The mid-week review: Preliminary Finals

What got us talking: A first for Fyfe and Freo

Unless you were living under a rock the past few days, it was impossible to not know the AFL’s “night of nights” happened at Crown Palladium on Monday.

Yes, grand final week is here and as such, the prestigious Brownlow Medal count kicked off the festivities.

There was an interesting vibe for the night. Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe had been a strong favourite for the majority of the season.

His extraordinary form during the first half of the year led many to believe he would win the ‘Charlie’ in unprecedented fashion. But an injury plagued second half had punters questioning the clear favourite.

Would Fyfe’s clear lead midway be large enough? Or would someone come from behind and snatch the medal right off him?

The night followed its dramatic script.

Fyfe started in dazzling form. By round 14, he had already racked up an astonishing 29 votes. And that was when the records began to break.

Fyfe managed to receive 29 out of a possible 36 votes between round two and round 14. This feat was the best streak in AFL/VFL history.

This tally was also more than the winning results of the last two years. Eagle Matthew Priddis won the 2014 Brownlow with 26 votes while Essendon’s Jobe Watson won in 2013 with 28.

Fyfe also managed to equal Greg Williams’ 1994 record for the most three-vote games in Brownlow medal history. Fyfe even achieved the nine best on grounds within only 13 weeks.

A further two votes in round 17 saw Fyfe’s tally reach 31. His lead of 10 votes ahead of second place was unthinkable.

But while history tells us any player who has received over 30 votes in a season has gone on to win the medal, it was uncertain if it would be enough. Fyfe had only played two of the last six matches of the season and it seemed like Priddis (who was on 21 votes at this stage) would have a strong finish.

But the predicted voting did not match up to reality. Both Fyfe and Priddis didn’t poll in the round 20 Fremantle vs. West Coast match and while Fyfe didn’t poll another vote for the season, Priddis’ lack of best on ground votes proved to be costly.

By the second last round, it was confirmed that Nathan Fyfe would be the 2015 Brownlow Medallist. It would be a first for Fyfe and a first for the Fremantle Football Club.

The youngest winner since Adam Cooney in 2008 won over the entire football community with his incredibly humble and entertaining acceptance speech.

“I’m a bit blown away to be honest,” Fyfe said. “This is genuinely a Fremantle Football Club medal tonight.”

“I mean Bruce [McAvaney], you could probably win a Brownlow Medal with Aaron Sandilands hitting it down your throat.”

With his incredible half a season, it is only frightening to see what he could during a full year. Undoubtedly, this outstanding achievement could only be the first of many for Fyfe.

And with the way the footy world has fallen in love with the boy from Lake Grace WA, I don’t think anyone would mind.

What we learnt from the preliminary finals

– Put the whistle away umpires

There seemed to be a bit of attention seeking from the umpires during the prelims last week. Too many unnecessary free kicks were given and wrong decisions seemed to be prominent. The best teams still won regardless but the umps need to take a step back and just let the players play.

– Records are made to be broken

Prior to last week, a Victorian side has never won an interstate preliminary final. But this Hawthorn team is something else all together. Their second trip to Western Australia in three weeks did not bother them at all as they locked themselves in for a fourth grand final in a row.

– Eagles off but they did enough

It wasn’t the West Coast performance we had come to expect, but the influence of players like Priddis and Wellingham helped the team get over a gallant Kangaroos side. They were able to book the club its first grand final in nine years.

What we can expect from the grand final

– AFL’s entertainment nerves

The Meatloaf performance of a few years back has left the public and AFL scarred when it comes to Grand Finals acts. Hopefully this year’s Brian Adams, Ellie Goulding and Chris Isaaks will not let the AFL down.

– Glorious weather

Melbourne is really going to be turning it on this year. An expected top of 28 degrees with clear skies will be a splendid day for footy. No fan will be able to blame poor weather on their side’s performance.

– Three-peat or first timers?

As always, it’s hard to choose between the two best sides of the comp. If both are at their best then it will be a close and exciting match. The Hawks’ home turf and experience might be too much though for the young Eagles.

(First published on Bound For Glory News on the 30th September 2015)

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