Is the Brownlow Medal really the best individual honour?
By Kayla Voss

The Brownlow Medal is AFL’s night of all nights. It has all the glitz and glamour of a red carpet event as players, partners, AFL staff, coaches, and former winners come together to celebrate. As viewers we speculate, perhaps placing bets between families and friends, about who will take out the medal. We judge every dress that walks down the red carpet, vocalising our opinions to those watching with us. Most of all, it is a night to reflect on the season that was and kicking off the excitement of Grand Final week. 

However, while we hype up the night and the event is celebrated in style, is it a true reflection of who played the most consistent and compelling season? The Brownlow medal is an award presented to a player who received the most votes according to the umpires. While the umpires are a critical part of the game, are they necessarily the best people to determine the best player for the season? The field umpires are heavily involved in the game, but it is not their job to study other teams and players. Their opinions and voting decisions are dictated only by what they see, which you can argue is not the most credible voting source. Umpires are focused on enforcing the rules of the game, and even then they don’t get it right 100 per cent of the time. 

It is a fair argument to suggest that coaches and players are in a better position to determine the most valuable player of the season. Sure, they are involved in how the game unfolds, and more aware of the oppositions movements. But, if anything, it is the extensive analysis that coaches and players do before, during and after that puts them in the best position. 

Players and coaches awards already exist. The Leigh Matthews Trophy and the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year are determined by the players and coaches respectively. So why is the Brownlow Medal considered the AFL’s highest individual honour? As a player, I imagine being voted by your peers and expert coaching staff throughout the AFL would feel like a greater achievement. If the same player won all three awards every year then this argument is pointless, but the awards often have different results. For example, in the past 20 years, the Brownlow medallist winner/s and the Leigh Matthews Trophy winner were different (in the same season) 11 times. The differing results certainly suggest different approaches in determining the AFL’s most valuable player. 

Either way the Brownlow Medal is an AFL tradition that will evolve with our game, and the prestige of the night cannot be argued, even if it is influenced. It is a night which celebrates the best players of our game, while also including the legends of old. As the 2020 season draws closer to finals, the Brownlow Medal predictions will start firing up. It will certainly be a Brownlow to remember as COVID will change the dynamic of the night. 

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