Talk about starting your career with a bang
22/09/2023 Update: This post has been updated to include data for Nic Martin, Josh Rachele, and Jack Hayes, who also polled Brownlow votes on debut. I apologise for missing these players in an earlier version of this post.
A total of 3,550 players made their VFL/AFL debut during the home and away season between 1984 and 2022. Only 48 of them polled Brownlow votes in their first game, which is a little more than one percent of all players. Of these 48, 17 received one vote, 21 received two votes, and 10 received three votes. A list of each player who polled Brownlow votes on debut can be seen below.
Figure: List of VFL/AFL Players to poll Brownlow votes on debut, 1984-2022
Three players who polled Brownlow votes went on to win the Brownlow at some point in their career: Brad Hardie in 1985, John Platten in 1987, and Greg Williams in 1986 and 1994. I find it quite interesting that this happened three years in a row. However, it’s important to note that Errol Gulden, Clayton Oliver, and Izak Rankine could be added to this list if they win one during the remainder of their careers.
But not everyone who polls Brownlow votes in their first game goes on to have success for the rest of their careers. Fifteen of the 48 players who polled on debut did not (or have not yet) receive(d) votes again, although only one of these ended up playing more than 50 games, as seen in the table below.
Table: Career games and Brownlow votes for players who polled votes on debut between 1984 and 2022
% = percentage of Brownlow votes earned on debut relative to career total. Note: Games played and career Brownlow votes correct to the end of the 2022 season.
There seems to be a clear pattern between the number of Brownlow votes received on debut and the number disposals earned, marks taken, and goals kicked, as indicated by the table below.
Table: Statistical averages for players who debuted during the home and away season between 1984 and 2022 by Brownlow votes they received
D = disposals, M = marks, G = goals, T = tackles. Note: Tackles were recorded from 1985 onwards
Let’s use the data in the table above to wildly speculate if any of the 70 players who made their debut in the 2023 home and away season have a chance at getting votes. This is wild speculation, as we aren’t considering how well the debutants performed relative to other players in their team, are only looking at a small amount of the available data, and are not considering how the game has changed between 1985 and 2023.
Based on this, I suspect Harry Sheezel will poll at least one vote for his 34-disposal, nine-mark game in North’s five-point win over West Coast in Round 1. This might not be too wild of a guess, given he won the Rising Star Award and North Melbourne’s Best and Fairest.
Other potential guesses where a debutant could poll votes, using the same logic as above:
- Alex Cincotta (24 disposals, seven marks – Round 6 v St Kilda)
- Jacob van Rooyen (nine disposals, three marks, three goals, and six tackles – Round 3 v Sydney)
- Henry Hustwaite (15 disposals, two marks, two goals, and five tackles - Round 23 v Melbourne)
The timeframe of this stat is limited based on what data are freely/easily available and/or accessible. Please let don’t hesitate to contact me if you spot any errors in what I have presented. As always, apologies to anyone who has already looked at this stat!