The AFL’s most distinguished individual honour, the Charles Brownlow Medal, has always been shrouded in a layer of secrecy. This humble hard hitting sports journo wishes to educate the public about the machinations behind this award so that there is no longer consternation about any future winners.
This medal, theoretically awarded to the best and fairest player of the regular season, seems to follow a straight forward system: In each match, at the conclusion of the game, the three officiating umpires will decide who the three best players were and subsequently award three votes to the best player, two votes to the second best player and one vote to the third best player. These votes are then sealed in an envelope and sent to a safe in AFL house, where it is locked away, not to be opened until the conclusion of the regular season.
While this may seem a perfectly reasonable way of determining the best performed player in any given season, eyebrows have been raised when unheralded players win the coveted prize such as Scott Wynd, Shane Woewodin, and most recently, Matt Priddis. While you might see these results as ludicrous, this hard hitting sports journo submits that this is an unfair, overly simplistic view. If one questions the worthiness of these players to win the Brownlow, then it betrays in them a fundamental lack of understanding of the sophisticated nuances of our great game.
The recent criticisms of Priddis’ stirring victory have been particularly unfair. The unassuming midfielder for the West Coast Eagles was ignored by the All Australian selectors, and did not feature prominently in any of the other awards such as the Players Association MVP, the Coaches award, or indeed any of the media outlet’s player of the year awards. So when he rose to the podium to accept his Brownlow Medal from Mike Fitzpatrick all the “so called” experts immediately tried to ridicule the choice in a vain attempt to preserve the impression that they still should be considered an expert of the game worthy of employment. First they said he was a just a decent player standing out amongst a poor team. Then they pointed out that although he might accumulate stats, they weren’t stats that hurt the opposition teams. Another point often bleated out of their desperate mouths was that Priddis never attracts a tagger; his teammates such as Andrew Gaff and Luke Shuey get that dubious honour instead. How could the umpires get it so wrong, they cried.
One cruel and popular analogy for his win was that he was the “Steven Bradbury” of the AFL. For those that don’t know, Steven Bradbury was the first Australian Gold Medal winner at a Winter Olympics, claiming his prize courtesy of his much more highly fancied opponents all falling over on the final lap of a speed skating race. Subscribers to this comparison point out that Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood and Nat Fyfe were all far more deserving of the Brownlow but “fell over” due to suspension or injury.
This general disdain for the West Coast Champion’s win even led Priddis himself to being “embarrassed” to have won. This indicates that Priddis was robbed of some well deserved joy for a well deserved victory and this is an absolute disgrace on the media fraternity (this hard hitting journo excluded).
After some brilliant investigative reporting, I have obtained a document which will grant unprecedented insight into the diligent work our umpires undertake after each and every game so that a worthy winner can be decided on the Monday of Grand Final week. Using the latest and greatest meta statistical metrics available, the umpires thoroughly interrogate the merits of each player that took the field by religiously completing a checklist. In an exclusive for The Shirtfront, this normally top secret form is being made available to the public for the first time:
Official Checklist for Brownlow Medal Voting
Umpire Names: ______________________
Round: _______ _____________________ vs _________________________
Player Name: ____________________________________
Instructions: Complete the following checklist for each player. The three players with the most ticks will get the votes on a 3-2-1 basis.
Did the player play alright?
|2||Did the player avoid getting his number taken?|
|3||Was the player polite and friendly?|
|4||Did the player fail to avoid getting his phone number taken?|
|5||Was the player having a good hair day?|
|6||Is the player’s hair blonde?|
|7||Is the player’s hair permed?|
|8||Does the player look good in uniform? (Bonus tick if they can pull off an unfashionable uniform)|
|9||Is the player openly proud of who they are?|
|10||Does the player have manly affectations such as tattoos, facial hair, mullet, nipple rings? (1 tick per item)|
|11||Does the player’s footy shorts bulge in all the right places?|
|12||Does the player have an abundance of body hair or alternatively are they waxed perfectly smooth?|
|13||Would the player steal the show in a karaoke bar?|
|14||Does the player have an alluring nickname?|
|15||Is the player in peak physical condition?|
|16||Would you be happy to take player home to meet your parents?|
|17||Is the player good with dogs and cats?|
|18||Does the player like the feel of leather?|
|19||Has the player ever been seen lighting up the dance floor at the Laird Hotel, Melbourne?|
|20||Does the player look like anyone in the following photo? (5 Bonus Ticks)|
I think at this point it is appropriate that I provide you with a hard hitting historical analysis of the Brownlow Medal in order to shed light on this never before seen document:
As mentioned before, the Brownlow medal is for the “fairest and best” player in the league. What can be seen from this top secret document is that the umpires place a far greater emphasis on the first word mentioned in that criteria: FAIREST. This is ‘fair’ enough! It has been a longstanding position of AFL headquarters that the league makes the rules but it is the umpires who interpret them. Quite clearly the umpires here have taken a very liberal interpretation of the word “fairest”, but this is their mandated prerogative.
Question two is clearly important for this criteria. If players who commit filthy acts on the field (such as when Nat Fyfe clashed heads with Michael Rischitelli) were to win, it would shred the integrity of the award that has been built up over many years.
Several questions appear focussed on player aesthetics, and one can only assume this is important for the expansion of the AFL into rugby territory. One marketing advantage the AFL has is that, unlike the rugby leagues, its players actually have necks and a reasonable distance between both eyes on their faces. It therefore makes sense that the anointed premier player in the competition in any given year further promotes this idea to the potential converts in Queensland and New South Wales. Priddis would have scored big points on the three hair questions, as would have James Hird, Shane Woewodin, Shane Crawford and Jim Stynes in previous years.
A common knock on the game put forward by the AFL’s rivals is that the game is too “soft”. This document reveals that the AFL has planned to combat this too, giving points to players who have “manly affectations” such as tattoos, mullets, or facial hair. You can now see why players such as Dane Swan, Tony Lockett and Robert DipierDemenico consistently polled well on brownlow night. It could also be that Ben Cousins’ “Such is Life” tattoo on his tummy might have been the decisive factor which saw him edge out his unblemished teammate Daniel Kerr for the 2005 Brownlow.
Another focus for the growth of the game is capturing the hearts and minds of the kids. This is clearly the reasoning behind the questions on an “alluring” nickname and whether you’d be willing to take the player home to meet your parents. Players that poll well here would obviously be relate-able to the kiddies. ‘Dippa’, ‘Plugga’ and ‘Libba’ have been the AFL’s Hewy, Dewy and Lewy ever since their famous Brownlow wins, luring the youth of Australia in to playing the sport.
On a similar note, the question on being kind to dogs and cats is clearly for PR purposes. The last thing the AFL would want is for the competition’s best player to subsequently be caught being cruel to animals. Players such as Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Scott Wynd and Tony Liberatore would have done well out of this question.
Like the word “fairest”, the umpires have elected to take a broad interpretive approach to the concept of “best”. Clearly playing well in the actual game is at the forefront (question one), but many other facets of “best” are also looked at as well.
The Brownlow winner being proud of who they are has become very important to the AFL in an era where it is attempting to celebrate tolerance and diversity through such innovations as the Women’s round and Dreamtime at the ‘G. Adam Goodes, as a proud indigenous man, would have polled well here as would have Ben Cousins, an unapologetic drug addict. These winners promote the beautiful message that people of all walks of life can succeed in this great game.
Being a great singer and dancer also seems to be important. Once again, I can only imagine this is important in order to promote the game to children. Perhaps the plan is to create a Wiggles-esque band of ex Brownlow Winners to play to packed school halls promoting the AFL message. Paul Kelly’s victory in 1995 becomes clearer now, given he is a great country singer in his spare time.
There are a few questions that remain a mystery to me. I’m not sure what relevance a player’s phone number has for the Brownlow, nor do I understand why the Laird Hotel in Melbourne is specifically mentioned in question 19. I’m also at a loss to explain what those six strangely dressed men depicted have to do with the price of eggs. I guess this just further proves that the AFL is operating at a higher level than even this hard hitting sports expert is capable of!
With the release of this top secret document, it is now clear that the process of selecting the winner of the Brownlow medal is a far more involved and complicated process than anyone would ever have thought. It is hoped that by educating the public about the inner workings of Brownlow deliberations that the Matt Priddis bashing can stop once and for all and instead be replaced by the din of cheers for this utterly deserving champion.