Johnston Medal.
“Pretty overwhelmed, I didn’t really expect it. I thought it was definitely Cody Schorn’s year – he’s been outstanding, 97 goals in 10 games sort of it speaks for itself. And Luke Jones, I thought he’d be up there as well and he definitely played very well,” Purcell said.
“As cliche as it is, I put it down to just literally my teammates. It takes a village and it’s not just the teammates; everyone that enables you to play, it’s just as much theirs as it is mine.”
The Lionel Johnston Medallist’s coach, Craig Thomas, said his star player has worked hard over a number of years and deserves the accolades that come his way.
“I’m so happy for him. He’s worked so hard this year like he does every year. But this year, in my opinion, he was just fitter, he’s taken the game on a lot more, he’s kicking goals this year as well which has added to his strength and he’s just worked so hard all year, he’s deserved it so much and couldn’t be happier for him,” Thomas said.
Earlier in the night, Purcell also claimed the Mail Medal for a record seventh time – and sixth in a row – edging out fellow South player Anthony Murgatroyd who won six across the 1990s and 2000s.
“To even be in the same sentence as Anthony Murgatroyd is a massive compliment and something that hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Purcell said.
Both Stevens and Purcell will feature in this Saturday’s Grand Finals at Jubilee Oval. Stevens and her South teammates will take on North from 11am, while Purcell and his South side face West from 2.45pm.