AFL – The Brownlow Bubble

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Don’t look now, but we’ve recently passed the halfway mark of the AFL season.

We’re well and truly into the “nitty gritty” part of the year, and although the focus remains top eight and finals, we as punters have one other market we need to keep an eye on: the Brownlow Medal.

It’s been a touchy subject for footy fans this week, quite literally. The Dustin Martin umpire/bump controversy has set the AFL world alight, but after escaping with a slap on the wrist and a fine, the reigning Brownlow Medalist carries on.

If you haven’t been paying attention, this market has been quite topsy turvy. Injuries have had their impact, but ahead of Round 14, here’s a look at how the Brownlow landscape pans out:

Tom Mitchell ($2.75)

In a nutshell: 415 disposals in 13 games. How do you argue with that?

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Mitchell. He came close to being rubbed out following an off-the-ball incident vs. North Melbourne back in Round 5, but fortunately the footy gods, or more importantly the match review panel, let him off.

A lot has been made of Mitchell’s performance this year, so much so that some fans have called all of his high disposal games “cheap”.

Like it or not, he’s been impossible to contain around the stoppages, and is no doubt the number one headache for opposing coaches attempting to game plan against the Hawks.

Mitchell doesn’t have the Brownlow wrapped up just yet, but it would take something big for him to let it slip from here.

His 40 disposal effort last week against the Crows was only a blip on the radar of what has been a record breaking season, but although it might sound funny, there is some room for Mitchell to improve.

As we’ve seen against some of the league’s Top 4 sides, Mitchell doesn’t do too well with a hard tag. In fact, against West Coast and the Swans, he was limited to under 30 disposals without putting a dent on the scoreboard.

Fortunately for Mitchell, though, he’s picked a good year to have some ups and downs. It looks like a two horse race from here on out between Mitchell and Martin, and given Dusty’s recent form, the Hawthorn midfielder is well and truly on top.

Dustin Martin ($7.50)

Perhaps we’ve been a little hard on Dusty.

By Round 13 last season, Martin had 18 goals to his name, so he’s right on pace in terms of scoreboard production with 17 this season.

There’s no doubt the disposals have been down, though. Dusty had 15 games of 30 disposals or more last year, while this season he’s managed just one.

So what’s the problem?

On again off again calf issues have plagued the Norm Smith Medallist, but lady luck has certainly played a factor.

The patented fend-off is still going strong, but Dusty’s ball skills aren’t quite as sharp as we saw a season ago. Don’t take it the wrong way, he’s still a freak, but Martin was embarrassed on more than one occasion against the 34-year old Gary Ablett last week.

The speed is still there, but Dusty just looks a little slower to the ball this year. Last season he recorded 88 tackles in the Tigers premiership winning year, but so far he’s managed just 22 in 13 rounds.

There’s no reason to believe Martin can’t turn things around in the next few weeks, but with games against Syney, Adelaide, Collingwood and Geelong coming up in the next two months, it’s going to be tough to catch up to Mitchell from here.

Andrew Gaff ($11)

It’s easy to forget about Gaff, what with the Eagles unbelievable season and all.

Josh Kennedy, Marc LeCras, Andrew McGovern and Nic Naitanui seem to receive most of the credit, but here’s Gaff with a handy 354-disposals to his name, the 10th most in the league.

The unfortunate injury of Jackson Macrae has vaulted Gaff all the way up to $11.00 in the Brownlow market, and although it will take either another injury or something pretty big for him to win it from here, there’s no looking past what has been a pretty incredible season.

Patrick Dangerfield ($12)

A season ago Patrick Dangerfield kicked 45 goals. Fast forward to 2018, and he has just 13 to his name.

Thanks to Nat Fyfe and Macrae’s rub outs from the market, as always, Dangerfield finds himself in the running, but he’s not much of a chance. The goals are down, and so are the disposals, meanwhile his two-mark effort against the Tigers in Round 13 doesn’t really cut it.

The Brownlow will no doubt be the furthest thing from Danger’s mind right now. The Cats sit fifth on the ladder with the bye week ahead, but their lack of poise against the Top 4 sides this season would have to have Cats fans a little worried come finals time.

Max Gawn ($15)

Fyfe’s injury opened the door for the first non-midfielder to win the Brownlow since Adam Cooney in 2008. Gawn has certainly stepped up this year for the Demons, and it’s resulted in what has been a win filled season.

Gawn is no doubt the top ruckman in the league this season, leading the AFL in hitouts with 567. He’s on pace to top his own record of goals scored (16) and tackles (80), but his leadership and presence around the footy this year has really turned the Demons from pretenders into contenders.

Trent Cotchin ($15)

Cotch emerged in the Brownlow odds earlier in May, and has made a big push towards becoming one of the favourites. He’s currently predicted to hold somewhere close to 15 votes, and after receiving 8 last year, Cotchin is still an outside chance if something dramatic happens to the favourites.

Patrick Cripps ($21)

He’s a long shot, and there will be plenty more Brownlow opportunities to come, but you could make a small case for Cripps right now.

The 23-year old Carlton star currently leads the league in contested possession, and also ranks Top 10 in handballs.

The current state of affairs at Carlton only makes Cripps’ efforts all the more impressive. All of these individual performances have come during ugly blowout losses, meanwhile, the club endures its worst run in its 154-year history.