Matthew Payne

Monday, 5 September, 2011

Southport rover Matthew Payne joined Queensland football royalty tonight when he shared the 2011 Grogan Medal with Northern Territory Thunder midfielder Cameron Ilett.

Payne (pictured), who also won Queensland’s highest individual honor playing with the Zillmere Eagles in 2006, became the 13th dual winner and only the second player to win the medal with two different clubs.

In a night of sensations, Ilett became the first Thunder player to pick up a Grogan Medal, awarded this year to the player judged Best & Fairest in the Northern Conference of the new North East Australian Football League.

Payne and Ilett scraped home by one vote from Broadbeach rover Dayne Zorko after Aspley’s Micah Buchanan topped the vote-count by two but was ineligible to win the award due to suspension.

In other major awards announced at the annual end-of-season award dinner at the Gabba:-

  • Zorko won the Syd Guildford Trophy as the Football Record Player of the Year (see separate story).
  • NT forward Ross Tungatalum won the NAB Northern Conference Rising Star Award (see separate story).
  • Rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt was included in the Queensland Team of the Year (see separate story).
  • Ilett completed a special family double when he was named captain of the Northern Conference Team of the Year (see separate story).
  • Popular AFLQ employee and former Grogan Medalist Robbie Hull received an AFL Merit Award in recognition of his life-time service to the game.
  • Andrew Stephens was named Northern Conference Umpire of the Year from former AFL umpire Jason Baldwin.
  • The elevation of Southport icon Dr Alan Mackenzie to ‘legend’ status in the Queensland Football Hall of Fame, announced earlier in the season, was formalised.

The Grogan Medal count dominated by four players. Buchanan polled 25 votes, Payne and Ilett 23, and Zorko 22.

Had Buchanan not been ineligible he would have won with a best afield three-vote effort in the final round, when he finished up in hospital following a sickening collision with Mt.Gravatt’s Albert Proud.

Play was delayed for 20 minutes in the fourth quarter of the match as an ambulance was brought onto the field to take care of the younger brother of Sydney Swans premiership player and Brisbane Lions recruit Amon Buchanan.

But with Buchanan out of the running, Ilett polled one vote in the final round against Labrador to finish level with Payne.

Gold Coast Suns’ Harley Bennell, who only played seven NEAFL games, polled votes in six of them to finish fifth with 14 votes.

NT’s Ray Hughson Medalist Darren Ewing, also ineligible due suspension, polled 13 votes to share sixth spot on the leaderboard with Morningside’s Nathan Kinch, while Labrador’s Ryan Davey and Mt.Gravatt’s Proud rounded out the top 10 with 12 votes and a share of ninth spot.

The only other players to reach double figures were the Brisbane Lions’ Amon Buchanan (11), Morningside’s Paul Shelton (11), Redland skipper Phil Carse (10) and NT’s Karl Lohde (10).

Payne’s shared victory sees him join David Round, who won the Grogan Medal with Southport in 2002 and Broadbeach in 2005, as the only player to win the award at two clubs.

Other dual winners have been Western Districts’ Doug Pittard (1946-47), Morningside’s Noel McGuinness (1953-54), Wilston-Grange’s Keith Leach (1961-62), Kedron’s Tom Gould (1963-65), Wests’ Owen Backwell (1971-75), Grange’s Barry Clarke (1972-76), Sandgate’s Don Smith (1973-79), Coorparoo’s Brendan McMullen (1984-86), Southport’s Jason Cotter (1990-93), Morningside’s Daryl Bourke (1989-93) and Southport’s David Bain (1995-99).

Payne’s win could so easily have made him the first triple Grogan Medalist – the 178cm tearaway finished equal third in his first season in the competition in 2005, and was equal second behind Labrador’s Todd Featherstone in 2007 and Morningside’s Kinch in 2009.

But it might not be too late for him to make further history – he’ll only turn 26 on 15 September.

Originally from Rosebud in Victoria, Payne is the son of ex-Morningside player John Payne and the nephew of former Zillmere and Queensland speedster Jimmy Payne.

He played at Zillmere from 2005-08, and after spending 2009 with Sturt in the SANFL, where he was a member of a losing grand final side, he was snapped up by Southport following Zilmere’s exit from the QAFL.

He also has in his trophy cabinet the Syd Guildford Trophy he won as the Football Record Player of the Year in 2006 and the Zane Taylor Medal he won in the same year when judged Queensland’s best player against ACT.

Ilett’s Grogan Medal win came after he finished fifth in the corresponding award and won the Guildford Trophy last year.

Winner of the Thunder B&F in 2009-10 and seemingly set for a third win this year, he is a Darwin product and was a stand-out with Belconnen for several seasons in the AFL Canberra League.

Has also played with distinction with St Mary’s in the NTFL, representing the NT against North Adelaide in 2006, had a stint with the Port Adelaide Magpies in the SANFL, and has been a star for Queensland against Tasmania and WA in 2010-11.

The Payne/Ilett tie was the 10th in Grogan Medal history, and the first since 1999.

There have been three triple dead heats between Morningside’s Terry Johnson, Grange’s Ken Garcia and Zillmere’s Terry Weller (1969), Southport’s Chris O’Sullivan and David Crutchfield and Morningside’s Rick Champion (1992), and Bourke, Cotter and Grange’s Dean Warren (1993).

The other six two-way ties have involved Pittard and Yeronga’s Fred Willets (1947), Coorparoo’s Tom Calder and Sandgate’s Edgar Stevens (1950), Kedron’s Merv Dihm and Grange’s Jim Conlon (1960), Southport’s Peter Guy and Sherwood’s Bill Peirce (1983), McMullen and Kedron’s Greg Packham (1986), and Bain and Mt.Gravatt’s Brad Jones (1999).

It was a race in four from very early on in the count.

Zorko, who had received some compensation for his narrow defeat earlier in the night by winning the Syd Guildford Trophy, was first to stamp his mark on the count. He opened 3-3-0-2, judged best afield against Southport and Aspley before collecting two votes against Morningside.

After four rounds he led the race with eight votes from Proud, who posted back-to-back three-vote hauls against Southport and ACT-based Queanbeyan in Rounds 2-3.

Ilett, who was unable to attend the function at the Gabba due to work commitments in outback NT,  pulled to within a vote in Round 5 and grabbed the lead with a three-vote haul against Mt.Gravatt in Round 7.  It was Ilett (10) from Proud (9) and Zorko (8), Micah Buchanan (8) and Davey (8).

But Ilett’s lead was short-lived. In the hottest burst of the season, Micah Buchanan polled 3-3-2-1-3-3 in six consecutive games from Round 7 against Redland, Morningside, Broadbeach, Mt.Gravatt, Redland and the NT.

After Round 13, remembering that Round 12 was an all-teams bye for Queensland’s interstate clash with Western Australia in Perth, it was Micah Buchanan (20) from Payne (15), Ilett and Bennell (14) and Zorko (13).

Payne had charged into contention with consecutive hauls of 2-2-3-3 from Round 9 against Gold Coast Suns, Broadbeach, Mt.Gravatt and ACT-based Ainslie.

None of the four contenders polled a vote in Round 14 and Ilett’s two against Morningside were the only votes that affected the top of the leaderboard in Round 15.

Ilett, Payne and Zorko all polled three’s in Round 16, and with five rounds to play it was Buchanan (20) from Ilett (19), Payne (18) and Zorko (16).

Ilett collected two votes against Broadbeach in Round 17 against the Suns, Morningside and the Lions respectively to pull level with Buchanan, who had received one in the same round against.

Effectively Ilett had hit the front, while Zorko’s three put him one ahead of Payne and two off the pace.

Ilett and Buchanan failed to poll in Round 18, but Payne’s three against Labrador meant three players were tied at the top of the leaderboard, with Zorko two votes further back.

Zorko’s three against the Suns in Round 19, when the other three front-runners failed to register, meant the Broadbeach captain was one vote clear. It was Zorko (22), Ilett (21), Payne (21) and the ineligible Buchanan (21).

Zorko missed the votes in Round 20 but Payne collected two against Aspley and in the same game Buchanan picked up one, and Ilett picked up one against Mt.Gravatt.

So, going into the final round it was Payne (23) by a vote from the other three.
Buchanan got the three votes against Mt.Gravatt that could have decided the issue if he was eligible, while Payne missed out against Redland and Zorko missed out Morningside, leaving Ilett’s one-vote effort against Labrador to pull him level with Payne and share the medal.