There were not many AFL fans who could have foreseen how the Brownlow Medal race was eventually won last season, and we could be in for another exciting sub-plot to this campaign to decide the league’s fairest and best. The 2013 winner Gary Ablett had started last season as the firm favourite to retain the crown, only for a shoulder injury in round 16 to end his season and dash his hopes. That opened the door for a number of players to battle it out in the final few weeks of the season to win the award. Geelong skipper Joel Selwood, Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury were all heavily backed to be named the Brownlow Medal winner following Ablett’s injury. But it was West Coast’s Matt Priddis who clinched the crown ahead of the previously suspended Nathan Fyfe with 26 votes.
While the Eagles star will be in contention again this season, Priddis will have his work cut out if he is going to defend his title in 2015, with a number of players expected to be pushing for the greatest individual accolade in the sport this year. So, who will be challenging for this season’s Brownlow Medal?
Surprise, surprise, Gary Ablett will start the season as a main contender for the 2015 award. If he had not suffered his season-ending shoulder injury in round 16 last year, the Gold Coast midfielder would now be sitting with three Brownlow Medals in his collection. The former Geelong star was simply sensational last season, scoring 24 goals in his 15 appearances and averaging 32.1 disposals in another impressive campaign for the two-time Brownlow winner. So, while it might be another tough season for the Suns in 2015 despite the arrival of Rodney Eade as head coach, they will know they always have a chance of proving odds of 22/1 with betfair are too long for a team with Ablett in it. If he can remain fully fit and suspension free throughout the season, it would be hard to see Ablett being named the fairest and best for the third time.
Despite missing out on last season’s Brownlow due to his controversial suspension in round 2, Nathan Fyfe’s brilliant season did not go unrewarded as the Fremantle was named the league’s most valuable player. The 23-year-old was a key part of Fremantle’s success last season, playing a huge role in the club reaching the semi-finals, ending the year with 24 goals to his name from 20 games. Fyfe’s return from suspension before the finals last season had a big impact on Fremantle’s impressive end to the campaign and the club will be hoping the midfielder can avoid spending any time on the sidelines this year. If he can, Fyfe could well walk away from 2015 with a Premiership winner’s medal as well as the Brownlow to go with his growing collection. There are some who feel Fyfe was the rightful winner last season and there could possibly be some sense of justice should the youngster go on and win the Brownlow this season.
The Geelong captain had looked to be on course to win the 2014 Brownlow at one point only to finish joint fourth with 21 votes. The three-time Premiership winner produced another 24 goals from midfield and continued to lead the Cats by example in a year that could have ended up with Geelong as Premiers. Not expected to be among the title contenders this season, Selwood and his Geelong team-mates will be ignoring the pre-season predictions and feeling rightly confident they can make an impact in the finals again in 2015. It was no surprise to see Selwood named as Geelong captain for the fourth season in a row, and the Cats skipper will be hoping to lead the team into the finals for a 10th successive year. Selwood is heading into the new season on the back of a knee injury that kept him sidelined for a portion of Geelong’s NAB Challenge campaign. But the 26-year-old has been able to rack up some valuable playing time during pre-season.
Another player who came close to winning the Brownlow Medal last season, Adelaide star Patrick Dangerfield once again showed why he is one of the most exciting players in the AFL. While much of the focus was placed on the 24-year-old’s 41 possessions against Hawthorn last July, Dangerfield was as consistent as he was versatile, weighing in with 17 goals from midfield and showing why the Crows are trying to build a team around him. He might not be scoring the same amount of goals as he did in his early days in attack, but Dangerfield has adapted well to dropping back into midfield for the majority of the time, proving beyond doubt that he can play in either position at this level. Adelaide might not have much chance of challenging for honours in 2015 but Dangerfield looks a good shout to be one of the leading contenders for the Brownlow again this year.
Travis Boak might have felt last season was his best chance at winning the Brownlow but the midfielder still cannot be ruled out in 2015. The Port Adelaide man averaged 26.8 disposals a game and scored 19 goals in yet another very solid season which resulted in his inclusion in the All Australian for a second successive year and tying for fourth in the Brownlow votes. A third-place finish in the Premiership was all that the Power ended up taking from a season that had promised so much heading into the finals. Boak will be crucial to Port’s hopes of ending that 11-year wait for an AFL title. There have been some questions during the off-season as to whether last year will be a one off for Port Adelaide or whether they can mix it with the big boys again this season. With Boak in the team, you can definitely see why the Power are being tipped to be contenders again in 2015. It is definitely not beyond the realms of possibility that the Port Adelaide captain is left lifting a number of trophies come the end of the season.