Joel Selwood, the outright favourite and hot tip for this years Brownlow Medal presents as the most attractive contender for a multitude of reasons.
The first is the fact he was the unlucky runner-up to Gary Ablett in 2013, missing out on at least sharing the medal by a single vote. Looking back over the past few Brownlow counts in previous seasons, being the runner-up can bring with it benefits; the major one being the fact you tend to over poll slightly in the subsequent season.
Dane Swan is probably the most classic example. He was heavily touted as the outright favourite to take the medal home in 2010 after a scintillating season, only to finish six votes behind the eventual surprise winner in Chris Judd. The fallout that came was massive, with many questioning the format of the medal and posing whether the voting system should be taken away from the umpiring fraternity.
Of course, in the following season the tables were turned. Judd was seen as the favourite after a season that was twice as better as the last, only for Swan to come from nowhere as an outside favourite to claim the Brownlow by posting a record tally of 34 votes. Many are of the opinion that the umpires were ‘overcompensating’ for their perceived ‘mistake’ from 2010, and had subconsciously favoured Swan when he figured in the votes.
Go back further to 2008 when Adam Cooney came through as the unlikely winner ahead of the more favoured Gary Ablett who under polled with 22 votes. The very next season, Ablett went on to poll a massive 30 votes and win.
Whilst Ablett winning in 2013 was in no way seen as a ‘mistake’, it could be said Selwood was as deserving to win as the Suns captain. We will have to wait and see if the umpires lob a vote or two extra his way, which could prove all the difference in what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested counts in years.
The second reason that Selwood looks the most likely to win this year’s Brownlow is due to the fact his direct competition either went down with injuries or were suspended throughout the year, whilst he was left standing to poll votes as they missed games.
Of course biggest injury news came in the form of Gary Ablett, who was ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury. Up until that stage the champion player was coasting towards his third Brownlow Medal having dominated all and sundry. While his lead at that point in the season is predicted to be quite big, it allowed Selwood time to peg back the deficit, and perhaps work his way into the lead.
Josh Kennedy looked the biggest threat in the wake of Ablett’s injury, with the Sydney contested-possession machine showing no signs of letting up on Selwood, remaining neck and neck in polling frequency towards the latter part of the season. But with a hamstring injury in round 21 ruling him out for the final two rounds, it meant those were three rounds Kennedy would not poll votes in. Selwood, of course, is expected to poll 2-3 votes in the final round against Brisbane, and could prove the difference in the end.
Another major competitor, Scott Pendlebury, hurt his chances more due to a dip in form in the latter part of the season, but he too suffered from injury and was a late out in round 21. Also, late bolter Dayne Beams was another who went down around the same point in the season.
Of those that were suspended, it was no surprise Steve Johnson found himself on the sidelines due to another brain-fade or two. In the early part of the season he looked to be a genuine Brownlow threat, especially on the back of a close-fourth placing in last years count with 24 votes. But suspension and injuries quickly dashed those claims.
The biggest Brownlow threat of those who were suspended would no doubt be Nat Fyfe. It’s looking more than likely that he’ll finish in the top five on Brownlow night, and to think he’ll still finish that high despite missing four games is amazing, and a credit to his ability.
The third, and biggest factor helping Selwood’s Brownlow aspirations is his favourable polling history with a polling frequency of 0.82 votes a game – which ranks up there with the most elite. To put that into perspective, he has polled 116 votes in 54 out of a total 141 career matches; averages 2.14 votes in those games he polls; never polled lower than 14 votes over the past six seasons; and averaged 19 votes every season over that same period.
To me, Selwood fits the mould of a Brownlow Medallist perfectly, and that is why I believe he will be awarded the 2014 Brownlow Medal.
PREDICTED VOTES BREAKDOWN:
R1 – 3 votes (34D, 2G. Should get maximum votes first up)
R2 – 1 vote (26D, 1G. Stevie J should get full votes. Zorko also impressive)
R3 – 3 votes (30D. Elliot and Duncan should also feature)
R4 – 3 votes (27D, 3G. Massive game. Stevie J 37D, 1G, but butchered the ball)
R5 – 0 votes (20D, well held. Stevie J/Hawkins vying for top votes)
R6 – 0 votes (Only 17D. Had a bad day along with entire Cats side)
R7 – 0 votes (19 disposals and will struggle for votes here again despite Cats narrow win)
R8 – BYE
R9 – 3 votes (Freo won by 32, but Selwood had a quality match. Mundy might pip him for 3)
R10 – 0 votes (26D, 1G. Bartel/Kelly/Hawkins the better players)
R11 – 0 votes (Geelong beaten by 110 points. No chance of votes here)
R12 – 0 votes (Selwood kicked the winning goal in five point win. Outside chance)
R13 – 0 votes (Only 11D, but 3G. Bartel/Stokes/Duncan/Motlop standouts)
R14 – 0 votes (Cats upset by Gold Coast. Main rival Ablett will get votes)
R15 – 2 votes (26D, 2G. Most crucial in narrow win over Essendon. Heppell BOG)
R16 – 0 votes (13D. Quiet outing)
R17 – 3 votes (31D. Stood out along with Stevie J.)
R18 – 3 votes (39D, 1G. Clear lock for the 3 votes.)
R19 – 3 votes (29D, 1G. Fierce competition for votes, could poll as low as 1.)
R20 – 1 vote (27D, 1G. Taylor/Barlow other standouts)
R21 – 0 votes (21D. Caddy and Gibbs the clear best)
R22 – 0 votes (Cats lost to a resurgent Hawks. 24D & well held by Langford)
R23 – 2 votes (29D, 2G. Selwood vying for BOG with Hawkins who kicked 7 goals. Could this round dictate whether Selwood win the Brownlow?)
TOTAL: 27 votes (Range of 23-27. Likelihood of 25 votes)