So, Who's Going To Win The 2021 Brownlow Medal?
The narrative has shifted substantially where this year’s Brownlow Medal is concerned.
We so often head into footy’s ‘night of nights’ expecting more of a procession, usually hoping that at best an outsider might be able to at least take it up to a heavy favourite.
However this year we have an entirely different mood surrounding the AFL's gala event with one of the more wide open fields in history to contemplate.
Thankfully, Stats insider has poured all manner of information into its number crunching machines, the likes of which have responded with a banquet of projections for the night, ranging from top-5 and top-10 probabilities through to whose expected to be leading the count after rounds five and ten.
Today, we’ll check in on the five contenders our model has assessed as being the strongest chance of winning the league's highest individual honour.
Stats Insider Win Projection: 34.9%
Port Adelaide surged home and took a six-game winning streak into the finals, supercharged by an Ollie Wines runaway train campaign that became virtually unstoppable by season's end.
Wines' previous best on Brownlow night was polling 18 votes back in 2017, however he hauls in 27.1 votes throughout our simulations while winning the count 34.9% of the time.
If you need any further evidence to how strongly Wines finishes the season, consider the fact that our numbers are suggesting he’s just an 8.1% chance of leading the count after round 10.
This season Wines eclipsed career highs in disposals and inside 50s, while he also achieved something so many Brownlow winners have done in recent years which was going back and helping out his defence, this year averaging 1.6 rebound 50s per game which once again represented a career high.
Stats Insider Win Projection: 23.3%
At just 25 years of age, Marcus Bontempelli has already achieved a breathtaking amount having won a premiership, three Bulldog Best and Fairest while also possessing no less than 4 All-Australian blazers.
What he’s yet to do is truly make his mark on Brownlow night, never getting within 11 votes of an eventual winner. With that said, the Bulldog skipper is a proven vote winner averaging a healthy 0.70 votes per game throughout his career, while this year boasting a 99% chance of finishing top-10 for a fourth time.
This season, he surpassed 27 disposals per game for the first time in his career, while he was an instrumental figure in the league’s second-highest scoring outfit ranking second in the league with 145 inside 50s and top-5 for score involvements while he was the only player in the competition (along with Christian Petracca) to average at least 27 disposals and a goal per game.
Stats Insider Win Projection: 23.1%
Like Wines, Oliver is one of the league’s hardest working midfielders, producing a combination of serious ball winning ability, mixed in with a tenacious defensive side. In fact, of the 7 players who averaged at least 31 disposals per game this season, only Oliver was good enough to also average at least 5 tackles and 7 clearances per match.
Look for Oliver to feature prominently early. Melbourne’s 9-game unbeaten start to the season will be sure to put him right in the frame to win Melbourne’s first Brownlow Medal in 21 years. In fact, he’s a 39.9% chance of leading after round 10 which is the model’s boldest projection to that point.
Stats Insider Win Projection: 16.4%
Jack Steele’s incredible breakthrough season last year earned him a maiden St Kilda Best and Fairest, an All-Australian gong and a podium finish on Brownlow night.
He’s been even more commanding this year, becoming the second player to ever average at least 29 disposals and 8 tackles over the course of a season, which are numbers that earned him another AA blazer, should net him another Saints Best and Fairest and should also see him poll extremely well once again.
What will be working against him was St Kilda’s relatively poor season which saw them miss finals for a ninth time in ten seasons and which usually makes for a significant roadblock for aspiring Brownlow medalists. Of the last 24 men to ‘take Charlie home’ just 3 have been on teams who missed finals, with the list including only Trent Cotchin (2013), Gary Ablett Jnr (2014) and Nat Fyfe (2019).
Importantly though, Steele absolutely shone during the 10 games St Kilda did win. He collected either at least 27 touches or at least 9 tackles in each and every one of those wins. Like Wines, don’t expect to see Steele’s name too often in the early going, (he in fact has less than a 1% chance of leading after round 10), though he’s sure to absolutely storm home.
Stats Insider Win Projection: 7.6%
We’d have to go all the way back to Chris Judd in 2004 to find a player so young and so inexperienced, yet so damn good so as to take home the Brownlow.
When Judd first saluted as an Eagle 17 years ago he had just turned 21 and had played just 68 games. As for Sam Walsh, well he’s also just turned 21 and played just 61 games.
Like Judd, Walsh is clearly a footballing phenom, however he might face the same problems Jack Steele will be up against owing to Carlton’s underperformance this year. In fact, it's been 26 years since Paul Kelly in 1995 won the Brownlow despite his team winning so few matches. That year, the Swans won 8 games which is of course all the Blues managed this season.
While 2021 mightn’t be Walsh’s year, he achieves a top-5 finish in 55.5% of our simulations, while he’s one of just four players projected to have a 100% chance of being his club’s leading vote getter on the night.
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