Judd claims the Brownlow, but did he deserve it?
Chris Judd is a superstar, a magnificent footballer and yes, he had a decent season this year. But the most glaring issue with him winning the Brownlow Medal last night is that the award is supposed to go to the “fairest and best” player in the AFL. Unfortunately, on both those fronts, Judd simply wasn’t the right man.
This is not an attack on Judd, by the way. It’s just that, on the Brownlow’s own criteria, his credentials didn’t stack up this year. Most other years they would, but not this year.
Ask yourself: was Judd the best player in the league this season?
The unanimous support for Dane Swan in the lead-up to the Brownlow count would suggest otherwise. Swan was, after all, the hottest Brownlow favourite with the bookies since Shane Crawford in 1999. Swan was the leading possession-winner in the league too, breaking his own possession-winning record in the process.
Seemingly every other award out there – media awards, the AFLPA MVP award – gave player of the year honours to Swan.
Compare this to Judd, who only made the bench of the All-Australian team last week and even that was under somewhat controversial circumstances.
Compare this to Judd, who ranks behind Swan, Gary Ablett and 11 others in disposals per game this year.
It’s difficult to comprehend, too, the assessment that Swan only had two best on ground performances this season – he polled three votes just twice – while Judd notched up a record five three-vote games in a row.
Did Judd really deserve three votes in Round 6, when Carlton lost to Collingwood by 53 points? On a similar note, Fremantle’s Adam McPhee was lauded for his ability to contain Judd in Round 22, and to a lesser extent in their Round 13 clash as well – so how did Judd poll a combined three votes in those two games?
Again, this is not to say Judd is not a great footballer. He is. Nor does this suggest he doesn’t deserve the term “Brownlow medallist” on his CV. He does. But was he really the best of 2010?
It’s incredibly hard to mount a case for that claim.
Now, even if you do think you could mount a case, ask yourself another question: was Judd the fairest player this season?
Well, in 1996, Corey McKernan was unable to win a Brownlow Medal (despite having enough votes) because during the season he was suspended for tripping. In 1997, Chris Grant couldn’t win it after getting a one-game suspension for striking – despite three field umpires telling the tribunal he had no case to answer.
The words “compare this to Judd” practically write themselves here.
Judd’s elbow on Matthew Pavlich in Round 13, which gave the Freo star five stitches under his eye and a scar still evident last night, was dismissed by the AFL’s match review panel. “Contact was below that required to constitute a reportable offence,” according to the AFL media release.
It was a decision that (quite rightly) caused plenty of outrage. Mike Sheahan labelled the panel’s explanation “extremely difficult to rationalise.”
It mightn’t have been the most mindboggling match review panel decision this year (let us not forget Steven Baker that easily), but it would take a brave man to suggest it wasn’t close. Judd should have been suspended for his clash with Pavlich.
Another argument that was being thrown about last night was that Judd did, in fact, miss games through suspension. The famous eye gouge incident from last year’s finals series caused him to miss the first three games of this season.
While this argument obviously is a little more flimsy than the one that surrounds the Pavlich incident, as it relates to an event that did not happen this year, it hardly reinforces Judd’s credentials as one of the fairer players.
The eyebrows that have already been raised after last night’s result cannot help the Brownlow’s credibility.
If more results end up like the one we got last night, the popularity of rival awards – such as the AFLPA’s MVP award, which is generally spot on – will only increase.
Right now, it’s a prospect that shouldn’t be dismissed.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio