The oldest major individual award in Australian Rules football was the brainchild of South Australian Football Association chairman William Ashley Magarey in 1897. The medal was introduced in 1898 to raise the prestige of umpires by having them vote on the ‘fairest and most brilliant player’ in the association. Following criticism, when several fancied players were overlooked, voting systems changed from single votes cast at an end of season meeting to multiple voting after each match. Medal presentations evolved from brief handshakes with a handful of football officials in a city office, to public acclamation on grand final match days at Adelaide Oval, to televised celebrity events watched around the state, but the ceremony and the award itself are now overshadowed by the national competition.
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Interesting thoughts Randal,
I didn't know Magarey presented the medals himself! Must have been quite exciting for the recipients in those days.
Could be said to have had the most enduring legacy in South Australian football. Magarey used to present the medal himself until his death in 1929 and often followed it up with a congratulatory letter. His letter to South Adelaide's Frank Barry, the 1915 medallist is the particularly treasured as the actual medal has been lost. Overshadowed now by the Brownlow Medal, which many believe should have been renamed after the VFL became the AFL.