With the wild year that 2020 has been, I had to stop and ask myself today when the Brownlow medal count will actually be! The answer to that question is this Sunday, the 18th of October, starting at 7pm.
The glitz and glamour of it all won’t be present, with the AFL announcing that it will instead be held as a ‘virtual’ event. Considering most Victorian clubs have been doing their best and fairest counts as virtual events (which are pretty grim to watch by the way…), this was probably to be expected.
For us Victorians though, the traditional ritual of gathering around the TV together watching Gil McLachlan read out the votes with increasingly greater suspense as the rounds go by won’t even be possible, unless the state’s restrictions change drastically overnight!
Nothing is more entertaining than watching your mates suddenly become experts on ladies’ fashion and spring clothing collections during the red carpet, or keeping an eye on which players are obviously playing drinking games as their teammates votes are read out.
Not to fear though, thankfully the players will still be in attendance… sort of. For Victorian and New South Wales based clubs, the players will be hosted at Channel 7 studios in their respective states, presumably trying to avoid eye contact with Bruce McAvaney so he doesn’t try to interview them between the voting rounds. All other players will be in their home states at either Adelaide Oval, Optus Stadium, Metricon Stadium, the Gabba or Adelaide Oval.
It’s almost a shame. I was hoping players would be watching from their homes, suit jackets on the top and PJ pants on the bottom, stubbies just visible off the side of the screen. Make it feel sort of relatable to us common folk, you know?
In terms of who’s actually going to win the thing, well… let’s just say there’s a resounding favourite sitting well ahead of everyone else.
Last year’s Brownlow, won by Nat Fyfe for his second medal in total, was a break from what has seemed to become the norm in recent years of the outright favourite winning after a highly glorified year at the media forefront. Lachie Neale ($1.25) is a return to the norm in this sense, following in the footsteps of Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin before him.
There’s no doubt that the superstar midfielder has had an absolutely outstanding year. He’s already been named in the All-Australian team for the second year running, won the AFL Players MVP, the Coach’s Association Player of the Year and is likely to take home his fourth club B&F, his second with the Lions. To go with this, Neale has averaged 27 disposals, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 5 clearances and kicked 12 goals.
Other favourites include Travis Boak ($8), who has a prelim final to win over the Tigers this Friday night. The 32 year-old has exploded in form since giving away the captaincy to Tom Jonas, and a Brownlow and premiership medal hanging around his neck would be an amazing way to cap off an outstanding career at Port Adelaide.
Christian Petracca ($9) has had a breakout year at the Demons, becoming the midfielder that everyone knew he could be. Jack Steele ($15) has been similar, with new coach Brett Ratten giving him more license to play his inside game, which he has benefitted from greatly.
If you’re looking for a smokey, Sam Menegola ($81) has had a career best year at Geelong, with the former mature-age recruit getting more midfield minutes than ever. He’s showcased his amazing ability to run both ways as an outside mid, averaging 21 disposals, 345 metres gained, 5 score involvements, 3 inside 50s and 6 marks. The All-Australian selectors have a huge case to answer for not picking him in the side, a decision they may come to regret.
Next year for sure Sam.