Nat Fyfe kisses his latest Brownlow Medal. Picture: Mark Stewart
Nat Fyfe kisses his latest Brownlow Medal. Picture: Mark Stewart

This was the Brownlow the AFL needed

Footy's night of nights desperately needed a Brownlow count like this.

A night where the energy fairly crackled through the Crown Palladium as a dozen contenders massed until the victor emerged.

A pared-down, stripped-back celebration more about the wondrous talent of AFL footballers than a bloated cross-promotional opportunity.

Then a worthy winner in Nathan Fyfe emerging from a packed field to stamp his credentials as one of the Brownlow Medal's most dominant performers.

The Fremantle captain - now a dual Brownlow Medallist - was literally the last man left standing.

Not only on Monday night, but in a season where so much went wrong for his club.

He never shirked it, never complained.

 

Nat Fyfe kisses his latest Brownlow Medal. Picture: Mark Stewart
Nat Fyfe kisses his latest Brownlow Medal. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

The boy from Lake Grace triumphed despite a year where his coach and chief executive were sacked, despite just eight club victories and a single win in the last nine games of the season.

He did it through sheer will, polling votes in seven losing games with his pulsating brand of relentless ball winning, aerial dominance and on-field swagger.

The only man alongside the legendary Hayden Bunton Sr to have more Brownlow votes than AFL games now has a pair of medals as well as polling 25 votes to Matt Priddis' winning tally of 26 in 2014 when ineligible.

Simply awesome.

 

 

These last few years the Brownlow Medal victor has seemed preordained, from Tom Mitchell's walk in the park to Dustin Martin's stampede to Patrick Dangerfield's 35-vote haul with daylight second.

This was dubbed as the widest Brownlow Medal race in years, if you mean goalkicking midfielders from mostly top-eight teams.

Didn't it live up to the hype until Fyfe's withering last burst saw the rest fall away.

Like a Melbourne Cup field the contenders in this marathon race surged and jostled until Fyfe burst from the pack with a sustained charge.

Patrick Dangerfield burst from the gates with eight votes in three rounds, but despite two Blues victories by Round 11 Patrick Cripps was the stayer with a phenomenal 21 votes to that point.

 

Patrick Dangerfield finished second. Picture: Mark Stewart
Patrick Dangerfield finished second. Picture: Mark Stewart

 

Remarkably, he had only missed polling in three of those 11 games.

No wonder the umpires love him, because everyone else does too as this decade's version of Lenny Hayes.

He would finish equal third and yet after carrying Carlton on his back for so many years, don't be surprised if one day he holds aloft a premiership cup as well as a Brownlow Medal.

Fyfe hasn't always been everyone's cup of tea - the on-field strut, the coiffed head of hair, the way of holding himself that some call swagger and some sheer arrogance.

But even when he was contentiously awarded All Australian captaincy this year his response was note-perfect - acknowledging the criticism and Shannon Hurn's claims to the title.

That famous photo of Fyfe conducting interviews bare-chested on the morning after his previous win is iconic.

But like so many modern players, that is the Fyfe package despite his origins in the WA wheatbelt and his family's third-generation trucking business.

 

Liam Ryan with his Mark of the Year medal. Picture: Getty
Liam Ryan with his Mark of the Year medal. Picture: Getty

 

Able to flash that perfect smile, show off his chiselled physique on social media, able to reel off the list of his personal sponsors in his winner's speech, and yet still play like a pit bull when he crosses the white line.

Replacing Bruce McAvaney is close to impossible but on a hiding to nothing host Hamish McLachlan made an excellent fist of it.

He effectively and succinctly mined the players' backstories and didn't force it, content to get one perfect line: "Cheers Maxy" from a reluctant Liam Ryan after his Mark of the Year effort over Max Gawn.

Midfielders again obliterated the competition, with only ruckmen Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn squeezing in among the midfielders in the top 24 vote-getters.

The All Australian backline again locked out apart from Bachar Houli (11 votes), as Tom Stewart (3), Harris Andrews (2), Dylan Grimes (3), Shannon Hurn (3) and Jeremy McGovern (0) combined for 11 votes.

Yet no one could deny Fyfe's stunning season or his worthiness as one of footy's emerging champions.

News Corp Australia

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