The Roar
The Roar


Ranking the Brownlow, Part 1: Top 10 medallists since 1975

25th September, 2015
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On Monday night, after the heat and clamour of this weekend’s games have faded and the results have been scribed into the record books, the AFL will crown its latest king.

In the busiest and most frantic week of the football year, on the competition’s night-of-nights, the prestigious Brownlow Medal will be counted and awarded, and a new footballing immortal will be anointed.

He will take his place among football’s Gods, forever sharing honour boards with names that have grown mythical over time and others that have become true giants of the sport.

He will become a part of the game’s folklore, a flesh and blood piece of the fabric that holds the colourful history of our great sport together.

Whether deserving or otherwise, he will not be forgotten. Time will tell where he ranks within the all-time greats.

But who are these greats?

In Part 1 of this article I will attempt to rank the top 10 Brownlow medallists since 1975. These are the players that I have actually seen play. In Part 2, which will be published Monday morning, I will attempt to rank the top 10 Brownlow medallists of all time.

Of course, both lists will be purely subjective. For today’s ranking, the only criteria is that the player must have won a Brownlow within the last 40 years. After that it is based on my memories, of how I viewed each player and the influence that they had on their clubs and the competition.


Although it is a formidable list, I am sure you will all let me know who I missed! So, without further ado, I present to you the top 10 Brownlow medallists since 1975.

1. Gary Ablett Jr (Geelong – 2009, Gold Coast – 2013)
Ablett picks himself at number one. He has been at the top of his game for nigh on 10 years. He has proved that he can be a standout player in both successful and struggling teams. Five club best and fairest awards, five AFLPA MVPs, eight-time All-Australian and of course two Brownlow medals shows that he has been the dominant player of his generation.

2. Greg Williams (Sydney – 1986, Carlton – 1994)
If anyone was to challenge Ablett for the number one position it would be Williams. Fair effort for a player who, based on his lack of athleticism, would probably not even get drafted today. He was slow and some suggested he couldn’t kick or mark, but he was as tough-as-nails and a ball magnet of the highest order.

Handball was his weapon of choice and he could destroy a team with his ferocious in-and-under style of play. He was the king of contested possessions. Along with his two Brownlows, he won two AFLPA MVPs, two club best and fairest awards, was a four-time All-Australian and a member of the AFL team of the century.

3. Tony Lockett (St Kilda – 1987)
At number three is Tony Lockett, perhaps the most powerful force ever to have laced up a pair of footy boots. Unstoppable on a lead and too big and strong to wrestle in the packs, Lockett rarely dropped the ball when he got hands to it.

He was also one of the most accurate kicks at goal in the history of the game (converting almost 70 per cent of his shots). It is not by chance that he holds the league’s goal-kicking record. Three club best and fairest awards, four Coleman medals, five-time All-Australian and a career tally of 1360 goals is hard to argue with.

4. Chris Judd (West Coast – 2004, Carlton – 2010)
Chris Judd was a dominant player both east and west of the Nullabor. He was a tearaway member of West Coast’s highly talented midfield during its period of success in the mid 2000s and then a mature, driving force for Carlton thoughout the second half of his career. The highly decorated Judd collected six club best and fairest awards, two AFLPA MVPs, a Norm Smith medal and six All-Australian guernseys to go with his two Brownlows.


5. Malcolm Blight (North Melbourne – 1978)
Mercurial is probably the best way to describe Malcolm Blight. Speckys, long bombs for goal, scintillating passages of play – he could do it all. Like Gary Ablett senior who came after him, he could play in any position, and even kicked 103 goals in his final season at North Melbourne in 1982. He was a Brownlow medallist, a Margery medallist, a Coleman medallist, a Ken Farmer medallist (leading SANFL goal-kicker – 126 in 1985) and a two-time All-Australian.

6. Gary Dempsey (Footscray – 1975)
The big ruckman was an untiring war horse with a grip of steel. For much of his career he averaged over 10 marks per game, this in a time when most marks taken by big blokes were contested. The seven-time club best and fairest winner finished in the top 10 of the Brownlow 13 times and has still polled more votes than any other player in the medal’s history.

Dempsey’s longevity in the sport (329 games) is remarkable considering he was told that he would never play again after being severely burnt in bush fires just two years into his league career.

7. Adam Goodes (Sydney – 2003, 2006)
At number seven is recently retired Sydney star Adam Goodes. Perhaps one of the most versatile players ever to play the game, Goodes’ athleticism allowed him to line up in almost any position. Exceptionally mobile for a bigger-bodied player, he could take the big mark or dash away from opponents at ground level. The two time Brownlow medallist also won three club best and fairest awards, earned four All-Australian guernseys and led Sydney’s goal-kicking on three occasions.

8. Michael Voss (Brisbane – 1996)
Michael Voss was an aggressive player in an aggressive football side. Confident in his own ability, as well as the ability of his teammates, Voss and his Brisbane Lions’ outfit were one of the most feared combinations to ever take the field. The rampaging midfielder won three club best and fairest awards, two AFLPA MVPs and was five times All-Australian. His excellence as a captain was also recognised with four AFLPA best captain awards to his credit.

9. James Hird (Essendon – 1996)
It mustn’t be forgotten that before all the recent controversy, Hird was a champion footballer. The Bomber favourite was a versatile player, starting his career as a key forward and ending it as one of the competition’s most elite on-ballers. Confident and courageous, he always seemed to have time to work his way through tight situations.

Hird’s innate ability to get out of trouble and seize a game by the scruff of the neck won Essendon more than its fair share of games. Five club best and fairest awards, a Norm Smith medal, three Anzac Day medals and five All-Australian guernseys highlight his class.


10. Peter Moore (Collingwood – 1979, Melbourne – 1984)
Peter Moore rounds out the top 10. He was a mobile ruckman in a time of lumbering giants. He could fly and mark with the best of his contemporaries, and was a reasonably accurate shot at goal when resting forward. The All-Australian won two club best and fairest awards, led Collingwood’s goal-kicking twice and won two Brownlow medals, one while at the Magpies, and one later in his career with Melbourne.

On Monday I’ll attempt to rate the top 10 Brownlow medallists of all time. Will any of these modern-day greats also make that list? Be sure to check back after the weekend and take a look.