Todd Goldstein: Tall Order for Brownlow

It’s a lament that is as much a part of the modern day Brownlow Medal as frocks, betting and Tim Watson interviewing the Mark of the Year winner atop his table.

Every year you have people pointing out that, in the modern game, the most prestigious individual award in the AFL may as well be called the Midfielder’s Medal. And when you look at the numbers, the formula is reliable. 24 of the past 27 winners have been onballers and rovers. It’s why legendary forwards and defenders of the modern game like Wayne Carey, Stephen Silvagni, Jonathan Brown, Dustin Fletcher, Jason Dunstall, Matthew Scarlett, Matthew Lloyd and Glen Jakovich have never even gotten within a sniff of a Brownlow Medal. And ruckmen aren’t much better: since 1990, only Melbourne’s Jim Stynes (1991), Footscray’s Scott Wynd (1992) and Sydney’s Adam Goodes (2003) have been Brownlow Medallists. The modern match is won by high possession getters who can cover the entire ground with hard running and superior foot skills.

So as we look to the last month of home and away matches, many of the usual suspects are in play: Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe, Sydney’s Dan Hannebery, West Coast’s Matt Priddis and Port Adelaide’s Chad Wingard are all names that ring bells when it comes to Brownlow favourites and their stellar form this season means that they will do so again.
But in 2015, a new gladiator is striding into view… ladies and gentlemen… in the vertical blue and white stripes… at six foot seven… North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein.

For years, Goldstein’s importance to the Kangaroos has been unquestionable. In a middle of the road side often categorised with such patronising adjectives as ‘rag-tag’, ‘gutsy’ and the eternal cliché about ‘Shinboner spirit’, Goldstein has been dependable, consistent and elite since becoming North’s first pick ruckman in 2010. First off, here are Goldstein’s statistics this season. Ruckmen are rated on their ability to gain hit-outs in contests as well as impact the match around the ground; for the purpose of this piece I have ranked hit-outs, disposals, clearances, goals and tackles as the most important statistics, in descending order. The players below are the top 10 ruckmen ranked by AFL Champion Data at the time of writing in the 2015 season.

Games Hit Outs Disposals Clearances Goals Tackles
Todd Goldstein (NM) 18 816 @ 45 275 @ 15 65 @ 4 8 @ 0.5 80 @ 4
Nic Naitanui (WC) 17 572 @ 32 201 @ 12 68 @ 4 13 @ 0.8 65 @ 4
Sam Jacobs (Adel) 17 610 @ 36 261 @ 15 44 @ 3 3 @ 0.2 35 @ 2
Aaron Sandliands (Fre) 18 778 @ 43 219 @ 12 34 @ 2 6 @ 0.33 23 @ 1
Ivan Maric (Rich) 17 420 @ 25 223 @ 13 59 @ 3 7 @ 0.4 49 @ 3
Patrick Ryder (Port) 14 279 @ 20 159 @ 11 27 @ 2 16 @ 1.1 28 @ 2
Shane Mumford (GWS) 11 423 @ 40 133 @ 12 35 @ 3 1 @ 0.09 71 @ 6
Will Minson (WB) 9 239 @ 26 90 @ 10 28 @ 3 3 37 @ 4
Ben McEvoy (Haw) 11 199 @ 18 116 @ 11 19 @ 2 9 @ 0.8 37 @ 3
Stefan Martin (Bris) 16 326 @ 21 501 @ 31 76 @ 5 4 @ 0.25 32 @ 2

In disposals and hit-outs, the two most important stats for his position, Todd Goldstein has been the standout player in the competition, whilst ranking second for clearances and tackles and third for goals.

If Goldstein’s Brownlow chances can take encouragement from his ranking amongst his peers, he can be further bolstered by the reassurance that few of his teammates will be taking votes off him. North Melbourne have had the sort of uneven season that frustrates fans and players alike, with disappointing losses to lowly sides Port Adelaide, Collingwood and Gold Coast, yet currently sit in sixth position with 11 wins from 18 matches.

This puts Goldstein in a fortunate position: a player from a top-ranked side hoping to poll Brownlow votes will have strong competition from his teammates whilst a player from a low-ranked side, regardless of his personal performance, is likely to have opposition players taking votes off him. With North Melbourne sitting around the middle of the ladder for much of the season, Goldstein has been in a team that is both successful yet dependent on his input; in North Melbourne’s 11 victories, he has been ranked in his side’s best 10 times with three best on ground performances.

And at his best, his performances have been staggering. Come the end of the season, the absolute monstering Goldstein handed to the Giants in his record breaking 80 hit-out knock at Spotless Stadium in Round 12 will be held in highest regard but it’s been the best of many: 42 hit outs and 21 disposals against Geelong – and, in particular, their dominant ruckman Mark Blicavs in Round 4 to lead the Kangaroos to a crucial win at Simonds’ Stadium. The football lesson he taught Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy on the way to 51 hit outs in rainy, anti-big men conditions in Round 9. Amassing 62 hit outs in a team that lost to Gold Coast by nine goals in Round 14. Running rings around Essendon in Round 16 to pick up 27 disposals and 56 hit-outs. Three of North Melbourne’s last four games see them play top eight sides in Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Richmond – if Goldstein can maintain his 2015 form in the final month of the season, he will prove to the entire AFL community that he truly is a champion – and, just maybe, a Brownlow Medal favourite.

So how does Goldstein rank when compared to his rivals for the prestigious award? The North Melbourne ruckman’s biggest threat is raging favourite, Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe. In 2015 Fyfe has not only been acclaimed as the competition’s new dominant player in the absence of the injured Gary Ablett but has set the blueprint for the new prototype of Aussie Rules footballer. Fast, tall, skilful and incredibly strong in the air – Fyfe has it all. However there is a weakness in his Brownlow charge – missing matches.
Whereas Goldstein has made every chance to poll votes by not missing a game, Fyfe’s recent shoulder surgery has seen him miss the last two, which could cost him if the votes are coming down to the wire. Then there is the issue of ineligibility: going into the season with a less than squeaky clean tribunal record, Fyfe has faced the Match Review Panel twice in 2015. He escaped with a fine for tripping Bulldog Koby Stevens in Round 7 and striking Hawthorn’s Taylor Duryea in Round 15 but between now and the final siren of Round 23 any slip means death for the star Docker.

The weight of recent history is stacked against the ultra-dependable ruckman from Arden St, but September 28 could be the night that Todd Goldstein breaks one of the modern game’s most enduring curses. And just think how funny it would be to watch Matt Priddis stretch to bestow the award on him.

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Would love for big Goldy to win the Brownlow, but just cannot see it happening.
    He has been huge for North for 3 years now – far and away our most important player.
    And he constantly reminds us why a good ruckman remains so important.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Only seen him up close once, in Rd 1 against Adelaide this year.

    While the rest of his mob bitched and moaned at the umps and each other, Goldstein just put his head down and made sure he got to the next contest. Again and again. Impressive

  3. Great price enjoy reading it
    Now surely Fyfe can’t get off for a third time
    Charlie for Goldstein go Roos

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