The winner of the 2020 Shadforth Financial Group AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player is Sam Walsh of the Carlton Football Club.
Walsh, the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NAB AFL Draft lived up to the hype in his first season of AFL in 2019, breaking the record for the most disposals in a debut season and was rewarded with multiple accolades, becoming Carlton’s first NAB AFL Rising Star winner, while also taking out the AFL Players’ Association’s Best First-Year Player award.
Following his impressive first year in the Navy Blue, Walsh was inducted into Carlton’s leadership group ahead of his second season.
This season the 20-year old took his game to another level, flourishing in a new role on the wing where he averaged 20 disposals per game and kicked 8 goals to add to his career total of 14.
Walsh received 64 votes from the AFL coaches during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, polling 30 votes between Rounds 12-18 to finish 31 votes ahead of runner up Port Adelaide's dynamic forward Connor Rozee (33 votes). Third place went to Western Bulldogs young gun Bailey Smith on 27 votes.
Walsh was honoured to win the 2020 Shadforth Financial Group AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player Award.
“It’s a huge honour. I’ve had great support from my teammates and my coaches all year and to get that recognition from coaches outside the club is also a big honour. I’d like to thank my teammates and everyone who has supported me along the way” said Walsh.
“The best thing about our coaching group is that they know what our strengths are and to play to those strengths. That’s what I’ve been able to do this year and along with a lot of my teammates, if we can keep on developing that synergy it can be really positive for us going into the pre-season”.
Carlton coach David Teague praised Walsh’s efforts in being recognised by the coaches.
“Sam’s effort, his work rate and the way he goes about it, he deserves this recognition. He takes great pride in his own performance and making sure that it is at a high level, but he is also an exceptional teammate,” said Teague.
“Sam is willing to work hard for his teammates and his football club week in and week out. That is why he is held in high regard, not only within our club but by the coaches across the competition”.
AFL Coaches Association CEO Mark Brayshaw joined in congratulating Walsh on his first two seasons in the AFL which has seen him crowned the 2020 Shadforth Financial Group AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player.
“What an incredible first two seasons of AFL Sam has played. To be recognised so highly by the coaches is a real honour,” said Brayshaw.
"That Sam has earned 64 votes in the first two years of his AFL career is a wonderful endorsement. He should be very proud to have been judged the Best Young Player by the AFL coaches in 2020 and we look forward to seeing his career go from strength to strength".
The AFL Coaches Association Best Young Player of the Year Award is presented in recognition of the player based on performances in his first two seasons of AFL Football and is determined by the weekly votes of the AFL coaches.
Previous winners include Tim Kelly, Tom Stewart, Clayton Oliver, Scott Pendlebury, Joel Selwood and Brownlow medallists Chris Judd and Nathan Fyfe.