Errol Gulden claims his third Brett Kirk Medal. Photo by Phil Hillyard.

If the Brett Kirk Medal had a heart it’d be going through a new chapter of a Sydney Derby love affair after the Swans’ 27-point win over GWS in derby #28 at the Sydney Showgrounds on Saturday evening.

It’s a notional love affair in which the medal, named after the 241-game Swans champion who is the club’s player development manager, fixates on the stars of the derby – the best players in the twice-a-year cross-town rivalry that always take prime position on the fixture.

When a little blonde left-footer of rugby league pedigree wearing jumper #15 won the medal three times in the first three years of derby football in 2012, ’13 and ‘14 the medal would have been thinking “I love Kieren Jack”.

And understandably so. In a contest which showcases the best of AFL football in traditional rugby league heartland Jack, son of a rugby league champion, set a high early benchmark.

There would have been a flirtation with Lance Franklin when then great ‘Bud’ won the medal for a third time in the first derby of 2021, but that would have been quickly forgotten when Luke Parker won three in a row across 2021-22 for a total of five.

Five? That made Parker the ‘King’ of derby football not just in Sydney but across the entire AFL.


Port Adelaide’s Robbie Gray had won the Showdown Medal in the South Australian derby against Adelaide five times, but that’d been going since 1997 – 15 years longer than the Sydney Derby.

Fremantle’s Paul Hasleby had four times won the Glendinning-Allan Medal for the best player in the Western Australian derby against West Coast, but that had been going even longer – since 1995.

Gold Coast’s Touk Miller had won the Ashcroft Medal in the Q-Clash against Brisbane four times, and Lachie Neale had five derby medals in total – but three were with Fremantle in the WA derby and two with Brisbane in the Q-Clash.

So that was that. The Kirk Medal and Parker were an ‘item’ – the unquestioned ‘Royal Couple’ of the Sydney Derby.

But now the heart of the medal will be fluttering about the new derby ‘heart throb’ – Errol Gulden.

Because not only did Gulden win the Kirk Medal for the third time in a row on Saturday but he produced possibly the best derby performance of all-time to re-write the record books.


Gulden had a derby record 41 possessions, including 12 contested possessions and 10 intercept possessions, to go with 12 marks, two clearances, seven score involvements, two goal assists and a staggering 973 metres gained. And he played 98% gametime.

His 41 possessions, one short of his career-best, bettered the previous derby record of 38 set by GWS’ Tom Green in derby #26 last year, which topped Jarrad McVeigh’s 37 possessions in derby #2 in 2012, and Lachie Whitfield’s 37 possessions for GWS in derby #7 in 2015.

Remembering that one of Gulden’s nine games against GWS was a final, when the Kirk Medal is not awarded, he’s got a 37.5% strike-rate. And he’s only 21. No wonder ‘Kirk’ is fluttering.

James Rowbottom also made a lasting impression on the derby record books on Saturday with a career-best 32 possessions, including an equal career-best 20 contested possessions, and an equal career-best 11 clearances.

Debutant Caiden Cleary also grabbed a big derby ‘first’  as the Swans extended their overall derby record to 18-10 – he was the first player making his AFL debut in a derby to kick a goal with his first kick.

Cleary, player #1453 on the all-time Swans playing list, was just the 16th Swan to enjoy the special ‘first kick / first goal’ moment.  This includes three players who kicked goals with each of their first two kicks. They were:

1940 – Ian Chinn (2)
1950 – Bob Trainer (2)
1955 – Bob Pratt
1956 – Max Oaten
1956 – Bernie Jeffrey
1964 – Ian Randle
1967 – Jeff McGee
1988 – John Brinkhotter
1990 – Dale Lewis
1995 – Shannon Grant
1995 – Michael O’Loughlin
1998 – Brett O’Farrell
2000 – Ryan Fitzgerald (2)
2005 – Nick Malceski
2023 – Corey Warner



Brett Kirk Medal Winners
5 – Luke Parker
3 – Kieren Jack
3 – Lance Franklin
3 – Errol Gulden
2 – Josh Kennedy
1 – Dan Hannebery
1 – Nick Malceski
1 – Callum Mills

30-Possession Derby Games

7 – Luke Parker – 34-34-33-33-31-30-30
4 – Josh Kennedy – 35-32-30-30
3 – Jarrad McVeigh – 37-35-31
3 – Kieren Jack – 33-32-30
3 – Dan Hannebery – 34-31-31
3 – Errol Gulden – 41-33-32
2 – Jake Lloyd – 31-30
1 – Ryan O’Keefe - 36
1 – James Rowbottom – 32
1 – Nick Malceski - 30
1 – George Hewett – 30

Major Goals

5 – Lance Franklin (4)
5 – Kurt Tippett
5 – Luke Parker
4 – Isaac Heeney (3)
4 – Tom Papley
4 – Will Hayward
4 – Hayden McLean