Queensland’s Brownlow past

By Peter Blucher

Seventy years ago, Erwin Dornau enjoyed three significant ‘firsts’ for Queensland football.

He was the first Queenslander to play in the elite competition, the first Queenslander to kick a goal in the elite competition, and the first Queenslander to poll in the Brownlow Medal.

It was Round 1, 1948 when the former Kedron centre half back, who had been equal runner-up in the Tassie Medal representing Queensland at the 1947 Australian carnival in Hobart, made his debut for South Melbourne against Richmond at Lake Oval.

The South side, captained by 227-gamer and 1945 B&F winner Jack Graham, included 222-game 1942-44 B&F winner Jim Cleary, 1948 Brownlow Medallist and 1948-49-51 B&F winner Ron Clegg, and 1946-47-52 B&F winner and Swans Team of the Century interchange choice Billy Williams.

They played a Richmond side captained and coached by the legendary Jack Dyer in his 18th and second-last season. He kicked six goals in a losing side.

A 22-year-old Dornau kicked his first goal in his eighth game and after 17 games in his first season in a side that finished tenth with a 7-10 win/loss record he received eight votes in the Brownlow.

Richmond’s Bill Morris won the medal with 24 votes, with Clegg fourth on 16 votes. Only 20 players in total polled more votes than Dornau and teammate Reg Harley, who were bettered only by Clegg in the South team.

Dornau, a foundation member of the Queensland Football Hall of Fame in 2008, played five years at South – 17-4-6-16-11 games on a year-by-year basis – and retired at 26 after 54 games, 26 wins, one draw, eight goals and eight Brownlow votes.

He died  in Melbourne on 23 September 2008 aged 82.

Therein lies the beginning of Queensland football’s Brownlow history.

Ahead of Monday night’s 2018 Brownlow Medal count in Melbourne, the history books tells us that among 178 Queenslanders to have played in the AFL 65 have polled a total of 1071 votes, with Brisbane pair Michael Voss (1996) and Jason Akermanis (2001) winning the coveted award.

St Kilda’s 336-game champion Nick Riewoldt heads the all-time Queensland vote list with 153, having polled four votes in 2017 to passed Brisbane 289-game champion Voss (150).

Hawthorn 269-game goal-kicking legend Jason Dunstall (129) and 325-game Lions/Bulldogs excitement machine Akermanis (109) are also among an elite group who have topped triple figures in votes.

This quartet have polled more than half the Queensland votes, and had 12 of 14 top 10 finishes by Queenslanders.

In addition to his 1996 win Voss had four top 10 finishes – equal 7th in 2000, 3rd in 2001, equal 3rd in 2002 and equal 7th in 2003 – while Dunstall had four top four finishes – equal 2nd in 1988, equal 3rd in 1989, 2nd in 1992 and equal 4th in 1993.

Riewoldt had three top 10 finishes – equal 7th in 2004, and equal 9th in 2009 and 2016.

Also among 14 Queenslanders who have polled 20 career votes or more are Brisbane/Collingwood midfielder Dayne Beams (70), Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko (41), St.Kilda midfielder David Armitage (39), Collingwood premiership player Gavin Crosisca (24), Adelaide/Sydney big man Kurt Tippett (22), Fitzroy/Brisbane utility Scott McIvor (22), Brisbane utility Marcus Ashcroft (21), Bulldogs utility Mitch Hahn (20), Hawthorn ruck/forward Stephen Lawrence (20) and Gold Coast/Port Adelaide key forward Charlie Dixon (20).

Beams is the only other Queenslander to have finished top 10 – he was equal 8th in 2012 and equal ninth in 2014, both times when he played with Collingwood.

After Dornau’s historic votes in 1948 Queensland’s second Brownlow votes didn’t come until 1977 when three players shared seven votes.

Ex-Mayne defender Richard Murrie, who played 111 games for Footscray, Geelong and Richmond from 1975-83, polled four votes, while ex-Western Districts midfielder Robert Shepherd, who played 43 games with Fitzroy from 1975-77, polled the first two of his eight votes, and ex-Coorparoo utility Glen Scanlon, who played nine games with North Melbourne and Footscray in 1977-78, polled his only vote.

After Murrie headed the Queensland count in 1977-79-80-82  a further 12 Queenslanders have enjoyed the same distinction.

Carlton ruckman Warren Jones (ex-Morningside) shared top spot with  Murray in 1872, Collingwood rover Gary Shaw (ex-Wests)  and likewise in 1984.

The incomparable Dunstall (ex-Coorparoo) led the Queensland vote tally in nine of the next 10 years from 1985-94, missing out only in 1991 through injury, and again in 1998.

Dunstall’s Hawthorn teammate Lawrence (ex-Mt.Gravatt) was Queensland’s leading vote-getter in 1991

Voss enjoyed this honour in 1995-96 before ex-Windsor-Zillmere Grogan Medallist Danny Dickfos, in his second season with Brisbane, polled five votes to lead the Queensland count in 1997.

Akermanis ruled in 1991-01-05, split by Voss in 2000-02-03, while Riewoldt had his first season at the top of the Queensland Brownlow ladder in 2004, and then followed five years in a row in 2006-07-08-09-10, sharing the ‘title’ with Bulldogs/Suns defender Jarrod Harbrow in 2010.

Brisbane strongman Dan Merrett, who polled 19 career votes, topped the Queensland count in 2011, before Beams did so in 2012. Then it was Riewoldt in 2013, Beams in 2014, Armitage for the only time in 2015, Riewoldt in 2016 and Beams in 2017.

So, Dunstall (10) has had most years in which he has headed the  notional Queensland Brownlow Medal leaderboard, followed by Riewoldt (8), Voss (5), Murrie (4), Akermanis (3), Beams (3), Dornau (1), Jones (1), Shaw (1), Lawrence (1), Dickfos (1), Harbrow (1), Merrett (1),  and Armitage (1).

This year?

If we use votes awarded by the AFL coaches in the AFLCA Player of the Year Award as a guide Beams, runner-up to Zorko in the Lions B&F, is the big chance. And he could be in line for a career-best finish.

This is based on a conversion of the -5-4-3-2-1 votes awarded by both coaches after each game in the AFLCA Player of the Year Award into notional 3-2-1 Brownlow votes  – of ‘Coachlow’ votes – whereby Beams ranked fourth.

He would poll 20 ‘Coachlow’ votes to trail only Carlton’s Patrick Cripps (25.5), Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell (24.5) and Melbourne’s Max Gawn (24) in a thrilling finish in which Cripps would pip Mitchell for top honours in the last round of matches.

Other Queenslanders to figure in the notional ‘Coachlow’ vote count would be Zorko (7), Brisbane teammates Harris Andrews (3.5), Eric Hiowood (2) and Charlie Cameron (0.5), Collingwood’s Josh Thomas (2.5), Harbrow (3), fellow Gold Coasters Alex Sexton (2), Lachie Weller (1.25) and Rory Thompson (1), Dixon (5), Armitage (1.25) and Sydney’s Aliir Aliir (1.5)

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