The Brownlow Medal is an award no AFL player will admit they want to win or think about, until they actually do. If truth be told, it’s a midfielder’s award, so don’t even bother looking at the forwards and defenders. The only real trend to picking the winner is by looking at a team’s best player who plays the majority of the year; and if their team wins more games than they lose then that helps too. In 2021, Ollie Wines was Port Adelaide’s best player; in 2020, Lachie Neale was Brisbane’s best player; in 2019, Nat Fyfe was Freo’s best player. You get where I’m going with this?
2022 is shaping up to be an interesting year, as always, in the Brownlow rollercoaster. Favourites at the moment are Marcus Bontempelli, Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver, and Jack Steele who all polled well last year. But expect the likes of Nat Fyfe and Dustin Martin to make impressive injury comebacks following interrupted seasons. Personally, my pick is Lachie Neale. Last season he played injured, missed a load of games and couldn’t really get going – and unfortunately it showed with his stats and output. This year will be different though. Everyone knows it. I’m backing him in at 11/1 to have a big year and it helps that his team are likely to win a lot of games too.
Rising Star eligibility permits any player up to 21 years old, or under 10 games before starting the new season. For example, your good friend Mr Shaw was robbed of the Rising Star accolade in 2006; or perhaps he had an unfair advantage going into his third year. Just kidding.
Pre-season matches are perfect for getting an idea of the Rising Star chances. The clear standouts and obvious favourites are Jason Horne-Francis and Nick Daicos. Both were elite players at junior level and have already shown their class at the highest level.
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Elijah Hollands are both heading into 2022 with two AFL pre-seasons now under their belts, so will undoubtedly be in search of big years. My pick for the Rising Star has got to be Horne-Francis though. He’s been playing Seniors in the SANFL since the age of 16 and his body is ready. Club position is development so he will get plenty of opportunity in his preferred positions of HF, wing or midfield. Look, this kid can play and there was a reason he went first overall in the draft. Providing he can stay healthy, I think it’s his award to lose.