Will Hawk Sam Mitchell follow the pattern of medal favourites who win a year later?
Photo: Getty Images
BURNING QUESTIONS: Can Ablett win from 17th? Will Mitchell triumph a year late? And can Blake break his Brownlow duck?
Will another Brownlow be awarded a year late?
For the past three years, the Brownlow Medal has gone to a player who was heavily favoured to win it the previous year. When Adam Cooney won in 2008, Gary Ablett was considered stiff to miss out. He was duly rewarded for his form in 2009, when Chris Judd entered the medal count as the top pick. Judd won his second Brownlow in 2010, when Dane Swan was the bookies' favourite. Surprise, surprise - guess who won in 2011 when some bookies had already paid out on Judd?
Following that pattern, Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell must be considered a real chance to take Charlie home on Monday night. The Hawk was ineligible last year but his form made him a favourite to poll well and he did - but fortunately, not well enough to win. Although Mitch had a relatively slow start in 2012, he was an outstanding performer in the year's best team. Tellingly, the players who are most likely to take votes from him - Luke Hodge and Lance Franklin - both missed big chunks of the year.
Can Cotchin break Richmond’s drought?
Only four Richmond players have ever won the coveted award, with the last being Ian Stewart in 1971, but Cotchin is easily the best chance of bringing Charlie to Punt Road since Kevin Bartlett dominated the MCG wing. The future Richmond captain was amongst the most influential players in at least 10 games this season, starring in the midfield and bagging 21 goals when pushed forward.
Historically, umpires also tend to notice certain players for more than just their on-field deeds. Where once blond shocks of hair made Peter Moore, Shane Crawford and Shane Woewodin stand out, Cotchin grabs the eye with his unique, hunched running style.
But is Cotchin’s form only relative? While the Tigers improved significantly, they still have a fairly shallow playing list which drops away after their core of stars, making Cotchin appear even better – perhaps better than he actually was.
Can you win a Brownlow when your team finishes 17th?
No - even if you’re Gary Ablett. Sure, the Suns captain had arguably the best season of his entire career, averaging 34 disposals a game, while also kicking 26 goals and continually bringing his teammates into games. Plus, he is a past winner, putting his ability to garner the umpires' affection beyond doubt. But while Gold Coast played well enough for Ablett to poll in roughly 10 games, he did miss two of their better early-season efforts through injury. The Suns were smashed in the rest, rendering even their greatest player nigh-on invisible to the vote-givers. It will be interesting to see if Ablett polls any votes for his 53-disposal effort in round 10 game against Collingwood, which the Pies won by 97 points.
Which Pie will poll the best?
Picking the top vote-getter from each team is a popular Brownlow sweep in many workplaces and for some clubs, it's easy. Mitch Clark at Melbourne, Matthew Pavlich at Freo, Gary Ablett at Gold Coast, Jobe Watson at Essendon. At Collingwood, not so much. Scott Pendlebury had a great start to the year but didn't have the same impact after missing a month with a leg fracture. Swan will surely poll well in several games, but he also missed four weeks through injury and suspension. Dayne Beams was eye-catching, but will the umps prefer his more established teammates? It's nearly impossible to pick but we'd go with Beams to give ourselves the best chance.
Are any key position players a chance?
Probably not. The Brownlow has been criticised as the midfielders' medal in recent years, with Adam Goodes the last genuine key position player to triumph in 2003, when he played as a mobile ruckman for the Swans. Before that it was Footscray ruckman Scott Wynd in 1992, while the last non on-baller to win was Tony Lockett back in 1987 in a year he kicked 117 goals, with eight games of seven goals or more. Freo's Matthew Pavlich and Hawk Lance Franklin should poll the best of the non-mids this year, but neither has done enough to take top honours.
Will Jason Blake finally poll a vote?
The veteran Saint holds the record for the most games without a vote but that record could be under threat when the umpires' votes for the round seven clash against Sydney are revealed. The 189cm Blake rucked tirelessly against bigger opponents all night, racking up 13 touches, 31 hitouts and a goal as the Saints won by 28 points. Should he miss out there, his round 11 effort against Gold Coast - 21 touches, 28 hitouts and a goal - is another potential source of Brownlow joy.
Our top five
Past attempts tell us this is a pointless exercise, but for the sake of posterity, here we go:
1. Sam Mitchell
2. Trent Cotchin
3. Josh Kennedy
4. Jobe Watson
5. Gary Ablett
The views in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.
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