We once were obsessed only with the number of touches that a player got, then we added effectiveness to that measure, and these days it’s the distance a player can move the ball forward that we gush over.
All are good stats, all give you a picture to consider… however, the beauty of Australian Rules is the way that you can still influence a game by having few touches of the footy at all.
The defender that restricts a star opponent, or runs the back half in such a manner that it is almost impossible for the opposition to score: think Darcy Moore or maybe Jacob Weitering.
The fact that these two stars can have such an effect on a game of footy with few stats to show for it is the beauty of the game – beauty that should be recognised on Brownlow night.
Then, of course, there are the forwards. The ones that hit the scoreboard.
Oscar Allen played in the side that finished on the bottom, yet ended not that far from the top of the Coleman Medal leaderboard… yet didn’t receive a single vote. Is this not a sign of paying well? Playing your role?
There’s beauty in the sacrifice and the focus of a player like Allen. Should he poll votes for a four-goal game where his team kicked six, it would be recognition that would not look out of place in other contexts.
The thing about sport, our country’s most popular sport especially, is that it gives us a chance to escape the real world. By following the footy, we get to imagine what is possible and debate what might happen. It allows us to, as the famous sporting story says, believe in miracles. And the at times randomness of umpire voting on the Brownlow is part of that.
That’s why we love it so much. Why can’t we just leave it like that?
Lachie Neale with the 2023 Brownlow Medal. (Photo by Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
That beauty that permeates through sport is already getting lost in the over eagerness-for officials to get things ‘right’. The inclusion of review systems across multiple sports is a great example of beauty lost.
Cricket, supposedly the gentlemen’s game, is not the same these days, now that you can challenge an umpire. The majesty of the huge appeal, the manic celebration after a decision is given in the affirmative, is sullied in cricket at the highest level. Gone are the days of copping the bad one you get, for you will get some go your way if you play long enough.
One of Aussie Rules’ great attractions to the masses has long been that it asks for so much from its players, yet anyone can play it. You don’t have to be six feet tall and run a sub-eight minute 2km time trial to be able to play. You don’t have to be perfect. Your imperfections are celebrated, and your opportunities to contribute to the team really can’t be quantified at times.
This is why people love it, and this is how the sport should try and stay.
Taking the voting for the Brownlow away from the umpires and giving to a group of people who have access to more information would take away some of that escapism the sport would lose something special.
It would lose the excitement of a Brownlow night where it was nearly a five-way tie going into the final round.
The debates at school, at the water cooler, the kitchen table or the bar would be a little less enjoyable, as we would have more of a clear idea of what was going to happen before it did.