AS Port Adelaide prepares to crown its 2020 club champion at next Thursday’s Best and Fairest count, portadelaidefc.com.au looks at the contenders to take home the John Cahill Medal.
How the voting works: Following the completion of each game, the panel of Senior Coach Ken Hinkley, Senior Assistant Michael Voss, each player’s respective line coach and General Manager – Football Chris Davies cast their votes. Each player’s performance is rated between 0-5, with a maximum of 20 and minimum of zero votes awarded per player, per game.
John Cahill Medal Contender – Zak Butters
It’s a debate that will rage for years to come – which of Port Adelaide’s three first round picks from the class of 2018 is the best?
Connor Rozee burst onto the AFL scene in 2019, finishing runner-up for the AFL Rising Star, while Xavier Duursma made sure to fire his bow and arrow into the conversation, but their good mate Zak Butters has given his run at the crown of top dog amongst the young brigade a fair shake in his sophomore season.
Butters built on an impressive first season at the top level, improving across the board – kicks, handballs, marks, tackles, clearances, goals, goal assists per game; the numbers were up in nearly every category.
So much so that the conversation transcended whether Butters was the best of Port’s youth movement to whether he was the best player on the club’s list, period.
The second-year forward’s 14.6 disposals per game ranked him in the elite category, but it was the way in which he played the game that caught the eye the most.
Desperate and fearless to win the ball. Rated elite for contested possessions (6.3), intercept possessions (2.4) and ground ball gets (5.1 per game).
Silky smooth and clean with the ball in hand. His 5.2 effective kicks and 11.1 effective disposals per game while going at 76.2% disposal efficiency – again, rated elite.
Purposeful and deadly when attacking. Goal assists (0.9), score involvements (five) and score launches (1.2). Elite. His total goal assists ranked fifth in the entire AFL.
Couple this with an uncompromising zest for the tough stuff – as evident with his negating a crucial two-vs-one in the dying moments to seal the Qualifying Final win against Geelong – and Butters has built himself a reputation that belies his 36 games of AFL footy.
Regardless of if he walks away with his first John Cahill Medal – placing him as the youngest best and fairest winner at Port Adelaide since Chad Wingard in 2013, edging him by just three days – his spectacular second season has enriched a debate that is sure to give True Believers good headaches for years to come.
Three of the best:
Round 5 vs Brisbane
Many players can shine when their team is playing well, but Butters showed that even on a dirty night for his teammates he can perform on the big stage. His 18 disposals and two goals against the Lions was a shining light on an otherwise underwhelming evening.
Round 10 vs Western Bulldogs
Butters picked up the first two Brownlow votes of his career against the Dogs, gathering a team-high 24 possessions and six score involvements in an impressive showing.
Round 13 vs Hawthorn
With the game in the balance against the lowly Hawks, Port Adelaide needed a hero. Much of the credit must go to his selfless teammates laying blocks around stoppage and the deft tap of Scott Lycett, but Butters slicing through the pack for the game-sealing goal was a thing of beauty. He finished with 14 touches and two goals, as Ken Hinkley threw the 20-year-old into the midfield mix late in the game to help secure the points.