This year’s Brownlow medal is one of the most difficult ever to predict. Gary Ablett was the midseason leader, but can he hold on? I think so.
It will be a remarkable effort which will go down in AFL folklore if Ablett can somehow win the Brownlow having played just 15 games.
After his shoulder injury, I believe he’s on 26 votes and with that unchanged, he will win the medal for a third time.
My heart says a player cannot win a Brownlow having played just 15 games but my head tells me not to doubt myself.
It was also the year I had Jobe Watson winning with 29 votes when he polled 30 and won.
All the hype is around Joel Selwood. And I won’t be surprised if he wins it. But the story of the night will be Nat Fyfe polling the most votes and be denied due to his ineligible status.
The key to my methodology is that what we see on the television is not what the umpires see.
They do not have incessantly hysterical commentators telling them what is a good disposal and what is not. They do not have a running stat sheet telling them who is hot and who is cold, and they don’t trawl the internet reading expert analysis on high profile players.
Most importantly, they are there umpiring a game and have a million other things going through their head before they make mental notes about who is playing well.
Under this basis, there are players who umpires notice more than others, and passages of play which are valued higher among the umpire fraternity than the fans.
With that in mind, we have a raw score based on how I assessed a game’s best players and then a scaled score based on how my votes have compared against umpires over past seasons.
On raw scores, Ablett and Selwood will tie on 26 votes each.
However, once we account for the fact that I consistently overrate Selwood but correctly polled Ablett’s votes in the past two seasons, Selwood gets scaled down and Ablett wins.
A similar thing happened last year when I had Selwood on 29 raw votes and Ablett on 28 raw votes, yet declared Ablett would win based on Selwood scaling down – which he did in the official count.
At the end of the season, I learnt several respectable Brownlow analysts had varying tips.
Selwood has been tipped by afl.com.au and Sean ‘The Brownlow King’ Brady. Phantom Brownlow have Josh Kennedy on top, whereas the AFL Coaches Association declared Robbie Gray as the player of the season.
So it seems I am alone tipping Ablett, but here’s why I stand by my prediction.
On statistics alone, Ablett had a better season than last year when he won the medal in a Suns team that won just nine games. By the time Ablett did his shoulder in Round 16, the Suns had already won nine games which definitively highlights his influence.
On game averages, Ablett was up in disposals, goals, tackles and free kicks won per game compared to last season.
While statistics never paint a full picture, they can explain why players like Joel Selwood and Josh Kennedy, who are fancied heavily in betting markets, may not poll as well as expected.
While Kennedy was third in the league for average deposals, his poor disposal efficiency and preference to handball make his less noticeable in a live game than on a stat sheet. Ablett’s 22 effective disposals per game are considerably higher than Kennedy’s 18, which is why a contested possession is useless unless it goes to a teammate.
During Geelong’s most successful period, from 2007-2011, the team valued goal assists more than goals themselves and a similar trend has occurred in Brownlow polling history.
Gray was second in the league for goal assists (behind Eddie Betts) with 28, but for Ablett to post 19 in the 15 games he played compared to ball magnets Selwood with 20 and Kennedy with 11 who played full seasons, the correlation between contested possessions, effective disposals and goal assists cannot be ignored.
Statistics also, however, show that Selwood has improved in every category on last year when he was pipped by a vote. The difference between the two years though is the amount of close games Geelong have had this year where greater attention will be given to the opposition team.
At the end of the day, statistics can be used to prove anything – forfty per cent of people know that.
It’s going to be a cracking count which will come down how Selwood polls in the final round of the season.
You can view Alfred’s count for every player in the league here.
This is the final part of a three-part series with the final projected tally that Alfred has released on Brownlow medal morning. Since making his detailed projections available to the public, Alfred Chan has successfully predicted the past two medal winners and their number of votes polled. He can be found on Twitter @AlfredC91.