Why the Brownlow is the worst individual award to win

The Brownlow Medal might be the most prestigious award in AFL football, but it’s the least accurate. Everyone knows it’s a midfielder’s medal, although themedia “experts” who complain about this tend to be hypocritical in this aspect, with little representation for Rance (the best defender), Buddy (the best forward) or Gawn (the best ruckman) in their leaderboards. Yet the umpires go beyondthis injustice, even showing glaring inconsistencies with the votes for midfielders. It’s no wonder really – they’re trying to umpire the game! These are a few games I watched, for which the umpire’s votes cannot be justified:

Round 1 Melbourne 80 vs GWS 78

  1. Jack Viney 2. Clayton Oliver 1. Phil Davis

Viney had a great game, and deserved 2 or 3, but how did Oliver get in the votes? The youngster with striking red hair was the game’s top clearance winner, so was in the eye of the umpires, but most of his disposals were fairly ineffective handballs which resulted in repeat ball-ups. Not to mention the fact he had about 5 disposals in the second half (when the game was won).

If you don’t remember the last quarter of this game, Hogan was the match-winner, kicking 3 last quarter goals. Who was his opponent? Phil Davis.

It baffles me that Callan Ward, normally an umpire’s pet, couldn’t get in the votes, given he was clearly in the best two players on the ground. The shaggy-haired star was outstanding in the clinches all game, used the ball well (0 clangers) and kicked two goals, contributing to a brilliantly rounded performance.

Round 4 Adelaide 113 vs Sydney 103

  1. Dan Hannebery 2. Rory Sloane 1. Rory Atkins

This was one of the crackers of the season, with Adelaide winning by 10 points in a high scoring affair, after Eddie Betts kicked two of the last three goals to halt Sydney’s charge home. Hang on… where’s Eddie? What? Rory Atkins? Seriously? Who? Atkins actually had a fine game, using his silky skills on the outside, while Hanners won a lot of the ball (with questionable influence), but surely Eddie had a greater impact on the result.

Eddie slotted 4 goals, of which 2 were sublime, had 13 contested possessions (1 less than Hanners, 7 more than Atkins) and laid 5 tackles (same as Hanners, 3 more Atkins), showing he did the tough stuff as well as applying the finishing touches. Sloane was also fantastic, carrying the load in the midfield, as well as taking two strong contested marks.

Round 5 Carlton 72 vs Fremantle 68

  1. Lachie Neale 2. Patrick Cripps 1. Marc Murphy

It’s good the umpires rewarded the efforts of players in lower teams this year more (eg. Neale, Zach Merrett and Adam Treloar), but 3 votes for Neale in this game was one step too far. The clearance machine had a game-high 35 disposals, but went at just 57 % efficiency, along with 5 clangers. Worst of all, one of those clangers gave Liam Jones a chance to win the game for Carlton in the dying moments, which he somewhat surprisingly took.

In contrast, half-back Kade Simpson was sublime all game, setting up teammates for goals on numerous occasions, while displaying his trademark courage. Even the Herald Sun and Age managed to find room for the defender on this occasion.

Round 8 Collingwood 143 vs Brisbane 65

  1. Adam Treloar 2. Scott Pendlebury 1. Mason Cox

You can’t say the hype factor didn’t get to the umps with Mason Cox. Yes he kicked 4 goals, but they were all from the bloody goalsquare! They got Treloar and Pendles right, but Zorko kicked 4 classy goals (the same as Cox) in an 80 point loss, while also laying 7 tackles and providing their only spark through the midfield. Without Zorko, it would’ve been very ugly for the Lions.

Round 9 GWS 98 vs Western Bulldogs 73

  1. Callan Ward 2. Toby Greene 1. Heath Shaw

How could Shaw seriously only get 1 vote for this game? His 36 effective kicks were the most ever recorded. EVER. He set up the win, running and bouncing off half-back with confidence, as well as creating goalscoring opportunities with his brilliant kicking, amounting to a whopping 203 supercoach points.

Round 21 Geelong 82 vs Richmond 78

  1. Dusty Martin 2. Alex Rance 1. Paddy Dangerfield

Dusty and Danger slaughtered it more than my local butcher, combining for 16 clangers. That’s under 3 effective disposals per clanger! And neither kicked a goal. Enough said.

Rance did a brilliant job on Hawkins, restricting him to 1 goal, and was rewarded with 2 votes, which should’ve been 3. Corey Enright, meanwhile, was a rock at the back for the winning side, and Joel Selwood was classic Joel Selwood, pushing his side forward and slotting a goal when Geelong were under the pump.

Round 23 Geelong 155 vs Melbourne 44

Tom Hawkins’ snubbing is probably the most astounding of all voting errors. Danger was impeccable and deserved the 3, but Menegola kicked all 3 goals in the second half of a 100 point drubbing.

Hawkins, meanwhile, kicked 4 of his 6 goals in the opening quarter, as well as clunking 5 contested marks throughout. Clearly the umpires had forgotten this by the end of the game, because there’s no doubt he deserved 2 votes for setting up the win.


I haven’t had a go at the umps for underrating permanent defenders, because it’s difficult for anyone to judge their performance, let alone the umpires without the stats. They play on so many opponents over the course of a match, and players like Dane Rampe and Daniel Talia are stars because of their spoiling ability, which doesn’t exactly stand out.

What I don’t understand is why forwards and rucks don’t get more votes. It can’t be that hard to recall the goals kicked by forwards, especially when it’s Buddy (17 votes), Cyril (8) or Eddie (10), and the umpires are right next to the ruckmen for most of the game. Buddy, and probably 2 of Gawn, Eddie and Cyril were amongst the best 10 players this year, yet they were all beaten by at least 12 midfielders. NicNat, the best tap ruckman for a half a season, managed 1 vote. That just makes me angry.

In fact, the NicNat/Luke Shuey combination was the most lethal in the competition, with NicNat tapping it into space, and Shuey bursting through the centre square to create deep inside 50s. Shuey was rewarded by the media, finishing top 10 in most awards, and was nominated by his teammates for the MVP, but somehow got just 10 Brownlow votes. Gaff meanwhile, racked up 21 votes, despite rarely having direct scoreboard impact or winning contested ball (no MVP nomination either). He can have 35 disposals and virtually be anonymous, as shown in the elimination final against the bullies.

Tom Scully was the best two-way runner this year, kicking over 20 goals while also working hard defensively, as emphasised by numerous appearances in All-Australian teams in the media. He got 4 fewer votes than Jordan Lewis, who is often a poor user of the footy and couldn’t even halve Scully’s scoreboard impact (goals + assists).

It’s players like Lewis, Matt Crouch and Tom Rockliff (low output for high possession players) who over poll on Brownlow night, because the umpires don’t have time to consider the significance of a particular disposal mid-game. That’s why the Brownlow will always be flawed, and possibly the worst individual award to win.


Lucas Lewit-Mendes, 18 year old avid North Melbourne supporter

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