17: Today we look at who’s likely to take the ‘Charlie’ home this season. It’s the most prestigious medal in the game, yet it’s one which divides opinion. Who should really vote for the medal? Should it be the umpires as we’ve done for the past 100+ years? Or should we move it to others, i.e. the media? A select panel of experts?

And is it now just a midfielder’s medal? Will we see the day where a ruckman wins it again? They were once common place in the winner’s column, yet no longer. Forwards used to poll well, with Lockett, Templeton, Quinlan, and Glendenning, whilst in 1993 we had a back pocket win it with Wanganeen. However, not since Goodes won it as a ruckman in 2003 has a non-midfielder won the medal.

So, who’s in the for the running this season? Will we see Nat Fyfe elevate himself into legend status, becoming just the 5th player to win 3 medals? Will it be Dusty who also could cement himself as a legal of the game, if he notches his 2nd medal to go with his 2 Norm Smith’s? Or will we see a new winner this season, a young champion finally elevating himself up with the game’s elite, or possibly an old dog showing he can learn new tricks?

The Past winners
Nat Fyfe – Fremantle
The Reigning champ and at the peak of his power. Whilst his team struggles, Nat Fyfe doesn’t, continuing to play at a level few can match. His ability to not only win the ball at the contest, but also out wide makes him an eye-catching player, whilst he’s more than capable of going forward and kicking a swag of goals. His ability to find himself in hot water with the MRP could see him miss out, but if he stays fit and, on the park, then there is no reason he’s can’t add No.3

Dustin Martin – Richmond
The propensity that this guy has for collecting trophies and medals these days is really really impressive. Having saluted in 2017 when he completed the treble of Brownlow, Norm Smith and Premiership, he’s always going to be one of the favorites to win it. He’s a genuine ball-winner, great disposal and can kick a goal, either when bursting from packs or when resting forward. Also in his favour is his team will be winning more than they lose, so he’s sure to stand out. He’ll be the short-price favorite to win it, and it’s hard to argue why!

Patrick Dangerfield – Geelong
Like Fyfe and Martin, the guy can do it all. He’s a contested ball winner, can burst from the packs, kicks long goals and lifts in the big moments. Like Martin, can go forward and become a dangerous forward when resting from the midfield, ensuring he stays in the sight of the umpires for the majority of the game. He’s been a consistent poller over the last few years, and if the Cats can win more than they lose, he’ll be up there again.

Tom Mitchell – Hawthorn
Having broken the record for the most number of possessions in a season in 2018, he was duly award the medal for his efforts. There is no better possession winner in the game when he’s up and running and its not just his contested work, but it’s his spread and work rate to always be in a position to receive the ball from team mates. How he recovers from his broken leg will be interesting, however if his preseason form is anything to go by, it’s not going to stop him winning his share of footy again. Probably won’t be one of the favorites, but he’ll certainly ensure he’s in
the minds of the umps.

The Challengers:
Marcus Bontempelli – Western Bulldogs
He’s finished in the top 10 three of the last four years and looks to be ready to go to another level this season. With the improvement expected of the Dogs, he’ll be front and centre for them in their rise up the ladder. He’s a leader, he’s a fair player and when he’s on there are few that can match him. Needs to work on his consistency a bit as he goes for a few weeks where his output is down, but expect him to again poll well and is a decent each way bet I reckon

Patrick Cripps – Carlton
He was worth in 2018, 3rd in 2019 and with the Blues expect to improve he’s every chance to take home Charlie this season. He’s an absolute bull in the midfield, stands at 195cm which is incredible for a midfielder and is always under the umpire’s noses at the contest. He’s as fair a player as there is in the game, so no problems there, and will again poll well as he can boss games even when the Blues lose.

Jackson Macrae – Western Bulldogs
The second Bulldog here, and like Bontempelli, finished top 10 in the Brownlow last year. He racks up the possessions at will, averaging 33.4 touches last year and has shown he’s capable of going big with several 40+ games as well. Not a big goal-scorer which can hold you back a bit, but he averages 5 tackles a game so he’s still doing to tough things when he doesn’t have the footy.

Tim Kelly – West Coast
Made the big move to the Eagles in the offseason after having another strong year with the Cats. He was one of the favorites for the Brownlow in the early stages of last season before dropping away slightly. He’s moved to the Eagles where he’ll again be in a supposed successful side so again, he’ll get to showcase his talents. Will have plenty of quality blokes taking votes off him, but if he has another strong year, expect him to get votes regardless.

Brodie Grundy – Collingwood
Top 10 last two years, Grundy is trying to break the cycle of midfielders winning it and restoring the pride of all ruckman by getting them back in the winner’s circle in an award they used to dominate. He’s not only a great tap ruckman, he’s really a tall midfielder who is a key link in the Collingwood midfield chain. Can rack up possession as well as any midfielder and is always front and centre at contests. Here’s hoping he can poll a few more votes this year and really test the leaders.

Lachie Neale – Brisbane
Third last season, and a ball-winning magnet. He’s a class player in an up and coming side and really looked the goods last year after his move from Fremantle. He’ll get plenty of chances to impress with the Lions again likely to challenge for finals and he should get more protection this year if Ellis-Yoeman can get in to the side. He’ll likely be in the favorites list come season end and it would be great to see him salute.

The Smokies
Josh Dunkley – Western Bulldogs
He’s the 3rd banana of the Dogs trio but he’s no lessor player than the other two. Was one of the form players of the competition in the second half of last year, after starting out of the middle early doors. He’s a ball winner, he tackles, he can kick goals and after a strong year last year, is sure to be noticed more by the umpires this season (just the way it seems to work).

Max Gawn – Melbourne
Similar to Grundy, though without as large a possession count. He’s the best tap ruckman in the game, an imposing mark and good around the ground. Similar to Grundy he’ll be key to a lot of Melbourne forays and will be a key to their rise back up the ladder.

Josh Kelly – GWS
If he stays fit, he’s a bloody good show. He’s an outstanding attacking player, kicks goals and wins possessions. He’s fair as they come, and will be a leader for the Giants in their quest for redemption. Will have a lot of guys potentially taking votes off him, but there are few more talented blokes in the game.

Toby Greene – GWS
Stay with me here. At his best, Greene is in the top echelon of players in the game. He’s a half forward who runs through the midfield, can win possessions and is capable of kicking bags as well. Let’s be honest, we know the umpires know the guy. He’s been a favorite of there’s and the MRP’s over the last few years, BUT if he can stay fit AND keep his temper in check, then I like his chances of poling votes

My prediction:
1- Marcus Bontempelli 32
2- Dustin Martin 31
3- Brodie Grundy 30
3- Josh Kelly 30
5- Patrick Dangerfield 28
6- Lachie Neale 26
6- Nat Fyfe 26
6- Jackson Macrae 26
9- Josh Dunkley 24
10- Tom Mitchell 20
10- Max Gawn 20