Let's Stop 'Vote Pinching' and Share the Brownlow Instead

Can teammates work together to win football’s highest ‘individual’ award?

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about how Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca have (or will) cost each other a Brownlow during their careers because they “steal” votes off each other. But how many (if any) Brownlow medals would they have won thus far if two players from the same team could “share” the award?

For this hypothetical scenario, I’ve looked at the top two vote-getting players per team per year from 2000 to 2022 to see which duo would come out on top, and how the Brownlow landscape would have changed under this system. I have excluded ties for simplicity’s sake (i.e., if two or more players polled the same number of votes, I picked one of them at random), such as when Darren Jarman and Simon Goodwin both polled 10 votes behind Andrew McLeod in 2001, or when Brendan Fevola, Scott Camporeale, Heath Scotland, and Matthew Lappin were joint leading vote getters for Carlton in 2004 (nine votes each). See here for a full list of ties.

To start with, let’s look at how many votes Oliver and Petracca have polled during their career.

Table: Brownlow votes for Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca by year

Year Oliver Petracca Total
2016 3 0 3
2017 12 2 14
2018 13 3 16
2019 12 0 12
2020 14 20 34
2021 31 23 54
2022 25 24 49

Based on the table above, it appears Oliver and Petracca would only go closes to a shared Brownlow medal in 2021 and 2022. And as can be seen from the table below, they would only get to take Charlie home in 2022, with their 49 votes putting them six votes clear of Patrick Cripps and Sam Walsh (43 votes between them). Their combined 54 votes in 2021 would still have been short of Ollie Wines and Travis Boak’s 61 votes that year.

Table: Original and “Shared” Brownlow winners, 2000-2022

Year Original Winner(s) Shared Winners
2000 Shane Woewodin (24) Shane Woewodin (24) and Adam Yze (14)
2001 Jason Akermanis (23) Jason Akermanis (23) and Michael Voss (19)
2002 Simon Black (25) Simon Black (25) and Michael Voss (17)
2003 Nathan Buckley, Adam Goodes, and Mark Ricciuto (22) Mark Ricciuto (22) and Andrew McLeod (18)
2004 Chris Judd (30) Chris Judd (30) and Chad Fletcher (10)
2005 Ben Cousins (20) Ben Cousins (20) and Daniel Kerr (19)
2006 Adam Goodes (26) Daniel Kerr (22) and Chris Judd (21)
2007 Jimmy Bartel (29) Jimmy Bartel (29) and Gary Ablett (22)
2008 Adam Cooney (24) Gary Ablett (22) and Joel Selwood (19)
2009 Gary Ablett (30) Gary Ablett (30) and Joel Selwood (16)
2010 Chris Judd (30) Gary Ablett (26) and Joel Selwood (21)
2011 Dane Swan (34) Dane Swan (34) and Scott Pendlebury (24)
2012 Trent Cotchin and Sam Mitchell (26) Scott Thompson (25) and Patrick Dangerfield (23)
2013 Gary Ablett (28) Joel Selwood (27) and Steve Johnson (25)
2014 Matt Priddis (26) Lance Franklin (22) and Josh Kennedy (21)
2015 Nat Fyfe (31) Nat Fyfe (31) and David Mundy (19)
2016 Patrick Dangerfield (35) Patrick Dangerfield (35) and Joel Selwood (18)
2017 Dustin Martin (36) Patrick Dangerfield (33) and Joel Selwood (13)
2018 Tom Mitchell (28) Three-way tie (41 votes)
2019 Nat Fyfe (33) Patrick Dangerfield (27) and Tim Kelly (24)
2020 Lachie Neale (31) Lachie Neale (31) and Jarryd Lyons (9)
2021 Ollie Wines (36) Ollie Wines (36) and Travis Boak (25)
2022 Patrick Cripps (29) Clayton Oliver (25) and Christian Petracca (24)

Steele Sidebottom (24) and Brodie Grundy (17), Tom Mitchell (28) and Jaeger O’Meara (13), and Angus Brayshaw (21) and Max Gawn (20)

Nine of the 23 Brownlow medals would change hands (to some extent – I’m not counting 2003 and 2018 as ‘changing’ because one of the original winners still would have won) in this hypothetical universe, but I can’t decide if this is more or less than I expected. However, it is interesting to see how close the top two vote getters for a team are in some years (e.g., Kerr and Judd in 2006) but how far apart they are in others (e.g., Neale and Lyons in 2020).

Speaking of Lachie Neale, let’s take a moment to remember he polled in 11 of his 17 games in that covid-affected season. Thirty of his votes came in ten games, as he was awarded the three votes in rounds 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 16, and 18. This puts him behind only Dustin Martin in terms of the most three-vote games in a season (who had 11 in 2017).

Neither Nathan Buckley (with Shane Woewodin, 12 votes) or Adam Goodes (with Jude Bolton, 13 votes) would have caught the Ricciuto and McLeod team in 2003, while the 2018 count must have been much more even than I remember.

Both Trent Cotchin (with Brett Deledio, 13 votes) and Sam Mitchell (with Brad Sewell, 13 votes) would have been well short of Adelaide’s Thompson and Dangerfield in 2012. Even Jobe Watson (30 votes) and Brent Stanton (14 votes) would have fallen short, had Essendon not been hit with penalties for the supplements program.

And I’m not sure how any non-Geelong (and potentially Adelaide) fans would feel about Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield being six- and four-time Brownlow medallists (respectively) in this hypothetical universe.

It will be interesting to see how Oliver and Petracca perform in this year’s count, given the number of games Oliver has missed due to injury. And while one, or both, may win a Brownlow medal eventually, this method of attempting to cancel out any potential vote “stealing” suggests this may not have been as big of a deal as people are making it out to be (at least for Oliver and Petracca)?

The timeframe of this stat is limited based on what data are freely/easily available and/or accessible. Please 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.