How Many Players Get Their Name Called of the AFL’s Night of Nights?

Exploring trends in the number of unique vote getters over the past few decades

The number of players receiving Brownlow votes each year between 1984 and 2022 has been relatively consistent, ranging from 171 in 1986 to 227 in 2002. This works out to an average of 204.5 (or 205) players per year.

Figure: Number of players polling Brownlow votes per year, 1984-2022

Vote getters per year

Interestingly, there have been 203 unique vote getters on five occasions (1991, 1993, 2000, 2003, and 2007). But there is a big gap between the three lowest number of unique vote getters compared to the rest of the data.

Figure: Frequency distribution of the number unique Brownlow vote getters, 1984-2022

Vote getters histogram

The three lowest unique totals (171, 177, and 178) occurred in the first three years of the timeframe I have looked at as part of this post: 1984 to 1986. The number of unique vote getters jumped to 200 in 1987, which is the same year the Brisbane Bears and West Coast Eagles were introduced into the then-VFL. It’s possible the introduction of these two clubs contributed to this jump in totals, with 10 Brisbane Bears and 17 West Coast Eagles polling Brownlow votes that year.

The number of unique vote getters jumped from 206 in 1994 to 218 in 1995 (Fremantle’s first season, where 15 players polled votes), while the number jumped from 208 in 1996 to 217 in 1997 (Port Adelaide’s first season, where 13 players polled votes).

The number of unique vote getters also jumped from 197 in 2010 to 216 in both 2011 (Gold Coast’s first season) and 2012 (Greater Western Sydney’s first season). Eight Suns polled in 2011 and seven Giants polled in 2012, so this adds a little more weight to the idea that having more teams in the competition means more players will get votes (through a combination of there being more games each round as more teams are added, and there being more players who play throughout the season).

It will be interesting to see whether the addition of a 23rd game for each club and a fourth field umpire impacts the number of players receiving Brownlow votes in 2023.

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.