‘These votes are insane’: Demand for change after Brownlow ‘travesty’

The AFL appears to have a Brownlow Medal crisis on its hands after a savage reaction to not only Lachie Neale’s surprise win – but some truly shocking votes in countless other games.

The umpire-voted award has always been controversial but the disillusionment reached fever point on Monday night as the veteran Brisbane midfielder claimed the medal for the second time ahead of a host more fancied rivals.

Neale followed his win in 2021 with a league-leading 31 votes, edging Bulldogs midfielder Marcus Bontempelli (29), pre-poll favourite Nick Daicos (28) and youngsters Zak Butters and Errol Gulden (both 27). Melbourne’s Christian Petracca was sixth with 26 votes.

These were the most controversial moments on the AFL’s night of nights.

Neale gets three votes for seven-kick game

Social media erupted when Neale was dubbed best on ground in Brisbane’s Round 6 win — a match where he wasn’t expected to poll and didn’t receive any coaches’ votes for his efforts against GWS.

“The umpires must have got confused giving Lachie Neale three votes in round 6,” the Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph tweeted. “Just watched every possession. 7 kicks, 13 handballs. One clanger, five ineffective touches. No coaches votes. Not horrible, but not one eye catching moment. Charlie Cameron seven goals.”

Cameron was given best-on-ground votes by both coaches for his monster haul, while Josh Kelly gathered 41 disposals in the Giants’ defeat.

The match proved decisive in Neale’s two-vote win, which saw him become the first player since Matt Priddis in 2014 to win the Brownlow yet miss out on the all-Australian team.

Asked how he felt now being a two-time Brownlow winner, a clearly shocked Neale conceded: “It doesn‘t sit well.

“I’m pretty rattled at the moment … I didn’t expect this.”

Jason Horne-Francis ‘travesty’ prompts call for change

Port Adelaide youngster Jason Horne-Francis was never far from the headlines in 2023 and he finished the season with one final controversy.

Horne-Francis was given three votes in a 38-point win against Geelong in round 14 where he managed just 13 disposals.

“I just watched every possession of Horne-Francis getting three votes for 13 touches v Geelong and it’s a travesty,” Ralph tweeted. “13 touches. Four ineffective, two clangers, four short kicks. One scrounged kick off the ground that went a metre. Zero impact. Time to let umpires look at stats.”

“If one thing has become clear tonight it’s that the Brownlow medal can no longer be done by the umpires,” former AFL player Tom Rockliff tweeted. “Some of these votes are insane. Neale 3 vs Giants was a bit how you going but Horne Francis 3 vs Cats is mind blowing.”

Subbed out Swan gets three votes

Some of the reactions from players in the room on the night was head-turning when the likes of Sydney’s Joel Amartey and Essendon’s Andrew Phillips received three votes.

The Swans table found it hilarious when Amartey was judged best-on in an 81-point win against Hawthorn in round two.

He kicked four goals but only played 58 minutes before being subbed out.

Phillips polled the first votes of his 12-season career after tallying 12 disposals, two goals and 21 hit-outs against Melbourne in Gather Round.

Petracca, Gulden robbed of key votes

Sydney Swans youngster Errol Gulden came from the clouds to be a shock contender, and he could have won the Brownlow had the vote gone differently in the last game of the season.

Gulden only picked up one vote despite racking up 42 disposals and two goals, albeit in a loss.

Petracca had 29 disposals and a goal in a performance many thought had the most impact on the game.

But Melbourne’s Bayley Fritsch (2) and Jack Viney (3) were the umpires’ preferred options.

Viney finished with 24 votes, robbing his more fancied Demons teammate of crucial votes later in the season.

Forward snubbed for monster game

Geelong’s Jeremy Cameron had a monster start to the season, including in the Cats’ narrow loss over Carlton where he had 25 disposals, six goals and eight marks.

But he only got the one vote, as Carlton’s Charlie Curnow (2) and Adam Saad took the spoils.

Cameron joked on Instagram he “could win this”, before adding: “sorry forgot I’m a forward!”.

Calls for voting change

“The AFL need to record the umpires in the rooms after a game talking about who they are voting for,” Brownlow medallist Dane Swan tweeted.

“Cause I’d love to know how the f**k they made some of the decisions the made this year.

And you’d get full transparency so we know there was no funny business going on.”

A Twitter account run by someone claiming to be an accredited AFL umpire was also critical and asked for the whistleblowers to be relieved of the responsibility of selecting the votes.

“Yearly reminder that umpires: 1. Don’t ask for this additional responsibility, 2. Aren’t particularly good judges,” they tweeted.

“If you took brownlow voting away from umps, I’d suspect 98.5% of them would be relieved.”

Brownlow Medal 2023 Leaderboard

1. Lachie Neale (Brisbane Lions) – 31

2. Marcus Bontempelli (Western Bulldogs) – 29

3. Nick Daicos (Collingwood) – 28

4. Zak Butters (Port Adelaide), Errol Gulden (Sydney Swans) – 27

6. Christian Petracca (Melbourne) – 26

7. Caleb Serong (Fremantle), Jack Viney (Melbourne) – 24

9. Noah Anderson (Gold Coast Suns), Patrick Cripps (Carlton) – 22

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