So, What About The 2025 Brownlow Medal?
Each year, the Brownlow Medal night is one of the marquee events on the AFL calendar.
We generally have a good notion of what’s going to happen on the evening, including the likely continued supremacy of midfielders, though that needn’t diminish the significance of the famed accolade.
We head into the 2021 count with up to five serious chances of winning the medal according to Stats Insider's modelling, yet a lot of the yearly interest typically relates to either unexpected results or whether certain players can emerging as genuine, regular contenders.
While we applaud the current crop, namely Ollie Wines, Marcus Bontempelli and Clayton Oliver for their impending assault on success, its perhaps worth attempting to take a step or two into the future and examine some of the contenders come Brownlow night in 2025.
To identify such Brownlow aspirants, we must recognise certain traits and statistical landmarks that are generally met by the winners of the award.
Easier in the year we looked at Clayton Oliver’s emergence as a serious Brownlow candidate, particularly through the lens of many of the key statistical indicators that have defined recent winners.
For starters, scoreboard impact is a little overrated by some in Brownlow counts, though it certainly isn’t a defining factor in success.
Umpires are looking at either the most explosive players, or those that work hard and are always around the contest.
Metres gained and rebound 50s have emerged as great indicators of Brownlow contenders, as they illustrate the work rate and persistence of certain players aiming to have an impact. For instance, 420 metres gained per match and 1.2 rebound 50s are generally the minimum mark to hit, with rare exceptions.
Trent Cotchin in 2012 was the only player in the last 10 counts to average less than 6 clearances a game, while 12.5 contested possessions on average seems to be the lowest possible tally, as well as 27 disposals a match.
Another potential statistical anomaly is that since 2013, only two players have averaged less than 1.19 frees against per game and won the award – Matt Priddis conceded 0.91 frees against in 2014, and Lachie Neale just 0.65, albeit in shortened quarters.
With some of these statistics in mind, who are the players that will be there at the business end in four years’ time.
Of course, the aforementioned Oliver is a contender this year and will continue to be so in the future as his numbers have remained remarkably consistent in his career.
Carlton’s young superstar Sam Walsh will poll decently this season, currently pegged as a 7.6% chance of winning it all, yet with a couple more years under his belt, we can expect his clearance numbers (4.7), rebound 50s (1.3) and metres gained (338.7) to all increase significantly. He’ll wear a medal at some stage.
But we also like to get our arms around players no one is considering, guys that will be regularly spoken about in the latter parts of September and potentially even wearing the famed medal around their neck.
Gold Coast’s Noah Anderson was overshadowed a little by his good mate Matt Rowell at draft time and has flown under the radar across the competition despite a nice breakout second season.
He averaged 22.4 disposals, 4 clearances, 2 rebounds and 323.1 metres gained but most importantly, took strides forward in his endeavour to be the Suns’ most complete midfielder.
That was Anderson’s junior legacy, of course. A strong leader with a well-rounded game, the 20-year-old would regularly tear games apart with his acceleration and power. In his final season for the Oakleigh Chargers, he posted 28 disposals and nearly 5 clearances a game.
His work ethic will increase his output in the contest as time goes on and one thing has rung true throughout the years of covering Anderson is his proclivity to kick long which has proven an eye-catcher among umpires.
Given all the trade talk around him, there are many who are underestimating just how good Adam Cerra is. We’ve already seen great versatility in his game across defence and in the midfield, speaking volumes to the maturity of the 21-year-old.
If Cerra lands at the right club, looking particularly at the likes of Richmond and Hawthorn rather than Carlton or Melbourne, he becomes a prime Brownlow candidate quite quickly.
It’s easy to forget how good he is in contested situations – he finished with at least 5 tackles in 4 games this season and at least 10 contested possessions in 6 games, while he averaged 14.5 contested possessions and 5.8 clearances in his injury-affected final junior season.
A recurring theme may be high draft picks, but slow starts to careers often have them severely overlooked, as is the case with North Melbourne’s Luke Davies-Uniacke. It’s taken a while for the 22-year-old to come on, but the last five weeks of the season showed signs of an impending and quite serious breakout.
Davies-Uniacke is the prototypical, powerful inside midfielder that accelerates well out of stoppages. His style is more akin to the 2012 version of Cotchin with the added marking ability, but a similar, distinctive way of moving with the ball. Collecting plenty of the ball and feeding the ball forward from contests will hold him in good stead.
These three players are certain to be pushing for that medal in 2025, likely entering the conversation for a top-10 finish by 2023.
Let’s go super left-field.
One would expect Jack Steele to be a prominent fixture in Brownlow counts for a while to come at just 25 years of age, but if you want St Kilda’s next challenger, it’ll come in the form of Jack Bytel.
The 21-year-old only got a few full-game opportunities in 2021 but when he was able to play in his preferred inside midfield role, Bytel showed that he should be a regular AFL fixture for a while to come.
Particularly look at his game against Hawthorn in Round 7, finishing with 21 disposals, 12 contested possessions, 8 tackles, 7 clearances while throwing in a rebound and a couple of frees against for good measure.
Hopefully the coaching staff back him in, because Bytel has elite upside if managed correctly.
Finally, we’ll go with a player who hasn’t even been drafted yet, although should be playing regularly in 2022.
Josh Ward from the Northern Knights looks to be one of the safest top prospects in the upcoming draft and has the perfect game to attract votes.
A great fitness base built as an outside midfielder has translated into him being one of the hardest-working inside midfielders in the junior ranks. Ward collects plenty of possessions, has great class and poise in stoppages to get effective clearances and his defensive running puts him in strong positions all over the ground.
The hope will be that Ward lands in a spot that will be able to play him in the guts straight away. He isn’t the sort of player that needs to be eased in, and while other draftees will be spoken of more highly, Ward has the best chance of challenging for a Brownlow Medal sooner than any other player in this crop.
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