By KAVISHA DI PIETRO
After a career-best season for the Richmond Football Club, all eyes are on Dustin Martin ahead of this year’s Brownlow Medal count on September 25.
Since 2016 Brownlow medalist Patrick Dangerfield was controversially suspended during the year for a mid-season tackle which left Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer concussed, Martin has moved into the short-priced favourite and is expected to break records.
But like all things in football, the Brownlow Medal always shapes up to be an unpredictable night, with last minute bolters and favourites polling poorly.
Although it seems this year’s count is Dusty, then daylight, Mojo News looks at the candidates that could edge Martin out and be kissing the medal come football’s night of nights.
Dustin Martin’s an almost unbackable favourite for this year’s Brownlow.
First cab off the rank is this year’s unquestionable favourite – Dustin Martin. After a bleak 2016 for the Tiger on and off the field, their exponential rise up the ladder has seen Martin’s form follow suit.
The Tigers midfielder has taken his performance to another level this season, averaging 30 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s and just over a goal per game. According to AFL.com.au’s Brownlow Medal predictor, Martin can be expected to poll a staggering and record-breaking best-on-ground three votes in 10 of his 22 games this season.
His individual performances have translated into greater team performances too for Richmond, which has seen them move from a disappointing 13th placed finish in 2016 to an unexpected preliminary final berth this year.
Taking home “Charlie” would cap off Martin’s best season at AFL level and make the awards season a clean-sweep after being awarded the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year award and the AFL Player’s Association Most Valuable Player award.
A great year, but probably not good enough.
With Dangerfield suspended and consequently ineligible, Greater Western Sydney’s 22-year-old midfielder Josh Kelly is Martin’s biggest threat. The recently re-signed Giant has averaged 29 disposals, six tackles, five clearances and five inside 50s across his 21 games this season.
Kelly is expected to poll in 10 of his 21 matches, with seven best-on-ground performances. Despite a career-best season, Kelly still sits 13 votes behind Martin on AFL.com.au’s predictor.
An impressive 2017 season should see Kelly add to his career tally of just six Brownlow votes across his four seasons at the elite level,but may not be quite enough to pip Martin at the post.
Mitchell averaged 36 disposals per game in what was an classy performance.
Since crossing over from Sydney to Hawthorn in last year’s trade period, Tom Mitchell has seamlessly stepped into the midfield vacancies left by Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis respectively.
Mitchell played every game this season, averaging 36 disposals per game and breaking the record for most disposals in a home-and-away season, with the previous record set in 1971.
Mitchell’s astonishing season saw him drop below the 30-disposal mark only twice – in Round 3 against Gold Coast (27) and Round 19 versus Sydney (26) – and his consistency should hold him in good stead come Brownlow night
While Mitchell may not poll three votes in every game he played – with some arguing his leather poisoning didn’t result in influencing Hawthorn’s ability to earn the four points – he will be in contention for the one and two votes in several games.