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The race for the Brownlow Medal is all but over. Well, that’s what most believe.
Everyone loves a smoky, which has seen plenty of different players thrown around as potential challengers.
Andrew Gaff’s name has been bandied around and thanks to the last fortnight, there is some merit to it. At best, he is placed fourth in my personal count and he could continue to rise quickly as he looks to lead West Coast to a top-four position.
Max Gawn has been seen as one of the better non-Mitchell options, having averaged 17 disposals, 46 hitouts and 1.5 scoring shots per game as of the end of Round 16.
Fellow ruckman Brodie Grundy is enjoying an outstanding season as well, averaging 21 disposals, five tackles and 38 hitouts up to the same points.
The impact these players are having has been spoken about in the highest regard, however the Brownlow count hasn’t necessarily reflected well on ruckmen in the past. While both should be on double-figured votes by now, I feel neither are in serious contention.
Patrick Cripps and Shaun Higgins are popular picks at the moment, but neither are true contenders for the game’s top prize.
Cripps plays for the worst team in the competition which is enough to rule him out, while Higgins’ popularity has only increased recently, and media attention tends to have an impact, regardless of whether anyone likes to admit it.
One player coming home like a steam train is Dayne Beams. Of course it has been an extremely difficult time personally for Beams, however from a pure on-field perspective, his last eight weeks have been phenomenal.
All his votes could potentially come from Round 9 onwards, and the best case scenario sees him polling 14 votes these seven games. He has averaged 30 disposals, six marks, six clearances and kicked ten goals in this period of time, which includes an absolute shocker against Essendon.
Beams can’t win the Brownlow from here, but he could poll the most votes in the final 14 games of the season.
In the end, however, there is one obvious player that has been ignored by all tipsters, who has surged into second place on my count.
Joel Selwood has polled at least 13 votes in every season of his career, bar his first.
Geelong’s captain is a future hall-of-famer, a definite legend of the Geelong Football Club, and their best player at the moment.
Selwood’s numbers have been great again this year – averaging 27 disposals, six tackles, five marks and five clearances per game.
Despite his historically elite goal assist numbers being well down this season, Selwood’s match-winning ability has been at an all-time high.
The Brownlow Medal rewards one of two things – dominant performances or standout bursts.
History suggests inside midfielders tend to meet these measurements, which is why Mitchell is a huge favourite, and why you shouldn’t sleep on Selwood.
It has been a very consistent season for the 30-year-old, who has dropped below 25 disposals just twice, and below five tackles on just three occasions in 15 games.
He is the Geelong player that cops the hard tag, and his ability to work through it and have a definitive impact on games, particularly in the second half, is extremely noticeable.
Selwood’s uncontested possession numbers have increased considerably, which is a key part of the Brownlow formula.
The past three winner of the Brownlow have been Nat Fyfe, Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin. All three are bulls on the inside and have a fantastic ability to spread from the contest and run through the opposition.
This is what Selwood has developed in 2018.
He is averaging a career-high in rebound 50s, and this season marks his best uncontested-to-contested possession ratio since 2010.
In a year where Geelong is fighting for a finals spot, and with the midfield heavily reliant upon him thanks to Patrick Dangerfield’s role in the team, Selwood is finally emerging as a genuine Brownlow chance.
He will have eight votes from a possible 12 in Rounds 13-16 and should finish off strongly given the situation that the Cats face.
Hawthorn’s easier run should see the club make finals, and it will almost certainly be led by Tom Mitchell.
The young Hawk, however, is one indiscretion away from being ineligible for the vote. He may find it hard to break the heavy tag too, given it has been effective in the past.
The Brownlow door is slightly ajar for a number of players, and most will suggest Gaff, Gawn, Grundy, Cripps and Higgins are the key chances.
This isn’t the time to sleep on Geelong’s skipper, given his strong history in the Brownlow Medal.
It would be a fitting way to celebrate one of the all-time great careers in this game of ours.
Joel Selwood is a genuine chance for the Brownlow and it will become clear in the coming weeks.
Dem’s Brownlow Medal top five (average votes)
1. Tom Mitchell – 22
2. Joel Selwood – 19
3. Nat Fyfe* – 18
4. Andrew Gaff – 15
5. Jackson Macrae – 13
Clayton Oliver – 13
Dayne Beams – 13