Queensland Brownlow Medal Contenders

Submitted by Peter Blucher.

There is no award for the player who tops the Queensland vote-count in the Brownlow Medal each year. So, in the countdown to Monday night’s 2022 count, let’s pretend there is one.

We’ll call it the Erwin Dornau Medal after the first born and bred Queenslander to not just play in the AFL but poll in the Brownlow.

Having learned the game at Windsor State School, Dornau played senior football with Kedron. He represented Queensland in 1946 and again in 1947 at the Australian Carnival in Hobart, where he starred at centre half back and finished equal second in the Tassie Medal.

His efforts in Hobart saw him recruited by South Melbourne in 1948 at age 21 and in his first season he played 17 of a possible 18 games and polled eight votes in the Brownlow – second among South players behind only 1949 winner Ron Clegg, who was fourth in 1948 with 16 votes.’

Hampered by knee problems, Dornau played only 10 games in 1949-50, but after a strong season in ’51 he was appointed deputy vice-captain for what turned out to be his last season in 1952.

Like so many of his era, he was tempted by more lucrative offers from country football, and after 54 games at South he left the VFL at 26 to be a playing-coach of Leeton in the Riverina.

So, now that we have the unofficial Dornau Medal for the leading Queensland vote-getter in the Brownlow, who might win it in 2022?

If voting in the AFL Coach’s Association Player of the Year Award is any sort of guide, it will be a battle in two in a low vote overall between Brisbane pair Charlie Cameron and Keidean Coleman.

This is based on a conversion of the 5-4-3-2-1 votes awarded by each coach after each game are converted to notional 3-2-1 Brownlow votes awarded to the best three players on the ground (including ties). Or ‘Coachlow’ votes.

Under ‘Coachlow’ voting, Cameron and Coleman will top the Queensland vote with six apiece, from Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko (3.33), Adelaide’s Ben Keays (3) and Gold Coast’s Mabior Chol (3).

Others who figure in the ‘Coachlow’ vote were Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon (2), Adelaide’s Elliot Himmelberg (2), Gold Coast’s Lachie Weller (1.5) and Connor Budarick (1), and Richmond’s Noah Cumberland (0.5).

If we use the ‘Coachlow’ as a guide, Coleman, who did not poll in the Brownlow in his first 23 games in 2020-21, was ranked among the best three players on the ground by the coaches in Rounds 13-16-18-20 and so can be expected to poll most often.

Cameron, who polled 11 Brownlow votes in 2019, received the only maximum 10-vote rating awarded to a Queenslander by the coaches. That was in Round 16, when he had four goals and a career-best five goal assists in the Lions’ Gabba win over the Western Bulldogs. This equates to a probable three votes in the Brownlow, while he is also tipped to poll in Rounds 8-9.

Zorko, 10th in the Brownlow with 19 votes in his best season in 2019, is expected to poll this year in Rounds 7-9, while Keays will be in the mix in Rounds 1-6-20. Likewise Himmelberg in Rounds 3-5, and Chol in Rounds 9-20.

Dixon, who missed the first half of the season through injury, was rated second-best by the coaches in Round 19, while Weller will be a borderline vote-getter in Round 11, Budarick likewise in Round 12 and late-season boom player Cumberland could pick up his first career votes in Round 18.

Whoever ‘wins’ the inaugural Dornau Medal will join an illustrious list of players who have topped the annual Queensland vote in the Brownlow.

Hawthorn’s Jason Dunstall, the #3 goal-kicker in AFL history, was Queensland’s leading vote-getter 10 times. St.Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt did so eight times, and Brisbane’s Michael Voss, the first Queenslander to win the Brownlow in 1996, topped the vote five times.

Riewoldt, 30th on the all-time Brownlow Medal vote list with 153, heads the aggregate Queensland vote from Voss (150), Dunstall (129), Brisbane’s Jason Akermanis (107), ex-Collingwood and Brisbane midfielder Dayne Beams (90) and Zorko (80).

Akermanis boasts the highest single-year vote tally by a Queenslander of 23 in 2001, when he became the only other Queenslander to win the game’s No.1 individual award.

Voss’ winning total in 1996 of 21 votes is next best, while Voss twice polled 19 votes to equal the single-season best of Riewoldt, Zorko and ex-Collingwood and Brisbane player Dayne Beams.

Voss was equal third in the Brownlow behind Akermanis in 2001 and Lions teammate Simon Black in 2002, and also twice finished equal 7th.

Dunstall’s best vote haul was 18 in 1992 when he was runner-up to the Bulldogs’ Scott Wynd. He polled 16 votes three times to finish equal second behind Sydney’s Gerard Healy in 1989 and equal third in 1989 and 1993.

Riewoldt, who finished top 10 three times over a 13-year period in 2004, 2009 and 2016, is the all-time leading Queensland vote-getter with 153. He is 30th on the all-time vote list ahead of Voss (150 votes – 32nd), Dunstall (129 votes – 53rd), Akermanis (107 votes – 99th) , Beams (90 votes – 139th) and Zorko (80 votes – 173rd).

Ex-St.Kilda midfielder David Armitage is next on the Queensland vote list with 40, ahead of Dixon (35), Collingwood premiership player Gavin Crosisca (24), Adelaide and Sydney forward Kurt Tippett (22), Brisbane and Fitzroy midfielder Scott McIvor (22), Brisbane’s Marcus Ashcroft (21), Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast defender Jarrod Harbrow (21), Hawthorn’s Stephen Lawrence (20) and Western Bullldogs’ Mitch Hahn (20).

And other players to top the Queensland vote-count? It’s a trivia quiz to test even the very best, especially in the pre-Dunstall years when Queenslanders figuring in the count were rare.

Beams did so four times – equal with ex-Mayne defender Richard Murrie, who played 111 games with Footscray, Geelong and Richmond from 1975-83. He polled 11 career votes split over four years but was Queensland’s leading vote-getter each year.

Akermanis topped the Queensland vote tally three times – equal with ex-Wests midfielder Ray Smith, who played 104 games with Essendon and Melbourne from 1971-76. The first Queenslander to play 100 games, Smith polled 13 career votes.

Zorko has twice topped the Queensland vote count, while 11 others have done so once – Dornau, Dixon, Armitage, Harbrow, Lawrence, Brisbane defender Danny Dickfos, Collingwood and Brisbane rover Gary Shaw, Essendon and Brisbane utility Frank Dunell, Carlton and St.Kilda ruckman Warren Jones, Fitzroy forward Robert Shepherd and Brisbane fullback Daniel Merrett.

Peter is a consultant with Vivid Sport.

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