AFL Brownlow 2022 Contenders – Mid Season Update

With the AFL now well into the second half of its season, the Brownlow Medal race is beginning to heat up, with four players vying for favouritism and another four relatively hot on their heels. Most of them are players we would have expected to see among the top hopes, but there are also a couple of surprising names in the mix. Let’s take a look at the top contenders for the Brownlow Medal as we enter the last couple of months of the 2022 AFL season.


Clayton Oliver ($3.95)

Clayton Oliver is the most prolific ball-winner in the game and, alongside Christian Petracca, leads the midfield of the side most believe to be the best in the competition, so it’s little surprise to see him as the favourite to take out the Brownlow Medal. He’s no stranger to Brownlow contention; last year, Oliver polled 31 votes to finish behind only Ollie Wines and Marcus Bontempelli, while the year prior he finished in equal ninth. This year, however, has been his best yet.

 The man known as ‘Clarry’ has been brilliant from the outset, accumulating 29 touches or more in all but one of the first 14 games of the season, and amassing 40 or more on three occasions in that time. He leads the league in possessions per game fairly comfortably with a huge 34.5, and also has the most clearances and contested possessions per outing. He is as dominant an inside midfielder as there is in the game, but unlike earlier in his career, he is now an accomplished ball user by foot as well. The Demons will have won plenty of games by the end of the season and he will most likely have played a major hand in most of them, so he should be able to rack up plenty of votes come Brownlow night. 


Lachie Neale ($4)

It was just two years ago that Lachie Neale stormed to his first Brownlow Medal, winning the count with 31 votes in a shortened season in which no one else managed more than 21. His following season was affected significantly by injury, but with a clean bill of health he’s returned to the form of 2020 this season to play a major role in Brisbane’s top four push. 

Neale is able to find the ball like few others in the league, as evidenced by the 31.6 he has averaged per game through the first 14 rounds of the season, while he sits third in clearances per game behind only Oliver and Jarryd Lyons. He has also been hitting the scoreboard fairly regularly – a string he added to his bow in his Brownlow year – kicking nine goals in his first 14 games of the year. Like Oliver, Neale is right under the noses of the umpires in one of the best teams of the league and has polled well in the past, so it will be no surprise to see him right in the mix once again.


Andrew Brayshaw ($5)

Unlike the aforementioned duo, Andrew Brayshaw is a new name in the Brownlow Medal conversation. The number two pick from the 2017 AFL draft took his game to a new level last year, jumping up from under 20 touches per game to 28.4, and this year his ascent has continued. 

 He’s averaged 30.8 touches per game over the first 14 weeks of the season, and is as damaging as he ever has been with those disposals. Brayshaw also averages 5.9 tackles per game, the tenth most in the league, and has been almost certainly the most significant player in Fremantle’s rapid rise up the ladder in season 2022. Often it takes players a year or two of playing at a high level to get noticed by the umpires, but perhaps that year for Brayshaw was last year. He picked up just ten votes in 2021, but the public has stood up and taken notice of him this year, and the umpires will likely follow.


Patrick Cripps ($5)

One of the most dominant contested ball-winners in the game from a young age, Patrick Cripps has had a rough last couple of years, with injuries a major factor behind his inability to affect the game to the same extent as he did in 2018 and ’19. This season, however, he has bounced back in kind. 

Cripps has led from the front as part of the supremely talented Blues midfield which has helped the side catapult into finals and even Premiership contention, sitting fifth in the league for contested possessions and sixth for clearances. A criticism of the 6’4” midfielder has long been centred around the fact that he rarely hit the scoreboard; he’d never previously kicked more than 13 goals in a season. This year, he equalled that mark after just eight rounds. He is as accomplished a player as he has ever been and is playing in a team which is winning plenty of games, and he will likely accumulate plenty of Brownlow votes as a result.


Sam Walsh ($9.50)

As soon as he entered the league, it was clear that Cripps’ teammate and 2018 number one draft pick Sam Walsh was destined to be a star, and it hasn’t taken long for him to realise that potential. Last season, just his third in the league, he picked up 30 votes – the fourth most in the league – and he’s only improved in his fourth season.

 At the ripe old age of 21, Walsh has averaged 32.8 touches through the first 14 rounds of the season – the fourth most in the league – with his incredible running capacity enabling him to get to what feels like nearly every contest throughout the course of a game. Walsh already showed an ability to accumulate votes last season, and with another year under his belt and his team winning more games, it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him surpass the 30 votes he picked up last season. 


Christian Petracca ($15)

After a 2021 season which saw him poll 23 Brownlow votes, before winning a Premiership and a Norm Smith Medal, Christian Petracca has continued on his merry way this year and appears primed to once again be in the mix for what would be his first ‘Charlie’.  

His numbers across the board are relatively similar to what they were last year; he’s collecting an average of 28.6 touches per game, though his scoreboard impact is well down on what it was last year when he kicked 29 goals for the season. Despite that, however, he has still kicked more goals than every other player in the top 20 for disposals per game with the exception of Adam Treloar and Lachie Neale, the latter of whom he is tied with. His impact with ball in hand is as significant as anyone in the league, and with the Dees winning so many games he should be there or thereabouts in the Brownlow count once again.


Callum Mills ($22)

Callum Mills took a huge step forward last year upon moving into a more permanent midfield role, but it’s in 2022 that the football world appears to be really beginning to take notice. He has been one of Sydney’s most reliable players this year as they push for a top eight and even top four finish, with his work on both sides of the ball making him an invaluable piece of their midfield puzzle.

He’s averaging 25.8 touches per game, a little less than the other names on this list, but he’s also laying six tackles per outing, the ninth most in the league. In a well-balanced Sydney side in which few other players are likely to consistently take votes off him, Mills should poll very well this year. 


Touk Miller ($26)

Miller is the final player in a group of eight that appear to have any sort of realistic chance of contending for the Brownlow Medal, with a significant drop-off following him in terms of odds. The Gold Coast captain has been pivotal in what is the Suns’ first legitimate crack at the top eight in their history, following on from a terrific 2021 season with yet another quality campaign.

Miller is averaging 28.1 touches and 5.4 touches per game, and has proved pivotal in the Suns’ midfield with the fourth highest clearance numbers in the league. After polling just 14 Brownlow votes in his first six years in the league, the tireless workhorse amassed 17 last season, and appears likely to surpass that number this season given his Suns’ teams improved showing.

After Miller, the best Brownlow hope according to the odds is last year’s winner, Ollie Wines, at $56. It appears highly likely that the winner will come out of the above names, with the top four or five in particular having separated themselves from the chasing pack. With just under half of the home and away season still left to play out, however, there’s still plenty of water left to go under the bridge before the 2022 Brownlow Medallist is decided.