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Eddie McGuire ignored as AFL makes call on changing Brownlow Medal voting system

Lachie Neale was a controversial winner of the prestigious AFL award in 2023.

The AFL is set to keep the Brownlow Medal as an umpire-judged award and will resist calls for the officials to be given access to stats before giving their votes. Lachie Neale was a controversial winner of the prestigious medal in 2023, the second time he's won the Brownlow in his career.

But many in the AFL world were left questioning whether he was the deserving winner - especially given the fact he didn't even make the All-Australian squad. The Brownlow is decided by the umpires, who award 3-2-1 votes after every game.

Eddie McGuire and Lachie Neale, pictured here with the AFL's Brownlow Medal.
Eddie McGuire had called for former AFL players to decide the Brownlow Medal after Lachie Neale's controversial win. Image: Getty

But a number of the umpires' votes raised eyebrows last year. Lions co-captain Neale won with 31 votes, narrowly edging Marcus Bontempelli of the Bulldogs and Nick Daicos of the Magpies on 29 and 28 respectively.

The decision to award Neale three votes in a game against GWS in round six drew the most scrutiny. 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 that match, but was given three Brownlow votes from the umpires.

Questions were also asked as to why 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 voting controversy led to calls for the award to be taken out of the hands of the umpires, or for the officials to be given access to stats after games to get a better feel for who were the best players.

AFL won't be changing Brownlow Medal voting system

But according to the Herald Sun, the AFL won't be changing the system in 2024 and it will remain in the hands of the umpires. According to leading AFL writer Jon Ralph: "The AFL’s view is that the Brownlow Medal is a unique award selected by the umpires who have done a remarkable job picking the game’s best player over the years."

Some believe that Neale and other gun midfielders would actually benefit even more if umpires had access to stats. The Brownlow is rarely won by players who aren't midfielders due to the fact they get their hands on the ball so much.

Lachie Neale with the Brownlow Medal in 2023.
Lachie Neale won his second Brownlow Medal in 2023. (via Getty Images)

Eddie McGuire wants 'panel of elders' to decide AFL awards

Discussing the controversy last year, former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire suggested a panel of former players should be deciding the league's top awards. "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."

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Then-CEO Gillon McLachlan conceded it might be beneficial for the umpires to be given "baseline data" before they award their votes, but said: "There’s no way in the world anyone should contemplate changing it. Generally, the best players win, and it’s the beauty of the thing.

"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.”

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