Can Brodie Grundy break the Brownlow mold?
In an award traditionally won by midfielders, can Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy buck the trend and win his first Brownlow Medal in 2019?
Brodie Grundy celebrates a goal in another best-on-ground performance against the Bulldogs in Round 14. (credit: Getty)
There was a time in the AFL when the Brownlow Medal was won by players that weren't midfielders.
We know it's hard to believe, but it's true.
In 1991, Melbourne ruckman Jim Stynes made history in winning the game's most prestigous individual award, having only adopted the sport from his native Ireland a few years earlier. Then, just one year later, Footscray's Scott Wynd rubber stamped a golden age for ruckmen when he surpassed one of his great rivals to take home the honour.
In the 95-year history of the Brownlow there have been other ruckmen to have been voted the league's best and fairest — Collingwood champions Peter Moore and Len Thompson both notable winners in the 1970s.
We've seen full forwards and defenders win the Brownlow, but for the last 25 years we've seen nothing but midfielders dominate the night.
In an age of statistics and analytics, the trend has gone the way of players who have had the biggest share of the football. Hawthorn star Tom Mitchell broke the AFL record for possessions in 2018 and walked into the Brownlow Medal count as the heavy favourite — he won in a canter by six votes.
With the weight of public opinion beginning to question the way the media and, most-importantly for the Brownlow, the umpires, judge best-on-ground votes, could a change be coming?
Could Collingwood collossos Brodie Grundy represents the best chance to buck the trend in 2019?
The 2018 All Australian made waves in a break-out season last year and polled 17 votes in the Brownlow. His biggest rival, Melbourne ruck Max Gawn polled in 20 votes in a season that could signal a shift in how the position is valued by umpires.
While Gawn has been a touch less consistent in 2019, Grundy has gone from strength to strength.
The former number 18 pick in the 2012 AFL draft put an exclamation mark on what has been an impressive campaign thus far with a 50-hit-out, 25-disposal and 2-goal game against the Bulldogs in Round 14.
It was the first time any player in the 141-year history of the VFL/AFL had completed the feat and saw him come into $10 in Sportsbet's Brownlow market.
So, can Grundy buck the trend and offer value for punters?
Let's take a look at what he has going for him.
Grundy's 17-vote effort last season was an impressive one, given he only attracted media and fan attention after a solid first month of the season. He comes into 2019 as a cult figure having earned the respect of the football world. There's little chance he will sneak under the guard like some of his big games did last season.
The more your club wins, the better your opportunity to poll votes. Given Collingwood sits second on the ladder after 14 rounds with 10 wins, Grundy will have plenty of opportunity to get among the votes. His ability to pick up one and two-vote games could be the difference when coming up against players from clubs that have only won a handful of games throughout the season. By our count, Grundy could expect votes in seven of Collingwood's 10 wins so far.
Polling in the media:
The various player-of-the-year awards in the media can be a decent guide to the Brownlow. Grundy sits fifth in the AFL Coaches' Association Champion Player of the Year Award and inside the top five in the Herald Sun and The Age MVP awards.
Brownlow Medal odds as of June 25 at Sportsbet.com.au