No (Brownlow) Substitutions

See my (substitute’s) vest, see my (substitute’s) vest

The substitute rule has had somewhat of a storied history in the AFL. The rule was first introduced in 2011, when the interchange bench was cut from four players to three, with the fourth player being a substitute that could be used at any time or for any reason. This iteration of the rule lasted five seasons, before it was scrapped in 2015.

Substitutes returned in 2021, although they were slightly different. They were no longer a tactical lever that could be pulled. Rather, they were for medical purposes, where clubs could replace an injured or concussed player. This version of the substitute lasted two years, before things were again changed for the 2023 season.

This year substitutes could be used for tactical or medical reasons. The substitute was named as the 23rd player for each team, meaning there were still four players on the bench, but once a player was subbed out, they were finished for the day.

Fans of the game often seem to be interested in how players subbed on or off perform, whether that’s the most goals kicked by a player who was subbed off (Tom Lynch, with five) or the most disposals earned by a player who was subbed on (Cam Guthrie, with 25).

As we are in the lead up to the Brownlow, I’ve looked at how players who were subbed (on or off) were viewed by the umpires. Here are my findings.

Seven players have polled Brownlow votes in games where they were subbed off:

Four players have polled Brownlow votes in games where they were subbed on:

Drew Petrie kicked seven goals from 13 disposals before being subbed off in North Melbourne’s 53-point win over Carlton, which is impressive. But Ben Howlett earned three votes for his 19-disposal, 12-tackle, and seven-clearance effort after starting as the sub in Essendon’s 12-point loss to Sydney.

I’m curious to see if these exclusive clubs welcome any new members on Monday September 25. While the likelihood of this is pretty slim, I’m going to take some wild guesses and say Joel Amartey and Dayne Zorko could join the list of players who have polled Brownlow votes despite being subbed off for their efforts in Round 2. Amartey had 11 disposals (ten kicks), nine marks, and four goals (in 50% TOG) in Sydney’s 84-point win over Hawthorn, while Zorko had 22 disposals (16 kicks), four tackles, two goals, and two clearances (from 54% TOG) in the Lions' 11-point win over Melbourne.

On the other side of things, Jack Ross has a chance of joining the “Brownlow votes after being subbed on” club for his 20 disposal (14 kicks), six mark, two goal, and two tackle effort in R17 (76% TOG).

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.