Round 1 of the 2017 season is behind us and it proved to be a weekend of upsets. Particularly the Saturday matches where all four outsiders saluted and then Sunday, where the Adelaide Crows made a mess of the premiership favourite Giants. There were some unbelievable opening round performances, so let's take a look at each of the games and look at the likely Brownlow vote winners.
Each week I'll endeavour to get into the umpires minds and determine who receives the Brownlow votes. It's something I've done for a decade now with relative success and there's certainly a few tips and tricks I've picked up along the way which I'll share as the year progresses.
Carlton v Richmond
Dusty Martin treated footy-starved fans to a five star and three-vote performance to kick off the season. 33 possessions and 4 goals, which could easily have been 6 or 7, was a masterful display. He's a lock for the three. The Tigers were always in control of this one and for that reason, Dion Prestia gets the two. The second highest possession winner for Richmond with 28 possessions should be enough for second best. Marc Murphy’s 35 possessions should see him collect the one here ahead of Matthew Kreuzer, Kade Simpson and impressive Tiger youngster Jason Castagna.
Collingwood v Western Bulldogs
A game of ebbs and flows makes assigning votes difficult as typically nobody dominates for the four full quarters. The Doggies jumped Collingwood who pegged them back slowly but fell 14 points short. Despite losing, the Pies had the four highest ball winners on the field. Scott Pendlebury was absolutely sensational with 35 disposals and 2 goals and deserves the three. Jason Johannisen collected 30 touches and streamed forward to kick 2 goals and his dash the umpires notice. Despite the Bulldogs winning he’ll likely be the only Bulldog polling here. Taylor Adams was great all night with 33 possessions and 12 tackles. With minimal confidence, he gets the one ahead of a host of other solid contributors.
St.Kilda v Melbourne
St.Kilda started well but were completely blown away by the Demons half way through the second term. Nathan Jones’ 35 disposals will likely be good enough for the three. He is a proven vote winner. I'm giving Max Gawn the two for his 49 hit-outs. Melbourne destroyed St.Kilda out of the middle, especially in the middle two terms and his ruck work was the key. Jordan Lewis had 32 possessions and 9 marks in his Melbourne debut and I'm edging him ahead of Clayton Oliver for the one despite Oliver’s impressive 36 possessions. Generally, umpires tend to take 12 months to notice the younger players.
Sydney v Port Adelaide
In arguably the upset of the round, the Power out pressured, out harassed and out played the Swans on the SCG. Ollie Wines was brilliant all day but especially early to help Port Adelaide get a foothold in the contest. Almost a lock for three. Travis Boak helped himself to 26 possessions and 2 goals. Having the third highest number of possessions on the ground and
second most for Port might just be good enough in a game where only Wines had more than 30 possessions. Josh Kennedy gets the one for his 28 disposals but this one is a lottery with Chad Wingard, Brad Ebert and Lance Franklin in the mix.
Brisbane v Gold Coast
The Q Clash was a remarkable contest. The Lions flew out the blocks kicking 7 opening quarter goals on their way to a 46 point half time lead. The Suns kept closing though and fell just 2 points short. Tom Rockliff amassed 37 possessions and has probably enough disposals to pip teammate Dayne Beams for the three. Beams was instrumental however in setting up the Lions’ big half time lead. He had 21 possessions to half time and despite a quieter second half, he gets the two. Perennial vote winner and two-time Brownlow Medallist Gary Ablett, with 28 touches and 8 tackles is the most likely one vote candidate.
Essendon v Hawthorn
The ‘comeback’ game was a fairytale for the Bombers. They were rampant in the first ten minutes piling on three goals and barely allowing the Hawks to touch the footy. Hawthorn was Hawthorn though and clawed their way back only for Essendon to run over the top in the final quarter. Dyson Heppell’s debut as captain was phenomenal. 34 possessions and 3 goals including the sealer earns him the three. Zach Merrett was everywhere in the first half. He ended the game with 37 touches and the likely two votes. For the sheer weight of numbers, new Hawk Tom Mitchell receives the one for his 37 disposals just ahead of Orazio Fantasia.
Nth Melbourne v West Coast
The Eagles didn't have to work too hard in toppling the Roos in this one. The longer the game went the more the Eagles midfielders got on top and there were some big numbers. Josh Kennedy has a knack for big hauls in Round 1 and he delivered again with 7 straight. Despite it being a ‘midfielders award’, bags of seven or more these days typically earn the three. Sam Mitchell was monstrous on debut for the Eagles with 38 possessions. We know he attracts votes being right under the umpire's nose so he gets the two. With the Eagles so dominant deciding on the one is difficult. However Andrew Gaff’s second half will likely stick fresh in the umpires minds and his 36 possessions and 13 marks earn him the one ahead of impressive displays from Mark LeCras, Luke Shuey and Elliott Yeo.
Adelaide v GWS
The most impressive performance of the round came in Adelaide where the Crows tore apart the highly fancied Giants. Adelaide’s midfielders worked and ran harder than their Giants opponents and provided their star-studded forward line with a plethora of opportunities to kick a winning score. Rory Laird did as he pleased across half back collecting 40 disposals in a clear best on ground effort. Livewire Charlie Cameron had 23 touches and 2 goals and numerous pressure acts. A leading candidate for the two. Richard Douglas turned back the clock with 27 possessions and 2 goals and he potentially collects the one vote ahead of teammates Eddie Betts and Matt Crouch.
Fremantle v Geelong
In the final game of the opening round, the Cats were rarely troubled on their way to a big win over the Dockers. The much hyped ‘Fyfe v Danger’ tussle was a bit of a fizzer, with neither breaking 30 possessions. Mitch Duncan started the game well and finished with 30 possessions. In a game where nobody definitively stood out, that might be enough for the three. Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield aren't strangers to Brownlow votes. Dangerfield’s 24 touches and 3 goals are probably good enough to pocket the two with Selwood’s 28 disposals likely to earn him the one.