Kennedy not the man for the Brownlow

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    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.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • May 8th 2012 @ 3:07am
      Macca said | May 8th 2012 @ 3:07am | ! Report

      This is a good article with great information to back up your thesis. Fair points all round. I still think Kennedy will have polled votes in each match in the first 5 rounds. This is just based on him being a standout player. The game against Hawthorn – he took a couple of towering marks in the forward line. Surely the umps would have noticed this?…but as we all know it is a long season. Dangerfield could be a smokey…good tip there. Swan will be up there and Pendlebury I presume as well.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 12:46pm
      sirnoob_51 said | May 8th 2012 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

      Great Article I would just like to say that your points about Stanton are very valid I believe that he has truly gone under the radar this season apart from the Collingwood game where his ability had been blanketed quite effectively by the Pies defence he will be a true contender performing very very well this season.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 9:30pm
      AndyMack said | May 8th 2012 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

      Some good research there Shooter.

      The one factor that I think comes into the awarding of votes tends to be the image of the players in the eyes of the umpires. There seems to be a perception that Stanton is not very effective (perpetrated by Bomber fans mainly) and I wonder if that effects the thinking of umpires when it comes to votes?? Also, someone like Kennedy polled poorly last year perhaps because he was not on the radar as a premium midfielder. I think now he is regarded as such and the umps tend to let that sway their voting.

      Eg: if Juddy pulls 25 touches, 2 goals, 6 clearances and a couple of tackles, he is looking at 3 votes. If Stanton pulls the same numbers he might be lucky to get 1 vote.

    • May 9th 2012 @ 9:45pm
      Chris said | May 9th 2012 @ 9:45pm | ! Report

      Shooter,
      You’ve done it again, providing a very sound point of view with great statistics to back it up. I would say that another thing to look at is that players who have great seasons the previous year without being recognised, tend to get the umpires vote the following year if they back up with another good year.
      Judd, Swan and Ablett are great examples of this who were favoured to win the year before they won.
      Stanton may be a smokey for next year with the recognition he’s startin to get this year. Or better still, you never know.. this year if Essendon keep improving.

    • May 10th 2012 @ 10:14am
      TomC said | May 10th 2012 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      This one passed me by when it was written. A lot of good research here, but…

      How is Simon Black’s poor showing in 2001 evidence for Shooter’s case when he won the medal the following year?

      And why do you cite four strong clearance players who polled in the top ten last year as evidence for your case? Doesn’t that show the opposite? Sam Mitchell polled 30 votes in 2011, which would be enough to win almost any other year.

      And what’s thesignificance of only two players winning the clearance count and the Brownlow in the past fifteen years? That seems about right. When was the last time the highest disposal winner won the Brownlow? Not last year, at any rate.

      • May 10th 2012 @ 10:34am
        TomC said | May 10th 2012 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Quickly scrolling through some stats, I can find at least three examples over the past ten years where the Brownlow winner has finished second in the clearance count in the same season.

        Buckley in 2003, Judd in 2004 and Judd again in 2010.

        So including Black in 2002, over the past ten years four of the twelve Brownlow medal winners have been in the top two clearance winners in the league.

        I’d be interested to see the comparison between disposals and inside 50s but I’d be very surprised if the correlation was that high for either of those stats. Last year I believe the highest average inside 50s went to Ryan Griffen and he polled seven votes.

        It should also be remembered that until last September the conventional wisdom was that Swan wasn’t the kind of player who did win Brownlows. Most people felt he should have got a lot more votes in 2010, so he’s not a great example for your case either.

        I think what it shows is that players who are strong both inside and out are the best bets for the Brownlow. Kennedy is in the top ten for both clearances and disposals so on pure statistics he has a good claim. My concern with his odds would be more that he’s still a young player and may struggle to maintain the same level over the season.

        Incidentally, the same bloke is leading average disposals, clearances and inside 50s: one G.Ablett Jnr. Even if he misses a couple more weeks through injury he has to be a decent bet. Has already proven he polls votes in losing teams.

        • May 10th 2012 @ 9:16pm
          Sh00ter said | May 10th 2012 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

          Thanks everyone for the comments. Keep them coming!

          To Tom,
          > Sam Mitchell polled 30 votes in 2011, which would be enough to win almost any other year.

          Yes he did wonderful effort. But if Black Caviar ran 2nd in a Melbourne Cup, it would be an amazing performance for a sprinter. However there was a two miler who beat her!

          > When was the last time the highest disposal winner won the Brownlow? Not last year, at any rate.
          Swany won last year after topping total disposals.

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