An individual player’s Brownlow Medal is the most prestigious award in AFL and is widely regarded as the highest honor. We will discuss all the facts in this article that you need to know about the Brownlow Medal.
What is the Brownlow Medal?
Brownlow Medal is the AFL’s highest honor given to a single player. In the sport of Australian rules football, it is also usually regarded as the greatest individual honor.
The Australian Football League (AFL)’s “best and fairest” player throughout the home-and-away season receives the Charles Brownlow Trophy, commonly referred to as the Brownlow Medal (and colloquially as “Charlie”), in accordance with votes made by the three-field umpires who officiate each game.
The VFL was the first league in Australia to present the award. Charles Brownlow, a former player for the Geelong Football Club (1880-1891), club secretary (1885-1923), and VFL president (1918-19), passed away in January 1924; therefore, a trophy was made and named after him.
What is the Brownlow Medal Made From?
Each medal begins its life as a chunk of $3,000 worth of 2.5mm thick 18-carat gold. The renowned form of the medal is made using the expensive Brownlow die after the gold has been softened and rolled. Glass crystals are employed in the medal’s blue regions and are hand-struck, hand-enameled, and torch-fired.
“Fairest and Best”
Even though the award is often called the “best and fairest,” its actual criteria are “fairest and best.” This reflects the importance of respect and fair play, which is also why the judges cast the votes.
Our pleasure is to award you the Gold Medal in recognition of your sterling qualities as the fairest and best player.
The Magarey Medal was first given out in the SANFL in 1898, while the Sandover Medal was given out for the first time in the WAFL in 1921. The VFL was the latest of the three major leagues to establish an award for league best and fairest. Over time, the voting and eligibility requirements for all three awards have converged.
The actual medallion’s style, shape, and size haven’t changed much since 1924, except for the monogram, which was updated from VFL to AFL in 1990.
Criteria for “Fairest” and “Best”
Voting Procedure For “Best”
After each home-and-away match, the three field umpires (not the goal or boundary umpires) assemble to choose the contest’s greatest player. On awards night, each match’s votes are totaled, and the player or players with the most votes get the medal (subject to eligibility).
- The overwhelming majority of Brownlow Medal tallies have been conducted under the present voting procedure. For brief periods in the past, various voting systems have existed:
- The 3–2–1 system was introduced after the 1930 season when three players tied on four votes each.
- In order to prevent an unfavorable selection of players, voting was put on hold during rounds while the state team was competing. However, after 1929, this clause was eliminated.
- With the addition of a second field umpire in 1976, VFL games were decided by a combined score of 3-2-1. In 1978, when two (and then three) umpires started conferring to award one set 3-2-1, the voting method was scrapped.
Since the regulations were altered during the 1980 campaign, any qualified player who receives the same amount of votes gets a Brownlow medal if there are two or more of them. Before 1980, a countback was used to determine a single winner when there were two or more tied players.
- In the original rules until 1930, umpires would meet and decide who would win among tied players.
- Before 1930, a change was made to the rules so that the player with the highest percentage of votes polled vs games played won (but without removing the previous rule).
- After 1930, the player with the most 3-vote games won, then the most 2-vote games if tied.
Any player who the AFL Tribunal suspends during the home-and-away season is disqualified, ensuring that the medal is awarded fairly. No matter how many votes a player receives, they cannot be the winner of the Brownlow Medal.
Under the following circumstances, a player remains eligible for the Brownlow Medal:
- In case of suspension during the finals or preseason.
- If he is suspended for an offense committed late in the previous season during the current season.
- When any suspension imposed by the club is not recognized by the AFL Tribunal.
- If the AFL Tribunal decides he committed a violation for which the maximum sanction is fine only.
The award was first given out in 1931; the ineligibility standards have been applied pretty much the same way, with a few small changes. The main exception was from 2005 to 2014 when a player was ineligible if he did something that the Tribunal’s Match Review Panel thought deserved a one-game suspension.
This was before any adjustments were made based on the player’s good or bad record or for taking an early guilty plea. This meant that players with a good record or early guilty plea could be ineligible even though they didn’t get suspended, and a player with a bad record could be eligible even though he got suspended.
Umpires vote for each game regardless of whether or not the players are eligible. This means that umpires can vote for players who have already been banned during that season if they think they are the best on the field. Before 1991, a player couldn’t get votes in a match where he was reported. This rule was changed so that a player wouldn’t lose out if he had gotten votes in a match where he was reported but later cleared by the panel.
The most Brownlow votes have been won by an ineligible player on three occasions:
- In 1996, Corey McKernan got the same votes as James Hird and Michael Voss, who tied for first place. McKernan was banned from one game because he kneeled during the season. In the same year, McKernan also won the AFL Players Association MVP award, which is not based on the same rules.
- Chris Grant got one more vote than the winner, Robert Harvey, in 1997. Grant was kicked out of a game for hitting during the season.
- Jobe Watson was originally declared the winner in 2012 by polling four more votes than runners-up Trent Cotchin and Sam Mitchell. Still, in November 2016, he was retrospectively deemed ineligible for the award due to his role in the Essendon Football Club supplements saga. Cotchin and Mitchell won the award.
The voting process has drawn criticism since midfielders often win the award, with few key position players ever taking the prize. Even though they had excellent reputations among their peers and coaches, some of the best players in these states never even came close to winning the Brownlow.
This is mainly because players most important to their teams while playing in crucial or defensive positions often do not draw enough attention to rank among the top three players on the field. It is also believed that umpires may not be the most qualified individuals to evaluate the level of gaming. Leigh Matthews and Kevin Sheedy are well-known coaches who have openly criticized the voting procedure.
Additionally, the eligibility criteria have drawn criticism. It has been argued that because many infractions only deserving of a one-match ban result from careless play rather than deliberate “unfair” conduct, the suspension is not a legitimate indicator of fairness.
A player being disqualified while not having served a ban under the more recent demerit points-based tribunal system has been described as confusing. The eligibility criterion should be removed from the award, effectively eliminating the fairest component, according to prominent players, including dual winner Chris Judd.
However, this point of view is not shared by everyone, as 1958 winner Neil Roberts stated in 1988 that he would return his medal if the fairness criterion were removed.
Over the years, the award event has become more complicated, and football players and their dates have become more interested in fashion. Many rumor pages have talked about this part of the night. The event is currently held on Monday, five days before the AFL Grand Final, at the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne.
Since the award was first given in 1924, the count has only been held outside of Melbourne three times: in 1999, when it was held in Sydney, and in 2020 and 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to hold the event in Melbourne. In the past, players who wanted to play in the Grand Final went to the ceremony in person.
However, non-Victorian Grand Final teams haven’t gone in recent years because it’s hard to travel during such an important week. Instead, they have a live video link to Brownlow functions in their home city.
The CEO of the AFL will give out the choices for each match in order. This will be followed by a look back at clips from each round of the season and comments from the standard football commentators from the broadcast network.
The votes are kept secret and under tight security to protect the award’s credibility. Once the judges decide, the ballots are locked away and moved by security trucks with armor. No one but the three judges know who was chosen, and since different umpires vote on various games, no one can be sure who will win.
Unlike most award events, the votes aren’t counted or even opened until the night of the event. This keeps the suspense going until late at night when the last round of votes sometimes decides the winner.
From 1959 to 1974, the vote numbers were on radio stations like 3UZ, 3KZ, and 3AW. 1116 SEN now covers the count. Every year since 1970, when the site was the Dallas Brooks Hall, there have been direct TV broadcasts.
You can bet on players who will win the Brownlow Medal in some places. After several “plunges” on supposed winners that got a lot of attention, security steps to ensure the Brownlow votes are kept hidden until the vote count has become more complicated.
How Many Brownlow Medals Are There?
It has been awarded every year since 1924, except for 1942-1945 during World War II. As of 2022, 109 Brownlow Medals have been awarded to 90 players in 94 seasons.
These countbacks failed to separate 1940 medalists Des Fothergill and Herbie Matthews. The league kept the original medal and gave the two winners replicas. Eight players who had tied on votes but lost on a countback since the award’s inception received retroactive medals in 1989.
The Brownlow Medal is the top prize for a single player in Australian rules football. The award is given to the “best and fairest” Australian Football League player (AFL) player. This player is chosen by the votes of the three field judges after each game.
Who is the current Brownlow?
Lachie Neale loses the Brownlow to Patrick Cripps with the FINAL vote in the craziest medal count finish in years. Patrick Cripps, captain of Carlton, beat hot favorite Lachie Neale in the last game of the season to win the Brownlow. He was named the AFL’s best and fairest player for 2022.
Who has tied the Brownlow Medal?
Brownlow ties are rare, and there hasn’t been one on the night of the count since 2003 when Adam Goodes, Nathan Buckley, and Mark Ricciuto all ended with 22 points each.