We've put two rounds of the 2017 AFL season behind us and early indications are that the majority of clubs are adopting an attacking, free-flowing game style which lends itself to increased individual possession and goal numbers and has resulted in the average winning score across the opening two rounds increase from 112 in 2016 to 118 this season.
Having said that, we’re not here to look at game-style changes or how much scores have increased, rather, we’re here to take a look at which players are likely to poll the Brownlow votes for Round 2.
Richmond v Collingwood
In a game marred by inaccurate first half kicking for goal, especially by the Pies, Richmond prevailed by 19 points. Whilst the contest itself didn't scale any great heights, there were a handful of individual performances that stood out. Trent Cotchin led from the front all night with 26 possessions, 7 tackles, and 2 goals. Richmond winning ensures he'll get the three. Adam Treloar continued his fine start to the season with 35 disposals and 2 goals. At a minimum, he polls the two. The last vote boils down to Dustin Martin’s 25 touches and 2 goals, including the sealer, or Brodie Grundy’s 23 possessions and 45 hit outs. Grundy was tireless all night whereas Dusty was good in patches. Leaning towards Grundy.
Western Bulldogs v Sydney
What a contest! The unquestionable match of the season so far. Sydney shot out the blocks kicking the first four goals. The Doggies pegged them back and cleared out to as much as a 28 point lead during the 3rd quarter. However, 10 minutes into the final term the never say die Swans hit the front only for the Dogs to boot the final four goals on their way to victory. The match had three standout performances. Marcus Bontempelli was sensational with 30 touches and 2 goals, including the one that put the Dogs back in front in the pulsating last quarter. He gets the three. Lance Franklin exploded in the last quarter booting three goals and carried his 21 teammates back into the contest with two booming goals outside the arc. He finished with 22 disposals, 11 marks, and 4 majors. Sam Reid had a stellar 100th game booting a career-high 6 goals. He’ll get the one vote here.
Hawthorn v Adelaide
On a sunny afternoon at the home of football, the Hawks started well, building a big quarter time lead, but watched the Crows whittle their ascendancy away across the final three terms. They're a good side, Adelaide. They rolled the highly fancied Giants last week without their spearhead and captain Taylor Walker and beat Hawthorn on the MCG despite losing Josh Jenkins early on. They have a couple of handy midfielders still out too. The difference in this one was Sam Jacobs. He had 43 hit outs and gave his on-ball brigade first use more often than not. He should poll the three. Quiet last week, Tom Lynch was everywhere amassing an astonishing 31 possessions and 14 marks - it's not often a player that plays the role Lynch does, gets over 30 disposals. For the second week running Tom Mitchell collected the most possessions of any Hawk and his 38 touches earns him the single vote.
GWS v GC
What a contrast the two newest AFL franchises are. Right now the Suns appear at a lower ebb than the Giants did at any point in their short history, whilst the Giants are legitimate premiership contenders. This one was over at quarter time and in actual fact probably over half way through the first quarter. Toby Greene continued his fine 2016 form with a best on ground display of 22 possessions and 5 goals. With Jon Patton a late out, Jeremy Cameron benefitted from the extra traffic flowing through him and bagged 6 goals. He gets the two votes just ahead of rumoured ‘Million Dollar Man’ Josh Kelly who helped himself to 27 touches and 3 goals. If not for a quiet last term Dylan Shiel probably features amongst the votes.
Brisbane v Essendon
The Bombers got the points on the road against the Lions thanks largely to a dominant 2nd quarter and a strong finish to the game. Essendon kicked 5 goals and held Brisbane to just 1 in the final term which dispels some of the myths surrounding Essendon’s inability to run out games given the inclusion and integration of the returning players. I do like the look of Brisbane though, especially the way they are prepared to kick it long to their tall forwards - very exciting. Zac Merrett is a jet. Those who thought he'd regress with the likes of Dyson Heppell and Jobe Watson returning are eating their words. He was outstanding collecting 32 possessions. Orazio Fantasia was arguably the difference between the two sides. He booted 5.0 whilst none of the Lions small brigade could manage more than 1. He gets the two. Dayne Beams was his side's best with 33 possessions and 2 goals and receives the one vote.
West Coast v St.Kilda
Much of the talk following this one has been on the lopsided free-kick count rather than the game itself. A particularly interesting observation was that the Eagles only conceded two first-half free-kicks, both against Sam Mitchell. Which means in approximately 60 minutes of football, 21 other players did not give away a single free-kick. Make of that what you will…..Luke Shuey certainly attracts frees as well as votes and he should poll three for his 30 possessions, 11 tackles and 2 goals (he had three free kicks for and none against by the way). Andrew Gaff again accumulated 36 possessions and based on last year’s statistics, he’ll likely get the two. Prepared to award 2014 Brownlow winner Matt Priddis the one for his 31 possessions purely because I think the umpires will notice and recognise his work more than that of other solid contributors Chris Masten, Elliot Yeo and Sebastian Ross.
Geelong v Nth Melbourne
The Cats clawed their way back from a four-goal deficit at the final change to win a thrilling contest over the Roos by a solitary point. It certainly was one that got away for Nth Melbourne. Despite copping a nasty knock, reigning Brownlow Medallist Patrick Dangerfield was the clear stand-out. 37 possessions, which was nine more than anyone else on the park earns him top honours. Shaun Higgins was best for the Roos with 27 touches and a couple of goals. Higgins has a knack of starting seasons well but eventually petering out through injury or loss of form. He gets the two. A number of players are in contention for the final vote, including Joel Selwood, Ben Cunnington and Dan Menzel, but I'm going with Robbie Tarrant for his 28 disposals and 9 marks in defence.
Melbourne v Carlton
In the lowest scoring game of the season to date, Melbourne withstood a spirited Carlton resurgence to run out fairly comfortable victors. If I said last week the umpires might not notice Clayton Oliver, then they certainly will this week after he backed up last week’s impressive display with 35 disposals and 9 tackles. I think that is good enough for the maximum here. Was this Christian Salem’s breakout game? Melbourne fans have been waiting patiently for him to display his obvious talents and he collected 31 disposals, providing good rebound off half back. I think he can poll the two here. Patrick Cripps is a proven vote winner, emphasised by the 18 he polled last season. He had 29 possessions, including a game-high 17 contested possessions and that likely sees him receive the single vote.
Port Adelaide v Fremantle
Boy have the wheels fallen off in Fremantle. Just 25 matches ago the Dockers hosted the Hawks in a Preliminary Final after finishing the 2015 season as minor premiers. That season they lost just six games. They've only won four since then. They were monumentally trounced by the Power in this. The best performance of the round was in this game where Robbie Gray put on a clinic, helping himself to 30 possessions and 6 goals. Ollie Wines polls in back to back games and he'll get the two here for his 31 touches and 2 goals. There are many who could legitimately lay claim to the final vote in this, but for his 28 possessions and game-high 10 inside 50’s I'm giving it to Brad Ebert.