For whatever reason, it is still hailed as the highest individual award in the game. The Brownlow Medal carries a prestige that other awards – the Leigh Matthews Trophy and the Coaches’ Association Champion Player of the Year simply don’t possess.
To win a Brownlow is what sets you apart from your peers as THE player of the year, and with Ollie Wines walking away with the award in 2021, his stature as Port Adelaide’s first medallist sees him make history. He will now be remembered as a club great, and with this win, his couple of tumultuous years as captain, then, suddenly, non-captain have faded to distant memory.
But how have players fared over the journey?
We see some players poll well every year, hovering around the top ten and leading their club’s votes, but who amongst them is the best-performed Brownlow player of the past five years?
2016 has now been removed from the equation, and with it the Dangerfield win. 2021 has been added. Let’s see who sits where.
E19 – DAYNE ZORKO/JARRYD LYONS – 53 VOTES
A pair of Lions, and I have to say, it is a little surprising to see Jarryd Lyons make the top twenty. I’ve always viewed him as a workhorse that does not get the plaudits he deserves, but it seems as though the umps recognise his work.His 23 votes in 2021 catapult him up the standings.
Zorko has maintained the excellent form that saw him capture a fifth Brisbane Best and Fairest award – that is just outstanding. He may grab some early votes in 2022, with his move into defence early in the season pretty eye-catching.
18 – ANDREW GAFF – 55 VOTES
Mr Consistent, but he is such a strange player to watch over the last couple of years. Runs all day, but now lacks explosive pace. Is a great outside player, but is drawn to the contest when the Eagles need a lift. There was a time when it looked like Gaff could seriously contend for the medal, but those days are now gone. Instead, his solid efforts, year-in and year-out see him retain a place in the top 20. Failed to hit double figures in votes in 2021 and will do the same in 2022.
17 – BRODIE GRUNDY – 57 VOTES
A little while back, people were wondering whether Grundy would be the first ruck to break the midfield stranglehold on the medal. Nup… however, there are some games where the big man’s dominance is simply undeniable. They’re usually against Tim English and the Dogs. Nine of these 57 votes came in consecutive games against English over 2019-20. Grundy must have been licking his lips when he saw the Dogs on the fixture.
Given his 2022 output, it is fair to say Brodie likely won’t be gracing the 2023 version.
16 – TIM KELLY – 58 VOTES
Eye-catching when he is on-song, Kelly has the all-round game to stand out in every facet of the game. He does struggle considerably with defensive attention, but if permitted to run free, can dominate a game. Picked up ten votes in 2021 after two really strong seasons in 2018/19 for the Cats.
Has had such an up-and-down 2022 season. Will likely pick up a couple of BOG awards, but for the most part, he has been pushing his barrow uphill on a West Coast team that simply has been unable to perform.
15 – SCOTT PENDLEBURY – 63 VOTES
It was considered a foregone conclusion that Pendles would be a Brownlow Medallist a couple of years into his career. He had everything going for him – I mean… he has a basketball background (yet they don’t really bring that up often when talking about Hugh Greenwood… who has a legitimate basketball background!), and moves like he has the ability to slow time around him. Alas, time has got the better of Pendles, as it does all of us, and with just six votes in 2021, we are seeing the tail end of a spectacular Brownlow vote-getting career.
Will likely snaffle a few votes this season with the Pies winning so many, but his time at the top of the heap on a consistent basis will see him drop down the order from now on.
14 – PATRICK CRIPPS – 66 VOTES
There were plenty predicting he’d have one of these medals by now, but with 2020-21 definitely not working in his favour, Cripps struggled to attract the umpires’ attention. Picked up just five votes in 2021, which saw him drop down the rankings.
2022 has been a return to form, however, particularly early in the year, Cripps looked as though he will be right up the pointy end when votes are counted.
13 – MAX GAWN – 70 VOTES
We’re starting to see the load eased a little on Big Max, and that is due to the development of Luke Jackson, whose athleticism gives Gawn a fantastic opportunity to rest and become a thorn in the side of the opposition with intercept marks. Despite many insisting Nic Nat is the pre-eminent ruck in the caper over the last however many years, Gawn’s ability to do what he does all game long elevates him to the top of the heap. Picked up 16 votes in 2021 despite playing alongside two big vote winners.
12 – JACK MACRAE – 71 VOTES
14 votes in 2021 do not do his work justice. He really pays the price for playing alongside a champion of the game, in Bontempelli. It just so happens that Bont is also incredibly eye-catching, which often means that Macrae’s hard run and mountains of effort go underappreciated. Still, his All-Australian selections in recent seasons indicate that people ARE taking notice – just not as much notice as they are of Bont.
E9 – TRAVIS BOAK – 74 VOTES
46 of these 71 votes have come over 2020/21, which speaks to Boak’s dedication to getting in the best shape of his life post-30. It has paid handsome dividends. Boak should be the poster boy for the 30+ brigade in terms of what you can achieve once you hit that mark. He was playing half forward, and to be honest, looked as though the game was starting to get away from him a few years back. His determination to get back to his best, and even surpass it, has been one of the big keys to the Power’s resurgence over 2020/21.
Sadly, his efforts have not been able to lift the team this season.
E9 – ZACH MERRETT – 74 VOTES
An 11th place finish in the 2020 Brownlow was backed up with a 12th place in 2021, indicating that Merrett is around the mark in terms of the best midfielders in the competition. Ably supported by Darcy Parish, Merrett is.. and I don’t say this lightly… the best outside midfielder in the game.
Merrett has had several eye-catching performances in 2022, and will likely be in double figures again during this year’s count. Expect him around the top ten in the 5YB for a while, yet.
E9 – LUKE PARKER – 74 VOTES
An unsung hero that is left out of the conversation for the best mids in the game by just about everyone other than Sydney supporters. Can go forward and kick goals, win the hard footy, or get to the outside and punish inside 50… Parker does it all with a minimum of fuss and, evidently, a minimum of respect from the AFL Media. With 32 votes over the past two seasons, Parker continues to provide the Swans with leadership in the guts, and his efforts do not go unnoticed by the men in… whatever colour the umpires are now wearing.
Again in 2022, Parker’s name has been front and centre when the Swans play well, as evidenced by yet another Brett Kirk Medal just last weekend.
8 – NAT FYFE – 77 VOTES
Well, there’s a Brownlow win in the mix in 2019, which really elevates Fyfe up the rankings, but his 2021 was injury-riddled, and his 2020 was worse. Just 13 of his 77 votes came in 2020/21 after that massive 2019 year.
And now 2022 has been another season with Fyfe out injured more than on the park.
Now over 30, and with a long injury history, Fyfe may have one big season left in him, but the Freo side may not need him to be the be-all and end-all of their midfield anymore… and that may lead to less votes again in 2023.
7 – CLAYTON OLIVER – 82 VOTES
I thought he may have snuck in and snatched the 2021 medal at one stage. Finishing with a monster effort of 31 votes, Oliver was close, but not close enough. Still, that number pushes him right into the top ten in the 5YB, and given we are now seeing him at the peak of his powers, it would not surprise me if he resides in the top few by the time the 2023 medal is awarded.
6 – OLLIE WINES – 84 VOTES
Well, when you win a Brownlow with 36 votes, you’re bound to be highly-ranked. Ollie Wines etched his name into Port Adelaide folklore by becoming their first Brownlow winner in one of the best counts in recent memory. His tough, contested style combined with the game of Travis Boak, made Port’s midfield one of the toughest to combat all season, but they have struggled to replicate that effect in 2022.
Wines is capable of elevating Port back into the top eight in 2023, but will likely need a bit more help in the middle to do so.
5 – TOM MITCHELL – 88 VOTES
Another winner who has had to deal with injury, Mitchell makes the top six despite having an entire season on the sidelines in 2019 with a broken leg, and the inevitable teething problems when working back from such an injury. That said, his 2021 season was brilliant in a team that had very little brilliance about it, notching 25 votes. Throw in his 28 votes in his Brownlow-winning 2018 campaign, and the majority of the Hawthorn champ’s numbers come from two wonderful seasons.
Has a heap to offer and should be in double figures for Brownlow votes again this season, yet it seems as though his future will be with another team, and the Hawks will get pennies on the dollar in return.
4 – LACHIE NEALE – 90 VOTES
A down year in 2021 due to injury, but his 2020 Brownlow-winning effort sees him sit comfortably in the top five. Neale had only eight votes in 2021 after securing 31 in 2020 to win the medal in a season where he was the obvious standout player.
A fitter Neale entered 2022 with a mission, and his form has been difficult to fault. With his Lions winning their fair share of games, Neale will no doubt poll well again this season and may even give a second Brownlow a shake.
3 – MARCUS BONTEMPELLI – 93 VOTES
So close… yet so far. Bont was pipped at the post in 2021, falling three votes short of Ollie Wines in the count, but his influence on games, and ability to bust them open with a burst from the centre and a long bomb inside 50 left no doubt as to whether he is in the best handful of players in the game. When he is on, Bont is the rare combination of sizzle and steak… like Muhammad Ali, he looks good and backs it up when it matters.
2022 has not been as big a year for the Bulldogs’ captain, but with 33 votes in 2021 and 22 back in 2019, Bont has some numbers that’ll see him right up near the top of the 5YB for a while yet.
2 – PATRICK DANGERFIELD – 98 VOTES
After a string of top-ten finishes, Danger limped through the 2021 season, missing the AA-team for the first time since he was about 12 years old, and polling just six votes. This year, things have not improved, with the 2016 Brownlow Medallist forced to spend a large portion of the season on the pine.
He will poll in a few games, but with his monster total of 33 in 2017 being stricken from the 5YB records following this year, a fall for Danger is on the cards, unless he can produce a bit of magic in the last three weeks of the season?
1 – DUSTIN MARTIN – 104 VOTES
Ah yes… the number one man, finally knocking over Danger for the number one spot in the Five Year Brownlow…
And just as he does that, he has a horror season that sees him step away from the game, only to come back and ping a hammy. While the crown may have slipped from Dusty’s head in 2022, it is still sitting atop the head when it comes to performance over the last five seasons, combined.
Like Dangerfield, his mammoth 2017 totals will not be a part of the 2023 version of the 5YB, and as such, we congratulate Martin on topping the table for the first, and perhaps only time.
So, whilst the records of Dusty and Danger have them retaining their seats at the head of the table, the wolves are snapping at their heels, and edging closer and closer to displacing them. Will 2022 be the year we see a new face at the top of the Five-Year Brownlow?
All 5YB winners
Post-2019 – PATRICK DANGERFIELD (134 votes)
Post-2020 – PATRICK DANGERFIELD (127 votes)
Post-2021 – DUSTIN MARTIN (104 votes)
Post-2022 – ???