Dusty's day - The 2017 Brownlow Medal
For the second successive year, the Brownlow Medal has been won with a record number of votes, with Dustin Martin polling 36 to take out the award for the AFL's best and fairest player. Martin's dominant season saw him become the sixth Richmond player to take out the award, following on from Stan Judkins (1930), Bill Morris (1948), Roy Wright (1952 and 1954) Ian Stewart (1971) and Trent Cotchin (2012).¹
Martin finished three votes clear of last year's winner, Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield, with Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell polling 25 votes, the midfielder having a particularly prolific second half of the season vote-wise. Sydney pair Josh Kennedy and Lance Franklin, occupied fourth and fifth places, with 23 and 22 votes respectively.
Dangerfield took out the 2016 award with what was then a record 35 votes (beating Dane Swan's 34 in 2011), but that record lasted only 12 months, with Martin pipping him by one this year. Martin's 36-vote season included 11 best-on-ground performances which earned him the full three votes. That, too, is a record.
Dangerfield himself had another great season, polling 33 votes to become the first player to receive more than 30 in two seasons. But as a result of heavy tackle he laid on Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer in round 19, Dangerfield was suspended for one match and thus became ineligible to win this year's award. Many thought the suspension was unwarranted, and had Dangerfield's vote total equalled or exceeded Martin's, it would have created an awkward and controversial scenario. (As it was there was to be some controversy involving Dangerfield in any case, with the midfielder failing to poll a vote for his 32-possession, two-goal performance in the Cats' round 22 win over Collingwood.)
But the Dangerfield situation was a side story and the night was deservedly about 'Dusty'. No one at the count, not even Dangerfield himself, doubted that Dustin Martin was a worthy winner of league's most coveted and prestigious award. Martin started the season in style, his four-goal, 33-touch game against Carlton in the opening round earning him the full three votes.
From there Martin polled at least one vote in alternating matches before hitting a 'hot streak' in late May and early June, with consecutive three-vote performances against GWS, Essendon and North Melbourne. Martin had another purple patch in July, his games against Brisbane, GWS (again) and Gold Coast in rounds 17, 18 and 19 again earning him maximum votes.
Martin closed out the home-and-away season with a full head of steam, with to more 'BOG' efforts against Fremantle and St Kilda, and if votes were given out for finals matches, it's more than likely Martin would have received some for his Qualifying Final effort against Geelong, and his Preliminary Final performance against GWS.
The fact that Richmond will this weekend play in their first Grand Final in three and a half decades is the result of a great team effort by the Tigers over 24 matches, but few would argue that Dustin Martin's magnificent individual season has also been a huge factor.
Renowned for shunning publicity, Martin endured an uncomfortable few minutes being interviewed by Channel 7's Bruce McAvaney, after Dangerfield had presented him withe the 2017 medal, but he handled himself well and then showed great humility when reading out a prepared speech, written with the help of a close friend.
After further press conferences on the night and the following day, Martin's attention has turned back to this week's Grand Final and Richmond's quest to break a 37-year premiership drought. While some Brownlow Medal winners have had less than happy Grand Final sequels, such as Paul Couch in 1989 and more recently Dane Swan in 2011, others, such as Gavin Wanganeen (1993), Jason Akermanis (2001) and Jimmy Bartel (2007) have achieved the Medal-premiership double.
Martin will obviously be hoping to fall into the latter category, and perhaps create a new one of his own by winning the Brownlow Medal, the premiership and the Norm Smith Medal in the one season.
2017 Brownlow Medal leaderboard
36 - Dustin Martin (Rich)
33 - *Patrick Dangerfield (Geel)
25 - Tom Mitchell (Haw)
23 - Josh Kennedy (Syd)
22 - Lance Franklin (Syd)
21 - Josh Kelly (GWS)
20 - Rory Sloane (Adel)
19 - Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
18 - Ollie Wines (Port)
17 - Dayne Beams (Bris)
16 - Luke Parker (Syd)
15 - *Zach Merrett (Ess)
15 - Brad Ebert (Port)
15 - Nat Fyfe (Frem)
15 - Scott Pendlebury (Coll)
14 - Gary Ablett (GC)
14 - Taylor Adams (Coll)
14 - Ben Brown (NM)
14 - Dyson Heppell (Ess)
14 - Lachie Neale (Frem)
14 - Seb Ross (StK)
14 - Steele Sidebottom (Coll)
Leading vote-getters by club
Adelaide: 20- Rory Sloane, 11 - Matt Crouch, 10 - Rory Atkins, Sam Jacobs, 9 - Rory Laird
Brisbane: 17 - Dayne Beams, 14 - *Dayne Zorko, 6 - Stefan Martin, 4 - Daniel Rich
Carlton: 11 - Bryce Gibbs, 9 - Marc Murphy, 8 - Kade Simpson
Collingwood: 15 - Scott Pendlebury, 14 - Taylor Adams, Steele Sidebottom, 11 - Adam Treloar
Essendon: 15 - *Zach Merrett, 14 - Dyson Heppell, 9 - Joe Daniher, 7 - Orazio Fantasia
Fremantle: 15 - Nat Fyfe, 14 - Lachie Neale, 10 - Michael Walters, 5 - Connor Blakely, David Mundy
Geelong: 33 - *Patrick Dangerfield, 13 - Joel Selwood, 11 - *Mitch Duncan, 6 - *Sam Menegola, 4 - Harry Taylor
Gold Coast: 14 - Gary Ablett, 10 - Aaron Hall, 6 - Jarryd Lyons, 4 - Tom Lynch, 3 - Brandon Matera
GWS: 21 - Josh Kelly, 11 - Dylan Shiel, 11 - Callan Ward, 8 - *Toby Greene, 6 - Jonathan Patton, Zac Williams
Hawthorn: 25 - Tom Mitchell, 6 - Jack Gunston, Jarryd Roughead, 5 - Shaun Burgoyne, Ben McEvoy, Liam Shiels
Melbourne: 12 - Clayton Oliver, 9 - Tom McDonald, Jack Viney, 7 - Michael Hibberd, Nathan Jones
North Melbourne: 14 - Ben Brown, 11 - *Ben Cunnington, 9 - Shaun Higgins, 3 - *Jarrad Waite
Port Adelaide: 18 - Ollie Wines, 15 - Brad Ebert, 12 - Robbie Gray, 10 - Travis Boak, 8 - Charlie Dixon
Richmond: 36 - Dustin Martin, 8 - Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, 7 - Shaun Grigg, 6 - Jack Riewoldt, 5 - Dion Prestia
St Kilda: 14 - Sebastian Ross, 11 - Jack Billings, Jack Steven, 5 - Dylan Roberton, 4 - Nick Riewoldt
Sydney: 23 - Josh Kennedy, 22 - Lance Franklin, 16 - Luke Parker, 6 - Dan Hannebery, 4 - Isaac Heeney
West Coast: 13 - Josh Kennedy, 10 - Luke Shuey, 9 - Andrew Gaff, 7 - Shannon Hurn, Sam Mitchell, 4 - Elliot Yeo
Western Bulldogs: 19 - Marcus Bontempelli, 8 - Jack Macrae, 7 - Jason Johannisen, 6 - Luke Dahlhaus
1. Cotchin received his Medal retrospectively, along with Sam Mitchell of Hawthorn, after it was deemed in 2016 that Jobe Watson, the leading vote-getter in 2012, was ineligible because he was one of the 34 Essendon players suspended as part of the so-called supplements saga.