The Roar
The Roar


Ranking the Brownlow, Part 2: Top 10 medallists of all time

27th September, 2015
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On Friday I attempted to rank the top 10 Brownlow medallists since 1975. Based solely on my own recollections, the purely subjective list had only one criteria – that the player must have won a Brownlow medal within the last 40 years.

Today I’m digging further into the prestigious medal’s history and attempting to rank the top 10 Brownlow medallists of all time.

Will any of the modern day greats from my previous list make the cut?

Read on to find out.

1. Haydn Bunton (Fitzroy – 1931, 1932, 1935)
Coming in at number one is Haydn Bunton. During his playing days it was widely considered that Bunton was the best player of all time. One could argue that he probably still is. Born in Albury (NSW), Bunton was a footy star in Victoria and Western Australia. The triple Brownlow medallist was also a triple Sandover medallist, a feat that has never been repeated.

In a career that spanned only 119 games for Fitzroy, he twice won their best and fairest, was twice their leading goal-kicker and did enough to be included in the AFL’s team of the century. The nippy rover is also the only player to have ever averaged one Brownlow vote per game!

2. Dick Reynolds (Essendon – 1934, 1937, 1938)
If Bunton comes in at number one, then Essendon’s Dick Reynolds has to be number two. Debate raged throughout the 1930s as to who was better, Bunton or Reynolds? I’ve given it to Bunton, just, but the two could really be interchangeable. Reynolds was tough, but scrupulously fair, and he led by example.

Plus, he was versatile. Although he did his best work as an onballer, he was also damaging when moved forward and more than capable of plugging weaknesses in defence. Seven club best and fairest awards, three Brownlow medals, 19 Victorian state games and a place in the AFL team of the century are testament to his ability.


3. Gary Ablett Jr (Geelong – 2009, Gold Coast 2013)
Ablett is not only a modern-day great, he is an all-time great. As far as the Brownlow medallists are concerned, he deserves to be placed near the top of the tree. He was an integral part of the powerful Geelong teams of the late 2000s and lost none of his ball getting abilities when he moved to the fledgling Gold Coast club.

No one influences Gold Coast games more than Gary Ablett. Without him they lack drive and direction. The dual Brownlow medallist has also accumulated five AFLPA MVPs, eight All-Australian guernseys and five club best and fairest awards.

4. Bob Skilton (South Melbourne – 1959, 1963, 1968)
Fast, fair and extremely courageous, the pint=sized rover also possessed sublime skills. His evasiveness was legendary and his ability to dispose of the ball effectively from either side of the body was unsurpassed. Extremely consistent across his career as evidenced by the spread of his three Brownlow medals, the Swans’ small man played in a remarkable 25 state games for Victoria, won nine club best and fairest awards and was included as rover in the AFL’s team of the century.

5. Greg Williams (Sydney – 1986, Carlton – 1994)
Considered too slow by some to be a league footballer, Williams proved the doubters wrong by becoming one of the hardest contested ball winners in the history of the game. With an uncanny ability to read the play, the nuggety midfielder would invariably be found firing out a clearing handball from the bottom of a pack.

A prolific ball winner with more than a touch of mongrel in him, Williams was an intimidating presence around the packs. His two Brownlows were backed up by two AFL MVPs, four All-Australian guernseys, two club best and fairest awards, a Norm Smith medal and a place in the AFL’s team of the century.

6. Bill Hutchinson (Essendon – 1952, 1953)
Teammate and friend Dick Reynolds declared that Hutchinson was the best player that he had ever seen. Small, lightly framed, but quick with incredible fit, the skilful Bomber rover got better with age, winning his Brownlow medals at 29 and 30 years of age. He was a prolific vote winner, finishing third place or higher on five occasions. He represented Victoria an incredible 30 times and won six club best and fairest awards. He was an All-Australian twice.

7. Tony Lockett (St Kilda – 1987)
Lockett was both a man mountain and a goal-kicking machine. Aggressive and bulky, opposition players got in his way at their peril. Extremely strong, and deceptively fast on the lead, the big full forward was almost impossible to negate as his career total of 1360 goals at an average of 4.8 goals a game indicate. He was also incredible accurate, with a conversion rate of nearly 70 per cent. As well as his Brownlow, he won an MVP award, four Coleman medals, three club best and fairest awards and was a five-time All-Australian.


8. Chris Judd (West Coast – 2004, Carlton – 2010)
Judd is the blueprint of a modern-day midfielder – big, fast, strong, fit and highly skilled. He has had a distinguished career on both sides of the country, and like Gary Ablett Jr, has stood out in strong and weak sides. He combines athletic prowess with football nouse and memories of him streaming through the centre of the ground, brushing aside tacklers as he goes will live long in the memory. He has won five club best and fairest awards, two AFLPA MVPs, a Norm Smith medal and six All-Australian guernseys.

9. Malcolm Blight (North Melbourne – 1978)
Blight was doing Gary Ablett senior type things before Gary Ablett senior himself! A prodigious talent, he could electrify a stadium with his spectacular play. He took big marks and he kicked even longer goals.

Revered across two states, Blight has a medal collection to envy. It consists of a Brownlow medal, a Magarey medal, a Coleman medal and a Ken Framer medal (SANFL leading goal-kicker). He has kicked a hundred goals in a season in the VFL (103 in 1982) and in the SANFL (126 in 1985). He is also a member of the SANFL team of the century.

10. Ian Stewart (St Kilda – 1965, 1966, Richmond – 1971)
The fourth member of the triple Brownlow medal club. Stewart is best remembered for his unerring delivery of the football to star St Kilda forward Darrel Baldock and later, after a change of clubs, legendary Richmond figure, Royce Hart. It is no surprise that both the clubs he played for experienced the ultimate success while he was controlling their midfield. His three Brownlows are kept company by three club best and fairest awards and an All-Australian guernsey.