While the Brownlow Medal each year is awarded to the fairest and best player in the competition, it is generally acknowledged that a fair, ball player that receives favourable treatment from the umpires is more likely to poll votes, compared to a player that is infringing constantly and conceding large numbers of free kicks.
On that scale, Matthew Lobbe, Port Adelaide’s number- one ruckman in season 2014, who conceded the most free kicks last season with 53 is one pure example, as he polled just three Brownlow votes.
However, against this theory sits Lance Franklin who conceded the second most frees last year with 44. Franklin did poll rather well in the Brownlow with 22 votes, but his pure brilliance with the football often negated the amount of free kicks he gave away. Having said that, if he wasn’t conceding as many frees, perhaps he may have polled even higher last year and in previous seasons, especially 2008 where in his 100 goal season, Franklin conceded a horrific 74 free kicks – despite polling 20 Brownlow votes.
Looking specifically at this year’s free kick statistics, a quirky fact has emerged.
Last year’s Brownlow Medallist, Matthew Priddis has conceded the equal-most free kicks, along with Essendon forward Joe Daniher of any player this season. Priddis, who conceded just 20 frees for the entire 2014 season and who had never conceded more than 27 free kicks in a season prior to this year, has given away 39 frees – almost double his 2014 numbers, still with two rounds and the finals to go.
Secondary to these numbers, the current Brownlow Medal favourite in Nathan Fyfe finds himself also rather high in the frees against column, as he ranks third overall with 37 frees conceded this year. Given Fyfe has also missed two games this year through injury, his tally of 37 from 18 games actually comes at a higher rate than Priddis and Daniher’s tally of 39 from 20 respectively.
Fyfe, again has conceded more frees this season than last season where on 29 occasions he was on the wrong side of the umpires whistle.
It might well be just a quirk in the system, but can either of the two most infringing players this season impress the umpires with their ball play to overcome the indiscretions that have caused them to offend the most of any player, bar Daniher in the league?
It is a question that will be answered on Brownlow night, but the fact is there has not been a player in the past 15 seasons that has conceded the most free kicks in a season and gone on to win the Brownlow Medal.
In this aspect, if his current rate of giving away free kicks does continue, it may be a little harder for either Matt Priddis to win this year’s Brownlow Medal. Whereas Fyfe now faces the handicap of missing the last two weeks of the season through injury.
One thing’s for sure, it should be an interesting count yet again on the Monday night before the AFL Grand Final.