Change the Brownlow voting system?

22 September 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

In the end it was Gary Ablett Jnr’s night. And while I correctly predicted a Cat would take out the prestigious award, I chose the wrong one in opting for Joel Selwood, who managed 16 votes, and finished in eighth spot.

It was a tale of ‘catch me if you can’ for Ablett, who polled votes in the first five rounds of the season and blew out to 22 by round 14 (the last player to achieve such a feat was Robert Harvey in 1998). He had the award tied up following the conclusion of round 20, where he found himself seven ahead of Lenny Hayes – who made a charge but fell short playing only two of the last four games of the season – with two rounds to go and finished on 30 votes, eight in front of Carlton captain Chris Judd who finished in second place.

While it was a night of jubilation for the favourite, a few key questions emerge about  some contentious voting decisions. Dane Swan missed out on votes in a game where he managed 38 possessions against Brisbane in round 18, and didn’t really feature or challenge throughout the night, having been one of the early favourites. And Paul Hasleby picked up one  vote against Collingwood, in a game where Fremantle got beaten by 84 points, which seems a little odd.  Some other oddities:  Carlton and champion full- Brendan Fevola. In round four Carlton lost by just four points to Hawthorn and full-forward Brenda Fevola managed to equal his career best tally with eight goals, but couldn’t manage  a single  vote. And again in round 15 against Richmond, Fevola managed to achieve a career high nine goals and received only two votes, while skipper Chris Judd got the three.

As others have observed, the recurring midfield dominance was obvious again on the field  in 2009, and in last night’s count,  midfielders featuring in nine out of the top 10 places – Jonathan Brown being the only exception. With this in mind I’m advocating a change to the system, considering that the last key position player to win the Brownlow was Scott Wynd in 1992, and he was a ruckman. Questions should be raised as to whether umpires should be left the responsibilities of deciding the votes. I’ve always been a firm believer that the umpires should be left solely to adjudicate the game, having the least amount of influence as possible, but the AFL begs to differ.

To an extent I empathise with the umpires on their midfield choices. They both run side-by-side with each other all game – wherever the ball is, the midfield player will be, and the umpire will be somewhere in the background as well. But there have to be some standout players that should be placing better, if not seriously contending for the award.

Why shouldn’t a Jonathan Brown or a Brendan Fevola win the Brownlow? Fevola managed 86 goals and Brown 78; they’ve both undoubtedly won games off their own boot, just as many as midfield stalwarts Chris Judd and Simon Black have. Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin managed something in 2008 that many thought  would never happen again  – he booted 100 goals in a season, but only managed to come in sixth in the Brownlow vote. .

I can see the other side to it though. Without the midfield, there is no drive into the forward line, so how are forwards meant to win games? But without forwards how are teams meant to kick goals?

Perhaps it is time for the likes of Andrew Demetriou, Adrian Anderson and Mike Fitzpatrick and co. to consider an overhaul of the Brownlow Medal voting system, and have a panel of completely impartial spectators present the votes, instead of the status quo whereby three officials have to juggle between interpreting, officiating and then finding the best three players from a game.

After all, it is the Brownlow Medal, not a midfield award.

John Pyrros is a second-year Law/Media student at La Trobe University.


Is John right? Is it time to rethink the Brownlow voting system? Let us know what you think.