Last week, the Ladbrokes Blog highlighted those who were robbed of the Brownlow Medal resulting in much passionate and heated discussion on our Facebook page.
Now it’s time to focus our attention on the Norm Smith Medal – the award for the player judged best on ground in the AFL Grand Final.
Since it was first awarded to Carlton’s Wayne Harmes in 1979, the Norm Smith Medal is truly one of the great honours bestowed on any footballer.
There’s no denying that Norm Smith Medal honour board is an absolute who’s-who of champions who gave their all in the biggest game of the year.
However, there’s more than a few players who were wrongly denied the prestigious award and we’ve come up with a list of them.
1982 – Wayne Johnston (Carlton)
WINNER: Maurice Rioli (Richmond)
1982 was the very first time that the Norm Smith Medal was awarded to a player from the losing side, which in this case was the late Maurice Rioli for Richmond.
There’s no question that Rioli was outstanding for the Tigers in their 18 point loss to the Blues but the votes were clearly decided by three-quarter time.
It was also the third consecutive season that Maurice Rioli had been awarded the best on the ground in a Grand Final, having won the 1980 and 81 Simpson Medals for South Fremantle in the WAFL.
Many Carlton fans that have watched the 1982 Grand Final on replay would argue that Mike Fitzpatrick or Wayne “The Dominator” Johnston should have won the Norm Smith that day.
The man they call “The Dominator” had 23 disposals, 2 goals and 4 behinds – perhaps it was the inaccurate kicking from Johnson that saw the judges favour Rioli (who kicked 3.1) that day?
Johnston’s handling of the female streaker, Helen D’Amico also remains a highlight and probably should have got him an extra vote.
1988 – Jason Dunstall (Hawthorn)
WINNER: Gary Ayres (Hawthorn)
Just about every Hawthorn player was best on ground in their 96 point demolition of Melbourne in the 1988 Grand Final.
Gary Ayres became the first player to become a two-time Norm Smith winner, having also won it in 1986.
Dunstall kicked seven goals, Paul Abbott six and Dermott Brereton five.
Ayres was sensational with 22 disposals, as was the Rat – John Platten with 23 touches.
It was a simply dominant display, but like the Brownlow, the full-forwards don’t get enough love and “Norm Smith Medalist Jason Dunstall” simply rolls off the tounge.
1996 – Corey McKernan (North Melbourne)
WINNER: Glenn Archer (North Melbourne)
1996 was a breakout season for North big man Corey McKernan being named All-Australian ruckman, the League MVP and of course, equalling the votes with Michael Voss and James Hird in the Brownlow Medal, but missing out due to suspension.
McKernan only just missed out on the Norm Smith in the votes to Glenn Archer in the Kangas 1996 Grand Final win over the Swans.
1997 – Darren Jarman (Adelaide)
WINNER: Andrew McLeod (Adelaide)
Probably one of our more controversial calls for this blog, given the brilliance of Andrew McLeod in the Crows 1997 and 1998 Grand Final wins.
However, Darren Jarman’s five goals in the final quarter in 1997 was also something to behold and one of the all-time great individual performances in a Grand Final.
Would anyone begrudge Darren Jarman being the Norm Smith Medalist for that season?
We think not.
1999 – Peter Bell (North Melbourne)
WINNER: Shannon Grant (North Melbourne)
In the Kangaroos 35 point win over Carlton in 1999 Grand Final, Peter Bell had 31 disposals and four goals.
Was it his one behind that put off the judges for the Norm Smith that year?
Some would argue that his four goals in the ’99 Granny were in “junk time” and that the actual winner, Shannon Grant, played a vital role in setting up North Melbourne’s win early on in the game.
However, one look at the stats sheet and you too will be baffled as to why Bell wasn’t awarded the Norm Smith in 1999.
2000 – Justin Blumfield (Essendon)
WINNER: James Hird (Essendon)
We’ve taken one for the team here and gone deep into the Essendon Big Footy Forums and found many a thread declaring that Justin Blumfield should have won the Norm Smith Medal in 2000.
There’s even a thread suggesting that Kevin Sheedy denied Blumfield the Norm Smith that year.
Who are we to argue with Dons fans on the internet?
Blumfield was most certainly amongst Essendon’s best in their 60 point win over Melbourne with 23 disposals and most certainly made his presence felt during the day.
2002 – Michael Voss (Brisbane)
WINNER: Nathan Buckley (Collingwood)
Buckley doesn’t even want this medal.
He took it off as soon as he awarded the Norm Smith after Collingwood’s nine point loss in 2002.
Anyone who saw what Voss did in the last quarter of the 2002 Grand Final knows he should have been awarded the Norm Smith that day.
Shannon Noll was robbed of Australian Idol in 2003, and in 2002 Michael Voss was robbed the Norm Smith Medal.
2005 – Lewis Roberts-Thomson (Sydney)
WINNER: Chris Judd (West Coast)
Ask any Sydney Swans supporter and they’ll tell you that Lewis Roberts-Thomson was wrongly denied a Norm Smith Medal after the 2005 Grand Final.
Roberts-Thomson’s efforts, particularly in the first half of the epic decider back in 2005 didn’t go unnoticed by admirers of the Swans cult hero and upon further inspection, we declare that Lewis Roberts-Thomson was robbed of the Norm Smith Medal and that Chris Judd should hand it back to him.
2008 – Stuart Dew (Hawthorn)
WINNER: Luke Hodge (Hawthorn)
Name me a better five-minute purple patch in a Grand Final than Stewy Dew in 2008?
Big bloke dominating and ensuring the Hawks caused one of the great Grand Final upsets.
Not to take anything away from Luke Hodge, but when anyone thinks of the 2008 Grand Final – Stuart Dew is always the first player that comes to mind.
2009 – Jason Gram (St Kilda)
WINNER: Paul Chapman (Geelong)
This blog is meant to focus on hypothetical Norm Smith Medal robberies, however, in the case of St Kilda’s Jason Gram this is 100% a legitimate case.
Gram tied with Norm Smith medalist Paul Chapman, but lost due to a dodgy countback system.
In fact, Jason Gram received votes from all five judges, whereas Paul Chapman got best-afield honours from three.
The Brownlow medal used to have a countback system in the event of a tie, but it was scrapped in 1980.
In 1989, the then VFL awarded retrospective Brownlow medals to players who missed out due to the countback system.
They (the AFL) should do the same for the Norm Smith and give Jason Gram the medal he deserves.
We’ve found the tweet from St Kilda’s official account after the 2009 Grand Final in the very early days of Twitter announcing that Gram had tied with Champman, but there was nowhere near enough followers to consitute an outright blow up that the website is prone to in this day and age.
2010 DRAW – Brendon Goddard (St Kilda)
WINNER: Lenny Hayes (St Kilda)
Had the ball not bounced and the Saints won the 2010 Grand Final, the efforts of Brendon Goddard would be the stuff of legend.
His mark would be more a significant than Alex Jesaulenko and everyone would be asking why he didn’t win the Norm Smith, but we’ll never know.
2015 – Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn)
WINNER: Cyril Rioli (Hawthorn)
Bruce McAvaney, if you’re reading this, remember, this is just a discussion and not actually binding.
Mitchell missed out on the Brownlow earlier in the week and was outshined by Cyril in the Hawks demolition of West Coast back in 2015.
Perhaps we were inspired to name Sam Mitchell by yet another tweet we found from our archives about this Ladbrokes punter who backed Mitchell for the Norm Smith that day 👇
2016 – Tom Boyd (Western Bulldogs)
WINNER: Jason Johannisen (Western Bulldogs)
If I’m thinking of a player who stood up when it counted in the 2016 Grand Final – Tom Boyd is the first one that comes to mind.
Sure, Jason Johannisen, was awesome that day as was Liam Picken, but Boyd should be a Norm Smith Medalist.
Much was made about what the Dogs had to pay to get Tom Boyd from GWS, but his performance in 2016 was worth every cent.
2017 & 2019 – Bachar Houli (Richmond)
WINNER: Dustin Martin (Richmond)
Bachar Houli was robbed in either or both 2017 and 2019, however, being bridesmaid to arguably one of the greatest finals performers of all-time in Dustin Martin is no mean feat.
In 2017, Houli received 10 Norm Smith Medal votes, finishing three behind Dusty.
For all intents and purposes, there’s no denying Dusty the Norm Smith in 2019, but yet again Bachar Houli came second to him in the votes after picking a team-high 26 disposals.
The fact that Marlion Pickett, on debut in the Grand Final, finished third in the Norm Smith Votes is truly amazing.