AFL boss makes call on Brownlow Medal change as Eddie McGuire floats new system

Lachie Neale's victory has sparked calls for change to the way in which the Brownlow Medal is decided.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and Eddie McGuire, pictured here alongside Brownlow Medal winner Lachie Neale.
AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and Eddie McGuire have differing views on the Brownlow Medal voting process. Image: Getty

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has shot down calls for the Brownlow Medal voting to be taken out of the hands of umpires, with Eddie McGuire declaring there should be a panel of former players who decide the league's top awards. Controversy has erupted in the wake of Lachie Neale winning his second Brownlow on Monday night, with many of the opinion that he wasn't as deserving as some other players.

The Brisbane Lions star won with 31 votes, narrowly edging Marcus Bontempelli and Nick Daicos on 29 and 28 respectively. But a number of votes have been called into question - most notably the three that Neale was awarded in a game against GWS in round six in which a number of other players stood out.

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Neale only had seven kicks and 20 possessions, while Josh Kelly and Stephen Coniglio had 41 and 38 possessions respectively, and Charlie Cameron kicked seven goals. Neale didn't even win any coach's votes for the performance, but was given three Brownlow votes from the umpires.

There were also question marks over the fact Daicos didn't receive a single vote in games where he had 38 disposals and two goals (in round four against Brisbane) and 42 disposals (in round nine against GWS). The furore has led to calls for the AFL to take the voting out of the hands of umpires.

Outgoing CEO McLachlan conceded it might be beneficial for the umpires to be provided with "baseline data" before they award their votes, but said "there’s no way in the world anyone should contemplate changing it" and taking the voting process away from the officials.

“Generally, the best players win, and it’s the beauty of the thing," he said on SEN radio. “Should you give them some baseline data to work with, that could be debated … but it’s an umpires’ vote and that’s absolutely right from my point of view – it’s created this mystique and uncertainty. I don’t know what people want … the formula works.”

Lachie Neale, pictured here after winning his second Brownlow Medal.
Lachie Neale celebrates after winning his second Brownlow Medal. (Photo by Albert Perez/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Speaking on the 'Eddie and Jimmy podcast' on Tuesday, former Collingwood president McGuire suggested a "panel of elders" should decided awards like the Brownlow, Norm Smith Medal and Anzac Medal. "I think we've got enough really great former players who get lost to the game," he said.

"Let's get a few of the others that we haven't seen in a while. People who have gone off and done other businesses and things. Get them there, have five or six of them, invite them to the grand final, sit them down, furnish them with the information they need so they're not just sitting there as someone goes past them with drinks, and do it properly so you get it right."

Former umpire responds to furore over Brownlow Medal

Former AFL umpire Dean Margetts also defended the process on SEN on Tuesday, saying: “Probably the disappointing part for me is we’re not celebrating the win like we should, we’re sort of almost denigrating the reason why certain games weren’t given certain votes. I want to make it really clear here. This is the umpires' award. It’s not a stats award, it’s not an MVP award, it’s not a coaches award, it’s not a sponsored award, it’s the uniqueness and the mystique is because the umpires go into a room and we cast the votes and decide who the ultimate winner is.”

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Margetts, who umpired over 300 games before retiring in 2018, refuted suggestions the officials had got it wrong. “The umpires may have thought that in their opinion the influence on that game or that quarter or the disposals were probably relevant and worthy,” he added. “So when people say they got it wrong, who’s saying that? Is it an opinion, is it the bloke who lost his $100 on Daicos?

“That’s what’s sort of tied up in all of this, to be fair. As I say, is it a stats award now (where the highest disposals get the most votes)? That’s not what we want, surely... (the unpredictability) is what makes the Brownlow so special, in my opinion.”

Discussing the situation on Tuesday, Neale admitted he was probably lucky to get three votes in the GWS game, but said he was surprised not to get more votes in other games. He also paid a classy tribute to Daicos, saying the 20-year-old would definitely have won the Brownlow if not for his late-season injury.

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