After his stellar start to the 2012 AFL season Sydney’s clearance-specialist Josh Kennedy has tumbled in from $251 to as low as equal $7 favourite to win the Brownlow Medal.
Along with averaging 28.3 possessions (equal seventh in the AFL) and 7.8 clearances (second) per game this year, Kennedy has also hit the scoreboard consistently with seven majors.
He has accumulated 36 more disposals than the next best Swan Jarrad McVeigh and is expected to have polled well with the team 5-1 (historically a member of the winning team is awarded the three votes on almost two thirds of occasions).
Betting odds change by weight of money so there are plenty of punters who have backed him to win the Brownlow.
$251 represented value at the beginning of the season, however it is rare for clearance specialists (Kennedy was #1 in the AFL in clearances in 2011 averaging seven) to win the Brownlow.
He polled just three votes last year.
When Brett Ratten was in his playing prime during the 1999-2000 seasons he led the competition in clearances, averaging 10.19 and 6.76 respectively.
After polling a measly four votes in 1999, Ratten improved to 18 in 2000. However this was only in equal-sixth place, behind the winner Shane Woewodin on 24 votes.
In 1999 Daryn Cresswell (#2 in clearances, averaging 6.78) polled just seven votes to finish equal 39th.
In 2000 Scott West (#3 in clearances, averaging 6.61), Mark Ricciuto (#4, averaging 6.82) and Gary Hocking (#2, averaging 7.67) finished equal second, 38th and 52nd respectively.
In 2001 Simon Black (#1, averaging 6.28) and Wayne Campbell (#2, averaging 6.04) finished equal 13th and equal 87th respectively.
Even last year dominant clearance players Sam Mitchell (#2), Matthew Boyd (equal #4), Brent Moloney and Matt Priddis (equal #9) could not win.
In the last fifteen years there have been only two medal winners that have led the competition in clearances (Robert Harvey in 1998, averaging 7.38; and Simon Black in 2002, averaging 6.28).
However there are two stats with a stronger correlation to Brownlow medalists: total disposals and inside 50s.
Top five finishes in these categories matter
Dane Swan last year (31.67 disposals per game), Robert Harvey in 1997 (30.24) and 1998 (30.63) and Paul Couch in 1989 (26.92) won the medal after leading the competition in total disposals.
In 2009 and 2005 Gary Ablett (33.82) and Ben Cousins (25.50) won their medals after finishing second in total disposals.
In 2008 Adam Cooney (25.50) and 2007 Jimmy Bartel (27.50) won theirs, finishing fifth.
Nathan Buckley in 2003 (7.48 inside 50s per game) and Ben Cousins in 2005 (6.21) won their medals after leading the competition in inside 50s.
Jason Akermanis in 2001 (5.83) and Robert Harvey in 1998 (5.75) won theirs after finishing third.
Swan (5.20) finished fourth in the category (and #1 in disposals) before winning the medal last year.
Kennedy finished equal 28th in disposals and equal 26th in inside 50s last year.
While he is currently seventh in disposals and equal 17th in inside 50s this year, a number of those have resulted from quick kicks out of the SCG centre square. Against Hawthorn in round 5 at Launceston he had just one inside-50 stat.
My theory is that umpires notice the running players, who win contested possession away from the pack and set up scoring opportunities, rather than primarily clearance players who are hidden in the congestion.
Exceptional players such as Greg Williams, Robert Harvey, Simon Black, Gary Ablett Jnr and Chris Judd (incidentally great clearance players) can do it all.
However, with the likes of Ablett Jnr, Akermanis, Buckley, Cousins, Harvey, Judd and Swan consistently featuring highly in both disposals and inside 50s, the evidence is compelling that these categories produce Brownlow winners.
Barring injury I expect Marc Murphy, Gary Ablett, Dane Swan, Chris Judd, Joel Selwood, Brent Stanton, Brett Deledio, Patrick Dangerfield and Ryan Griffen to be among the category leaders this year.
In making an argument that Kennedy in single figures represents no value to win the medal, the players I believe to be over the odds after round six are Swan $13, Stanton $17 and Dangerfield $81.
Swan, currently ranked #1 in disposals and #9 in inside 50s, always polls well.
If you overlook the loss to Collingwood where Stanton only managed 13 possessions (and Swan is almost certain to receive three votes) the Bomber has averaged 31 disposals, 10 marks, 6 tackles, 5.6 inside 50s and 1.6 goals. He has also contributed in five victories.
During Adelaide’s 5-1 start to the season Dangerfield has ranked equal #2 in inside 50s and equal #14 in total disposals.
He has been outstanding in the side’s last two victories, averaging 34.5 disposals, eight marks, 10.5 inside 50s and 1.5 goals contributed.