All hail Ian Stewart, the best of the best for half a century

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NO MATTER HOW long you have been watching football, it is no easy task to rank champion players in order – especially when there are 50 of them and they’re all Brownlow medallists. Chief Writer RON REED reports:

AND THE winner is – stand by for another Richmond premiership omen – Ian Stewart, judged by the Sportshounds panel to be the most outstanding Brownlow medallist of the past 50 years. Only one of Stewart’s three Brownlows was won in the designated half-century time-frame – which starts in 1967, when St Kilda’s Ross Smith took “Charlie” home – but it came while he was playing for the Tigers in 1971. The other two were won with St Kilda in 1965 and 1966, which are the two seasons preceding our terms of reference. Similarly, Bob Skilton won in 1959 and 1963 before completing the treble in 1968. This is a grey area but we decided to take a positive view rather than a negative one and allow the six judges to assess Stewart and Skilton on their overall relationship with footy’s most prominent individual trophy.

Sportshounds Top Brownlow Medalist - Ian Stewart
Sportshounds Top Brownlow Medalist – Ian Stewart. Pic: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

To recap, six veteran sportswriters – Greg Hobbs, Scot Palmer, Rod Nicholson, Geoff Poulter, Ken Piesse and me – were reminded that in this 50 years there have been exactly 50 medallists, a net arithmetical quirk given that seven of them won more than once and in some years there were more than one, or even more than two, winners. We have all watched the careers of all 50 of them, in their entirety in most cases, while clocking up about 600 years of experience in writing about footy for Melbourne newspapers.

Ranking them in order was a desperately difficult task, not only in deciding who should be at the top of the list but who should fill the bottom few placings. We each applied our own individual criteria – multiple medals obviously counted for a bit more in most cases, as did the impact on the team’s fortunes in the winning year and overall consistency in vote-getting across an entire career. There are many ways of looking at it, especially when you consider that as players and people some winners were very different from others.

The six lists have all been published here over the past week, and they varied widely. Four different players were given the top vote – Nicholson and Poulter opted for Stewart, Hobbs and Piesse liked Lockett best, Palmer went for an old favourite in Kevin Murray and I chose Gary Ablett junior. We all had our reasons, both logical and emotional. In the end, we applied a simple arithmetical formula that produced the final rankings. That saw Stewart, Greg Williams and Lockett fill the top three placings with not much between them, followed by Ablett, Skilton, Chris Judd, Bernie Quinlan, Malcolm Blight, Keith Greig and Michael Voss making up the top 10.

Unsurprisingly, four of the top five and five of the top 10 were multiple winners. Williams, Ablett and Judd all went close to joining Stewart and Skilton as triple medallists, which is clearly reflected in the result. Lockett’s podium finish in such illustrious company speaks loudly for his immense value to the two clubs for which he played, St Kilda and the Sydney Swans.

Three double winners did not make the top 10: Saint Robert Harvey finished in 14th spot, Swan Adam Goodes was equal 16th, and Peter Moore, who won one medal with Collingwood and one with Melbourne, was placed 23rd.

If this exercise were to be repeated next year, it would be interesting to see where Tiger Dustin Martin would finish IF, as expected, he wins by a wide margin this year and IF his team wins the flag. Even without the premiership, you suspect he would rank a long way up the list given the superb quality of his season.

Here is the Final 50, as judged by the compiled votes of our six panellists:

RankPlayer
1Ian Stewart (St Kilda/Richmond) 1965, 1966, 1971 (Richmond). Played 127 games with St Kilda (25 goals), 78 with Richmond (55 goals). Brownlow winning votes 20, 21, 21.
2Greg Williams (Geelong/Sydney/Carlton) 1986, 1994. Played 34 games with Geelong (10 goals), 107 with Sydney (118) and 109 with Carlton (89). Brownlow winning votes 17, 30.
3Tony Lockett (St Kilda/Sydney) 1987. Played 183 games with St Kilda (898 goals) and 98 with the Sydney Swans (462). Career total of 1,360 goals. Brownlow winning votes 20.
4Gary Ablett junior (Geelong/Gold Coast) 2009, 2013. Played 192 games for Geelong (262 goals) and 110 for Gold Coast (124). Brownlow winning votes 30, 28.
5Bob Skilton (South Melbourne) 1959, 1963, 1968. Played 237 games (412 goals). Brownlow winning votes 20, 20, 24.
6Chris Judd (West Coast, Carlton) 2004, 2010. Played 134 games for West Coast (138 goals) and 145 for Carlton (90). Brownlow winning votes 30, 30.
7Bernie Quinlan (Footscray/Fitzroy) 1981. Played 177 games for Footscray (241 goals) and 189 games for Fitzroy (576). Bownlow winning votes 22.
8Malcolm Blight (North Melbourne) 1978. Played 178 games (444 goals). Brownlow winning votes 22.
9Keith Greig (North Melbourne) 1973, 1974. Played 294 games (48 goals). Brownlow winning votes 27, 27.
10Michael Voss (Brisbane Bears/Brisbane Lions) 1996. Played 79 games (72 goals) for the Brisbane Bears and 210 games (173 goals) for the Brisbane Lions. Brownlow winning votes 21.
11James Hird (Essendon) 1996. Played 253 games (343 goals). Brownlow winning votes 21.
12Kevin Murray (Fitzroy) 1969. Played 333 games (51 goals). Brownlow winning votes 19.
13Len Thompson (Collingwood/South Melbourne/Fitzroy) 1972. Played 268 games (217 goals) for Collingwood, 20 games (39 goals) for South Melbourne and 13 games (19 goals) for Fitzroy. Brownlow winning votes 25.
14Robert Harvey (St Kilda) 1997, 1998. Played 383 games (215 goals). Brownlow winning votes 26, 32.
15Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide/Geelong) 2016. Played 154 games (163 goals) with Adelaide and 47 games (67 goals) with Geelong. Brownlow winning votes 35.
16 (equal)Jim Stynes (Melbourne) 1991, Adam Goodes (Sydney) 2003, 2006. Stynes played 264 games (130 goals). Goodes played 372 games (464 goals). Stynes Brownlow winning votes 25, Goodes Brownlow winning votes 22, 26.
18Nathan Buckley (Brisbane Bears/Collingwood) 2003. Played 20 games (21 goals) with the Brisbane Bears and 260 games (263 goals) with Collingwood. Brownlow winning votes 22.
19Peter Bedford (South Melbourne/Carlton) 1970. Played 178 games (325 goals) with South Melbourne and eight games (four goals) with Carlton. Brownlow winning votes 25.
20Simon Black (Brisbane) 2002. Played 322 games (171 goals). Brownlow winning votes 25.
21 (equal)Dane Swan(Collingwood) 2011, Gary Dempsey (Footscray/North Melbourne) 1975. Swan played 258 games (211 goals). Dempsey played 207 games (105 goals) with Footscray and 122 games (39 goals) with North Melbourne. Swan Brownlow winning votes 34, Dempsey Brownlow winning votes 20.
23Peter Moore (Collingwood/Melbourne) 1979, 1984. Played 172 games (193 goals) with Collingwood and 77 games (51 goals) with Melbourne. Brownlow winning votes 22, 24.
24Kelvin Templeton (Footscray/Melbourne) 1980. Played 143 games (494 goals) with Footscray and 34 games (99 goals) with Melbourne. Brownlow winning votes 23.
25Gavin Wanganeen (Essendon/Port Adelaide) 1993. Played 127 games (64 goals) with Essendon and 173 games (138 goals) with Port Adelaide. Brownlow winning votes 18.
26Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn/West Coast) 2012. Played 307 games (67 goals) with Hawthorn and 22 games (four goals) with West Coast. Brownlow winning votes 26.
27Jimmy Bartel (Geelong) 2007. Played 305 games (202 goals). Brownlow winning votes 29.
28John Platten (Hawthorn) 1987. Played 258 games (228 goals). Brownlow winning votes 20.
29 (equal)Ross Glendinning (North Melbourne/West Coast) 1983, Paul Kelly (Sydney) 1995. Glendinning played 190 games (214 goals) with North Melbourne and 40 games (111 goals) with West Coast. Kelly played 234 games (200 goals). Glendinning Brownlow winning votes 24, Kelly Brownlow winning votes 21.
31Mark Riciutto (Adelaide) 2003. Played 312 games (292 goals). Brownlow winning votes 22.
32Jason Akermanis (Brisbane Bears/Brisbane Lions/Western Bulldogs) 2001. Played 38 games (44 goals) for the Brisbane Bears, 210 games (263 goals) for the Brisbane Lions and 77 games (114 goals) for the Western Bulldogs. Brownlow winning votes 23.
33Shane Crawford (Hawthorn) 1999. Played 305 games (224 goals). Brownlow winning votes 28.
34Graham Moss (Essendon) 1976. Played 84 games (67 goals). Brownlow winning votes 48 (two umpires voted in this season).
35 (equal)Gerard Healy (Melbourne/Sydney) 1988, Graham Teasdale (Richmond/South Melbourne/Collingwood) 1977. Healy played 130 games (189 goals) for Melbourne and 81 games (87 goals) for the Sydney Swans. Teasdale played six games (16 goals) for Richmond, 121 games (138 goals) for South Melbourne and 14 games (21 goals) for Collingwood. Healy Brownlow winning votes 20, Teasdale Brownlow winning votes 59 (two umpires voted).
37Ben Cousins (West Coast/Richmond) 2005. Played 238 games (205 goals) for West Coast and 32 games (12 goals) for Richmond. Brownlow winning votes 20.
38Nat Fyfe (Fremantle) 2015. Played 138 games (121 goals). Brownlow winning votes 31.
39Barry Round (Footscray/South Melbourne) 1981. Played 135 games (136 goals) for Footscray and 193 games (157 goals) for South Melbourne. Brownlow winning votes 22.
40Paul Couch (Geelong) 1989. Played 259 games (203 goals). Brownlow winning votes 22.
41Scott Wynd (Footscray) 1992. Played 237 games (231 goals). Brownlow winning votes 20.
42Robert DiPierdomenico (Hawthorn) 1986. Played 240 games (130 goals). Brownlow winning votes 17.
43Brian Wilson (Footscray/North Melbourne/Melbourne/St Kilda) 1982. Played nine games (five goals) for Footscray, 39 games (17 goals) for North Melbourne, 154 games (208 goals) for Melbourne and seven games (16 goals) for St Kilda. Brownlow winning votes 23.
44Trent Cotchin (Richmond) 2012. Played 197 games, up to and including the Preliminary Final (118 goals). Brownlow winning votes 26.
 45Ross Smith (St Kilda) 1967. Played 234 games (230 goals). Brownlow winning votes 24.
46Mat Priddis (West Coast) 2014. Played 240 games (73 goals). Brownlow winning votes 26.
47Tony Liberatore (Footscray) 1990. Played 283 games (95 goals). Brownlow winning votes 18.
48 (equal)Adam Cooney (Western Bulldogs/Essendon) 2008, Brad Hardie (Footscray/Brisbane Bears/Collingwood) 1985. Cooney played 219 games (186 goals) for the Western Bulldogs and 31 games (16 goals) for Essendon. Hardie played 47 games (28 goals) for Footscray, 101 games (192 goals) for the Brisbane Bears and two games (two goals) for Collingwood. Cooney Brownlow winning votes 24, Hardie Brownlow winning votes 22.
50Shane Woewodin (Melbourne/Collingwood) 2000. Played 138 games (63 goals) for Melbourne and 62 games (31 goals) for Collingwood. Brownlow winning votes 24.

*Where players played at more than one club the black type indicates where they won their medals.

Read more: GREG HOBBS recalls the player who had it all:

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Author: Ron Reed

RON REED has spent more than 50 years as a sportswriter or sports editor, mainly at The Herald and Herald Sun. He has covered just about every sport at local, national and international level, including multiple assignments at the Olympic and Commonwealth games, cricket tours, the Tour de France, America’s Cup yachting, tennis and golf majors and world title fights.

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