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For the list of winners of the award, see List of Brownlow Medal winners.

The Chas Brownlow Trophy — better known as the Brownlow Medal (and informally as "Charlie"), is awarded to the "fairest and best" player in the Australian Football League (AFL) during the regular season (i.e., not including finals matches) as determined by votes cast by the officiating field umpires after each game. It is the most prestigious award for individual players in the AFL. It is also widely acknowledged as the highest individual honour in the sport of Australian rules football.

The medal was first awarded by the Victorian Football League (VFL) in 1924. It was created and named in honour of Charles Brownlow, the Geelong footballer (in Geelong's pre-VFL days in the VFA), long-time Geelong Club secretary (1885-1923), and VFL president (1918-1919), who had died in January 1924 after an extended illness.

Although the award is generally spoken of the "best and fairest", the award's specific criterion is "fairest and best", reflecting an emphasis on sportsmanship and fair play (which also explains the decision to have the votes cast by the umpires), as the 1924 somewhat illuminated citation expressly states:
::::Mr. Edward Goodrich Greeves
:::::Geelong Football Club

::::::[VFL EMBLEM]


:Dear Sir,
:::On behalf of the Victorian Football League, we desire
:to place on permanent record the appreciation of your excellent play
:during the Season 1924.
:::You were selected as the fairest and best player and we have
:pleasure in presenting the accompanying Gold Medal in recognition of those
:sterling qualities.
:::Trusting that you will be long spared to interest yourself in the
:adancement [sic] of the Game.
:::We are, yours sincerely

::::W. Baldwin Spencer (President),
:::M.E. Green (Treasurer), E. L. Wilson (Secretary)

But for the change of the monogram from VFL to AFL in 1990, the design, shape and size of the medallion itself has remained virtually unchanged from that of 1924.

Voting Procedure

Under the current procedures, the three field umpires (those umpires who control the flow of the game, as opposed to goal or boundary umpires) confer after each match and award 3 votes, 2 votes and 1 vote to the players they regard as the best, second best and third best in the match respectively. There have been different voting procedures for short periods in the past – votes were the responsibility of the media until the 1930s, and; in 1976 and 1977, the first two years after a second field umpire was added, each umpire individually gave his 3-2-1 – but the prevailing system has been used for the vast majority of Brownlow Medal counts.

On the awards night, the votes over the home and away (regular) season are tallied and the eligible player or players with the highest number of votes is awarded the medal. In the past, only one winner was allowed, and ties were decided on a countback system, which took into account such statistics as matches played. In 1940, Des Fothergill and Herbie Matthews tied for the medal and could not be separated on countback, so neither player received the real medal. Since 1982, it has been possible for multiple medals to be awarded in the event of a tie, and in 1989, players who had tied on votes but lost on countback were given retrospective medals.

The integrity of the award is upheld by the tight security and secrecy surrounding the votes. Once the umpires make their decision, the votes are locked away and transported by armoured security vehicles. No one except the three umpires knows exactly who has been voted for, and as different umpires vote on different games, no one can be sure of who will win. Unlike most award ceremonies, the votes are not tallied or even opened until they are actually announced on the night, so the drama is maintained until late on the actual night, when the result sometimes comes down to the final round of votes.

The method of selecting the Brownlow has occasionally come under scrutiny. The Brownlow winners contain a preponderance of midfield players and relatively few "key-position" players, with some of the game's greatest players (for instance, Wayne Carey) never winning a medal despite having high reputations amongst their peers and coaches. The problem is that players who are most valuable to their teams are not necessarily viewed favourably by umpires, and their positions and playing style sometimes means they don't attract enough attention. Several prominent coaches, including Kevin Sheedy and Leigh Matthews (who on 202 votes has the second most Brownlow votes in history and yet never won it), have publicly criticised the selection process, proposing that coaches or players votes be used instead. The exclusion of suspended players is also debated, but the AFL's desire to promote a good image for the game makes it unlikely that this aspect of the award will change in the near future.

Some bookmakers offer betting on the winner of the Brownlow. A number of well-publicised "plunges" on unlikely winners has led to increasingly elaborate security measures to ensure the Brownlow votes are kept secret until the vote count.


Historically, players who are suspended at some time during the season by the AFL's disclipinary tribunal for serious on-field offences (for instance, striking, kicking or charging) were ineligible for the award. Suspended players have tallied the highest number of votes for the award on two occasions. This first occurred in 1996, when Corey McKernan received the same number of votes as winners James Hird and Michael Voss, but was ineligible due to suspension. (However, McKernan would be named the AFL Players Association MVP in the same year.) In the following year, Chris Grant of Western Bulldogs had the most votes, but a one-week suspension ruled him out of the Brownlow Medal, which went instead to St. Kilda's Robert Harvey.

Since 2005, the criterion for ineligibility is to have 100 base points levied by the Tribunal for an infraction in the season. This means that it is now possible for a player to be suspended, but still win the Brownlow. As an example, a player carries 93.75 points from a reprimand from the previous season, and commits an infraction worth 75 base points – this brings his tally to 168.75, which is enough for a one-week suspension, even with an early plea. Despite the suspension, this player would still be eligible for the prize. Similarly, a player can be ineligible, despite not having been suspended. This most commonly happens when a player is levied 125 base points, but it is reduced to 93.75 with an early plea – sufficiently low to avoid a suspension. This new system is slightly more confusing and slightly controversial, but also slightly fairer, since a bad tribunal record from previous years will not affect a player's chances of being the fairest and best in a single year.


The awards ceremony has become increasingly elaborate, with footballers and their partners gradually becoming more fashion-conscious and this aspect of the night becoming widely reported by gossip columns. The ceremony is currently held at Crown Casinomarker, Melbourne on the Monday 5 days prior to the AFL Grand Final. In years past, prospective Grand Final players have attended the ceremony in person. However non-Victorian Grand Finalists are refusing to attend the ceremony in Melbourne due to the inconvenience of travel in such an important week. A live video link to Brownlow functions in their home city is done instead.

From 1959 until 1974 radio stations including 3UZ, 3KZ and 3AW broadcast the vote counts. SEN 1116 now covers the count. Direct television telecasts began in 1970 at the Dallas Brooks Hall and have occurred every year since.

Venues and TV broadcasters

The following table sets out the venue and television broadcast network of Brownlow Medal presentations. All venues are in Melbournemarker, unless otherwise indicated.

Not televised
Victorian Football League Headquarters
Dallas Brooks Hall
Seven and Nine
Chevron Hotel
Chaucers Convention Centre
Southern Cross Ballroom
Hyatt on Collins
Southern Cross Ballroom
Radisson President Hotel
World Congress Centre
Palladium at Crown Casinomarker
Hordern Pavilionmarker, Sydneymarker
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino
Telstra Domemarker
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino
Palladium at Crown Casino

The Brownlow Medal is broadcast in prime time in Melbourne, Brisbanemarker, Adelaidemarker, Perthmarker and Tasmaniamarker and delayed in Sydney.


See also


  • Ross, J. (ed), 100 Years of Australian Football 1897-1996: The Complete Story of the AFL, All the Big Stories, All the Great Pictures, All the Champions, Every AFL Season Reported, Viking, (Ringwood), 1996. ISBN 0-670-86814-0

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