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Favourites, smokies and bolters: A dozen players who could win the Brownlow

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Expert
28th July, 2019
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1926 Reads

I think the 2019 AFL season has been pretty great.

It’s had a bit of everything – some good, bad, ugly and truly special moments.

For the first time in a very long time, the home and away season has had some real unpredictability about it.

Yes, there is a ladder order reflecting best to worst in the comp but this year, you really feel like there are still plenty of teams in with a genuine chance of playing finals and winning the 2019 premiership.

While this is a team sport, there are still plenty of individual accolades there for the taking.

The All Australian team, Coleman, Rising Star, Club best and fairests, mark and goal of the year…

And then there’s the Brownlow.

The highest individual honour in the competition for the best and fairest player of that year.

At the pointy end of the home and away season, we usually have some sort of idea who will take home the Charlie.

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But, similar to how this season has played out, there are plenty of players who could be crowned the best of this year.

So… who wins the Brownlow?

My Mid-Year Pick: Patrick Cripps
It’s been a rollercoaster year for the Blues but through the darkness (and recent light), they have always been able to count on Patrick Cripps.

He’s a star of the competition and for most of the season, has carried Carlton through to the final siren.

There have been many best on ground displays, with this weekend against Adelaide no exception. His 39 touches, 19 clearances (second ever by a player in the AFL), seven tackles and a goal was just a reminder (not that we needed one) of what a force he is.

Since Carlton’s revival under David Teague, the Blues could finish the season with 7 or 8 wins, which would be enough to give Cripps a serious shot at the Brownlow.

Despite missing two games through injury, he may have done enough in those victories and close losses over the year.

Patrick Cripps

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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The Favourite – Tim Kelly
It’s hard to believe that Geelong’s Tim Kelly is playing just his second season of AFL. It’s not hard to believe that he’s the favourite to take home the Charlie this year.

His brilliance, along with the Cats sitting on top of the AFL ladder would have to put him in pretty good position.

He hasn’t missed a game (or many beats, really) since his debut last season. His 36 touches, 11 clearances, seven tackles and two goals against North Melbourne in Round 8 just highlights what he is capable of – but there are plenty more performances where that came from.

There are two things, however, standing in Kelly’s way to Brownlow glory. The first, his teammates. The likes of Ablett and Dangerfield will likely take some votes away from the young star.

The second, a small “form slump” in the back end of the season saw him tally over 30 possessions just once between rounds 14 and 18. That has taken some shine off his favouritism.

My Mid-Year Smoky – Travis Boak
While Cripps and Kelly are the obvious choices on everyone’s radar, they may be two of only a few players having a better season than Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak. He has pulled together an extraordinary season and plenty are taking notice.

He is averaging over 30 disposals a game, 5.2 tackles and 7.2 clearances a game – clearly a move back into the middle of the ground was a smart one.

He has missed just the one game this season and I’d still have him right up there in the top handful of players this season.

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The Best in the Middle – Adam Treloar and Lachie Neale
It would be wrong to say that 2019 has been a revival of Lachie Neale’s career because he was a great player at Fremantle.

But adding him into the Lions’ midfield this year has not only helped the team surge up the ladder, but has seen Neale himself take the next step in his career.

He is shining in Australia’s sunny state and has become a true leader of the competition. Neale boasts a season average of 31.5 touches, 8.1 clearances and 3.6 tackles… that’s impressive.

Brisbane’s success this season will definitely have him in contention and could ice a very rich Lions cake this season.

Likewise Adam Treloar, who has had a standout year in a very talented Collingwood midfield. Treloar has gathered over 30 touches in all but three games so far this year – a monster effort along the likes of Sidebottom and Pendles. Another one to keep your eye on.

The Ruckman – Brodie Grundy (Collingwood)
Once upon a time ruckmen used to win the Brownlow. Melbourne’s Jim Stynes and Footscray’s Scotty Whyd won back-to-back in ’91 and ’92 and many say they will be the last.

And then Brodie Grundy rises to the occasion and gives us a cracker of a season. It seems unlikely that a ruckman will win a Brownlow again but Grundy’s constant influence on a game could see him come close.

His numbers – both in the ruck and around the ground – are elite. Grundy averages 41.3 hitouts (12.4 to advantage) a game… but also 20.7 touches, 4.4 marks and 4.3 tackles adds another dimension to his game. That’s covering great ground.

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If he, and Collingwood, can finish the year strongly, we could see another big man take home the Charlie.

Brodie Grundy

(Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Second Brownlow – Nat Fyfe and Patrick Dangerfield
Despite a couple of niggles throughout the year, 2019 has been another impressive year for Freo captain Nat Fyfe.

To this point in the season, his numbers are on par (and in some areas, better) than his Brownlow year in 2015.

Fyfe usually polls well and you can never really put him out of the frame, but you would expect livewire Michael Walters to take some votes off his captain.

The 2016 Brownlow medallist is in good shape, too. Like Fyfe, Dangerfield’s versatility and game breaking ability makes him a forever dangerous player.

He is averaging over 26 touches a game but has also kicked 19 goals for the season.

The Bolters: Jake Lloyd, Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli, Luke Shuey
There’s always a “bolter” in the Brownlow voting – the unsung hero of the season who comes from left field and polls incredibly well on the evening.

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He doesn’t come in as a talked about favourite, but usually finishes in the top five and leaves plenty in his wake.

Melbourne’s Angus Brayshaw did it last season, finishing third and there are a few quite achievers who could do the same this year.

Now, everyone’s “bolter(s)” will be different, but no one should be too surprised by mine, as all four men have had rather exceptional seasons and would be in with a shot.

And then there’s the ineligible, highlighted by Geelong superstar Gary Ablett. He can’t win it, but that doesn’t mean he can’t and won’t poll well.

The Geelong superstar has “reinvented” himself as a small forward and this season and is having as great an impact as he was in the midfield years ago.

He’s always in the spotlight on Brownlow night and this year will be no exception.

But Gary can’t win it… so who will?

My head says Cripps, my heart says Boak or Neale but my gut tells me Tim Kelly will be our 2019 Brownlow medallist.

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What do you think?