The AFL will, in all likelihood, bestow the prestigious Brownlow Medal to one of the league’s top-tier, premiere, mustang-like show horses tonight; venerating the player of 2019 who just-so-happened to play 99% of their season in the midfield. And that’s fine. It’s cool. It’s a midfielders award and it probably should go to someone like Patrick Cripps or Lachie Neale or basically anyone except Patrick Dangerfield please. But here’s a counterpoint: The AFL should give the Brownlow Medal to Collingwood’s Noodle-Headed Prince Chris Mayne instead.
There’s no logical reason for Mayne to win the Brownlow; he’s a perfectly serviceable role player in a Collingwood midfield stacked with superstars, he’s a solid contributor to their best 22, and he’s by no means a world-beating superstar. But the AFL should give him the Brownlow anyway.
It’s not like there isn’t modern precedent for a rank bolter to claim Charlie. In 2014 we gave the award to Matt Priddis of the West Coast Eagles even though football doesn’t exist outside of Victoria. In 2008, Adam Cooney was thrust into the limelight to prevent Matthew Richardson from winning the medal and the entire state of Tasmania caving in on itself. In 2000, Shane Woewodin got the medal purely because he was blonde. But because Chris Mayne looks like fell into a vat at the Maggi plant while shelving a Sour Warhead, he’s not in the same conversation? Sorry, I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that at all.
The AFL likes to trumpet that the Brownlow is for the league’s “best” and “fairest,” but their metric for measuring that is an arbitrary 3-2-1 system adjudged by umpires. Best at what exactly? Raking in 28 Fantasy Pig handballs per game? Running 16 meaningless kilometres in a half? Looking like a Rezzies also-ran got shoved into the Captain America machine?
Chris Mayne is a blue-collar knockabout legend willing to throw whatever spindle-like limb he has at every contest. He raked in 14 tackles in the 2018 Grand Final. Fourteen tackles. In 2019 he’s averaging a clip under 20 touches per game which is pretty bloody good for a guy who looks like he should be in a local Carpet Court ad.
Additionally, Mayne is unafraid to show emotion on the footy field, not bothering to hide his visible distress after Collingwood missed out on a Grand Final berth in heartbreaking circumstances this past Saturday. That level of public vulnerability in a male sports star should be celebrated any chance we can get.
He also loves getting dressed up and putting on a show for sick kids, and that’s the bloody best.
Giving the Brownlow Medal to any of the quote-unquote favourites is a boring exercise in predictable futility. Finding a way to hang it around Chris Mayne’s goose-like neck tonight, even if he’s not actually invited to the dang thing, would give the medal the surprise shot in the arm it needs, while giving hope to anyone in the league who’s ever tripped over their own knees.
Plus his acceptance speech would rule. There’s no shadow of a doubt about that.
Do I have any statistical reason why the AFL should blow up its biggest individual award and give it Chris Mayne? Nope.
Do I 10,000% want them to do it anyway? You bet your ass.
Ball’s in your court, Gillon.