‘Twas the night before the Brownlow, when all through AFL House, Demetriou was busy reciting difficult names, such as Luke Dahlhaus.’

We’re only one sleep away from glory; so close to finding out whose neck this year’s Brownlow Medal will be draped around. There is usually one or two standouts per season, but this year the count seems to be a little bit more open.

Equal favourites Trent Cotchin and Gary Ablett are expected to dominate the count while Jobe Watson’s excellent first half of the season could be enough to take home Charlie. The outside favourites of Scott Thompson, Patrick Dangerfield and Dane Swan could all sneak in and shock a few as well. Perhaps other outside chances such as Sam Mitchell, Scott Pendlebury or another smokey can snatch the Brownlow from the shadows.

Trent Cotchin – The 22-year-old young gun had a stunning end to the season. His consistent performances throughout the year caught the eye of a few, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the season that the media and wider AFL community began to take notice of his ripping form. Could he take out the Brownlow Medal and officially stamp himself as one of the ‘next generation’ of superstars on the AFL’s night of nights?

Gary Ablett – Arguably the best player in the competition playing in one of the AFL’s biggest struggling sides. He remarkably polled 23 votes last year in a side that won three games, and conversely lost quite a few by margins that pushed 50+ points. Can Gazza defy the odds and poll enough votes to become a dual Brownlow Medallist?

Jobe Watson – The no-fuss Essendon captain, and sound favourite all year until the last month of the home and away season when his team’s lacklustre performances could rob him of a Brownlow Medal. Since then, he has somewhat faded into obscurity, clouding his ripping early season form. But it is this form during the first part of the season that should catapult him to the lead at the midway point of the season. The question is, will he be able to maintain his polling thereafter that point?

Scott Thompson – He has averaged 14.2 votes over the past five seasons, with a high of 18. That indicates that, whilst he has been consistent in polling, he just doesn’t have the history of polling anywhere near the mark required to be a realistic chance at winning. Statistically, he is nearly identical to 2011, when he only polled 12 votes. Granted, Adelaide has won many more games than what they did in many of the past five seasons, meaning he’ll have a higher chance of polling in a greater number of games, but he will have to defy his polling history to win.

Patrick Dangerfield – Dangerfield’s 2012 season can be described as one of the best breakout seasons this year. His ability to win the ball in close, kick booming goals on the run and shrug tackles on a regular basis is a recipe for attracting the umpires’ eyes. Like Thompson, he will have a higher chance at polling more regularly this year compared to previous years given that the Crows only lost seven games. However, whether he can go from polling seven votes last year to near the 30 required to win this year is the biggest question mark over him.

Dane Swan – Last year’s Brownlow Medallist began hitting his straps from Rounds 11 to 19, but it all came to a screeching halt when he was handed a club-imposed suspension for breaking team rules that forbid any player from drinking during the season. Can he poll enough during that hot patch to take out consecutive Brownlows?

Any of these contenders have a realistic chance at winning, and each have their own individual reasons to stake claim to taking up the mantle of 2012’s fairest and best player of the competition, as judged by the umpires.

As many would know, in the process of analysing the playing performances of every player, round by round, I compile a phantom Brownlow count that I use to help determine who is the greatest chance to win the Brownlow. Of course I am not Nostradamus, so it is not 100% foolproof, but it helps give me a strong indication as to who is a realistic chance at winning. As such, I do not endorse anyone to use my analysis for betting purposes, and treat it as somewhat of a guide only and my own personal opinion.

The following is my phantom count top 10 as per the 3, 2, 1 votes I have distributed for each game throughout the season:
29 – T. Cotchin
28 – G. Ablett
28 – S. Thompson
27 – J. Watson
25 – P. Dangerfield
—————————
23 – S. Mitchell
23 – J. Kennedy
22 – D. Swan
22 – J. Selwood
22 – K. Jack

As we can see, I have Cotchin winning, but not without close competition from Ablett, Thompson and Watson. Whilst my analysis could easily stop right there, since the conclusion of the home and away season, I have gone back over and analysed the season once more to help further shape my leader board. In doing so, I have factored in a few other ideas and expectations as to what may hinder or help the chances of particular players, thus slightly altering the initial leader board I drafted on the back of my votes alone.

As a result, my new revised top three stands at:
1st – Watson
2nd – Cotchin
3rd – Ablett

The reason behind the elevation of Watson into the winner’s seat is founded upon his promising polling history and overall polling ability. Last year, he polled 11 votes in eight games, and before he got injured, his projected polling tally stood at around the high 30s mark – which would have rivalled that of Dane Swan last year. Prior to that in 2010, he polled a modest 16 votes. The key here is that he has a solid enough polling record to suggest he is noticed by the umpires, and thus could take the next step and poll quite highly after an injury-free season.

If we look at his early season form this year, he was neck and neck with fellow Bomber Brent Stanton, who was also in ripping form. The question is whether Watson can steal votes from Stanton or not, because if he does – like I expect him to – it will be a key indicator to suggest very early on if Watson will win the medal.

In the first seven games, I have Watson polling a total of 14 votes from six of the first seven games, whilst I have Stanton polling 13 votes in five of those games. However, with Stanton’s polling history being quite unfavourable in comparison to Watson’s, it is quite conceivable to say in those matches where I have Stanton polling one more vote than Watson (Rounds 1, 4 and 6), it’s possible the roles could be reversed and we could see Watson poll one more vote ahead of Stanton in one, two, or all three of those matches. The more games in which he steals votes, the closer he will come to being crowned the 2012 Brownlow Medallist.

As for Cotchin, I expect him to poll slightly below what he deserves and fall ever so short of the medal this year. The reason behind this is that I see Cotchin in a similar situation to Marc Murphy last season, when he polled one vote in eight out of the total 12 games he polled in. Many of these games were those where many expected him to poll closer to two or three votes, but instead he was lobbed the one vote, and the higher votes went to his more esteemed and highly-recognised teammate in Chris Judd. I make this comparison between the two players because their seasons mirror each other in the sense that they are seasons in which both players broke out. My theory is that it is only after a player has had a breakout season, they will then begin to poll more regularly and rightfully command two or three votes from the umpires in games where they rightfully deserve them. Thus, I could see Cotchin losing votes to Deledio or Tuck, although his saving grace may be that both of those players don’t have favourable polling histories. If he can avoid this, and command votes where my original phantom Brownlow count has him polling, then he will win, no doubt.

Unfortunately for Ablett, I believe his chances are the slimmest of the top three favourite. Without sounding like a broken record on the issue, the fact he plays for a one of the bottom two sides says to me he is up the proverbial creek with no paddle when it comes to trying to command votes. He did poll 23 votes in 2011, but because it is such a close and competitive year, he will need to poll much closer to 30 votes to be a chance of winning. Whilst I have him polling 28 votes in my phantom Brownlow count, I can see the umpires opting to give out votes to other players on the opposition, particularly in those matches where the Suns got smashed by 50+ points and I have given him votes.

Eeither one of Watson or Cotchin are my predicted winners, and aside from who wins, it’s going to be a ripper count, one I’m looking forward to immensely.

Last, below is my coveted leader board for most votes for each team.

Bring on Brownlow night!

 

Most team votes
Adelaide: 28 Thompson, 25 Dangerfield.
Brisbane: 13 Rockliff, 9 Redden, 7 Black.
Carlton: 17 Murphy, 14 Judd.
Collingwood: 22 Swan, 20 Beams, 19 Pendlebury.
Essendon: 27 Watson, 15 Stanton.
Fremantle: 16 Pavlich, 13 Hill.
Geelong: 22 Selwood, 14 Hawkins.
Gold Coast: 28 Ablett.
GWS: 6 Greene, 5 Giles, 3 Ward, 3 Coniglio.
Hawthorn: 23 Mitchell, 13 Franklin, 12 Sewell.
Melbourne: 10 Jones.
North Melbourne: 17 Harvey, 13 Swallow.
Port Adelaide: 7 Boak, 6 Hartlett, 5 Ebert.
Richmond: 29 Cotchin, 18 Deledio, 10 Tuck.
St. Kilda: 21 Hayes, 17 Dal Santo.
Sydney: 23 Kennedy, 22 Jack.
West Coast: 18 S. Selwood, 17 Priddis, 14 Kerr, 13 Shuey.
Western Bulldogs: 17 Boyd, 11 Griffen.