Adelaide (1st – 92 Votes)
I whinged all year about how hard Adelaide games were to predict. They always had a great spread of contribution through the defence, midfield, and forward line to make things especially complicated. By my count they are the highest polling team with the largest spread of players (14).
- 25 – Rory Sloane
- 15 – Rory Laird
- 13 – Matt Crouch
I have Sloane polling higher than most, as he plays an eye-catching brand of football and I was inclined to give him the three votes more often than not. The fact that I have his 25 votes coming from only 10 games will work against him, some of those threes may morph into twos; realistically 25 is definitely his ceiling. Sloane is a proven poller though with 24 votes last season, so I’m still expecting a podium finish. 3rd place in the Coaches’ voting, 4th place in the Players’ MVP, as well as the Most Courageous award, are all encouraging signs.
Crouch’s All Australian selection saw him get a hefty boost in the Brownlow markets, but I feel that’s a bit reactionary. I have him at 13, but wouldn’t be surprised to see him get up as high as 18 due to the difficulties in predicting Adelaide, but I feel that 20+ is too much of a stretch.
In rounds 3, 5, and 10, I have Sloane polling three and Crouch polling two, so if Crouch has any chance of an upset he needs to buck projections in those games.
Brisbane (Tied -15th – 47 Votes)
Brisbane were at the other end of the scale from Adelaide, only three stand out players and one of them carried an injury all year.
- 21 – Dayne Beams
- 15 – Dayne Zorko
- 5 – Tom Rockliff
Just like with Crouch, Zorko has seen a bump in popularity due to his All Australian selection, but I still have Beams ahead of him. Zorko had some incredible games, magical games, but Beams was more consistent and will pick up minor votes in losses. I have him at a very generous ceiling though; the consensus sees Beams at 16-18, it could be a close one on Brownlow night.
Carlton (13th – 53 Votes)
Carlton were very inconsistent this year but their two best players did enough to get a monopoly on the votes.
- 15 – Marc Murphy
- 12 – Bryce Gibbs
- 8 – Sam Docherty
I have Murphy just ahead of Gibbs, with Docherty a short distance back in third. Matthew Kreuzer is just off the leaderboard and could get up into third with some friendly decisions on Brownlow night, but I struggle to see him as a viable contender. Murphy and Gibbs are very much like Beams and Zorko, with Murphy doing well each week and roping together minor votes, while Gibbs has an equal amount of best-on-grounds but less minor votes. Should Murphy get overlooked in a few games then Gibbs is a big chance to overtake him. Don’t be fooled however into picking either of them though for an overall top five.
Collingwood (10th – 63 Votes)
I expected Collingwood’s four premium midfielders to steal votes from each other and deny any of them a real chance at solo glory, but one player was still able to break away from the pack.
- 21 – Taylor Adams
- 13 – Scott Pendlebury
- 10 – Adam Treloar
Adams was extremely consistent and a constant fixture for one or two votes all year, predicted to poll in an incredible twelve games. He started off half back a lot and swung through the middle in spurts which allowed him to be more of an impact player and dodge the tags that came the way of Pendlebury and Treloar. The consensus has Adams polling closer to 18 votes, but with Pendlebury missing games and Treloar and Sidebottom having down years, I think Adams is a safe pick for Collingwood.
Essendon (8th – 69 Votes)
It was a year of big improvements at Essendon, personified in their top two predicted players, Zach Merrett and Joe Daniher.
- 22 – Zach Merrett
- 12 – Joe Daniher
- 7 – Dyson Heppell
Despite being ineligible for the Brownlow, Merrett had a massive year. He polled 19 votes in 2016 on the back of three wins, and I believe he’ll improve on that with nine more wins to work with in 2017. Daniher is his direct competition though, and it will be interesting to see how their contrasting styles attract votes in different games. With Merrett you know you’re getting 30 disposals with good efficiency all around the ground, setting up teammates, and rebounding out of defence. With Daniher you’re getting towering marks and massive goals, even if it’s only a few memorable moments a game. Recent history says the medal is a midfielder’s game but there’s something dynamic and fun about Daniher that for me sees him do enough to get ahead of Dyson Heppell at least. The results from rounds 8, 9, and 17, will provide useful insight for future seasons.
Fremantle (Tied -17th – 42 Votes)
A year to forget for Fremantle, although a late season charge from their premier player will see a close result in the count.
- 13 – Nat Fyfe
- 12 – Lachie Neale
- 10 – Michael Walters
Fyfe was not himself in the first half of the year, carrying a mystery injury and plodding through games. Neale was consistent in his void, and Walters had some amazing games before going down with injury, but Fyfe was able to overcome whatever his problem was and string together some vote-winning performances late in the season. It’s a very close race though and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tie or for Neale to get over the line.
Geelong (3rd – 85 Votes)
An ill-fated sling tackle from Patrick Dangerfield will cost us a climactic finish in the count, but it is still shocking to see the daylight between him and fellow All Australian Joel Selwood.
- 35 – Patrick Dangerfield
- 15 – Joel Selwood
- 13 – Mitch Duncan
Dangerfield polled 35 votes in 2016 and I expect about the same this time around. Dustin Martin should still win in his own right, but I would not count Dangerfield out of creating that awkward moment the AFL does not want to see. Selwood missed a bunch of games but often polled two behind Dangerfield and therefore gets up to 15, while Duncan did the same in Selwood’s absence. Sam Menegola enjoyed some late season form to finish on 7 votes but I don’t see how he can do much better than that to reach Selwood and Duncan.
Gold Coast (Tied -15th – 47 Votes)
Gold Coast is an interesting one, because they really only have one standout player. And whether he is the best on ground or not, he has the whole attention of the media, the opposition, and the umpires, and it creates a vacuum of votes that can’t go to anyone else.
- 22 – Gary Ablett
- 5 – David Swallow
- 5 – Tom J. Lynch
Will Ablett actually poll 22 votes? He won the best and fairest from 14 games and played in all 6 of Gold Coast’s wins and was their top possession-getter in 5 of them (as well as leading their possessions in 5 losses). Bookmakers have him much lower on the totem pole which is understandable, but I am confident he’s good for 20 votes. When he played he was amazing, but the media is focussing on when he wasn’t, and that’s not how the Brownlow works.
As for second and third, it’s really hard to say. Lynch is probably the safe bet, but it could be anyone. Jack Martin, Aaron Hall, Jarryd Lyons, Sam May. They’ll all poll in one or two games, if one of them can do it in three they’ll take it. Swallow is my (hesitant) pick.
GWS Giants (6th – 76 Votes)
With a star-studded midfield and forward line, votes in GWS games became quite difficult, but an unquestionable leader emerged mid-season and never looked back.
- 21 – Josh Kelly
- 11 – Callan Ward
- 9 – Jonathon Patton
With the focus of the football world on him, Kelly never wilted and was routinely the Giants’ best player. Others have him polling up towards 24 votes and that is certainly on the cards, but there were just too many rivals for him to compete with the likes of Tom Mitchell and Dustin Martin who have the stage all to themselves. Ward had one of his best seasons to date, and just off the leaderboard is Toby Greene, Dylan Shiel, and Stephen Coniglio all on 7 votes.
Kelly has plenty of competition, but a third place finish in the player’s MVP voting could be foreshadow a big night at the Brownlow.
That’s it for now! Catch up with the rest of the predictions in part two of this article.
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