A toast to Generation Next as Vintage new crop of stars emerges
IN 1964 – the last time Melbourne won the premiership – Bob Dylan sang, ‘The times, they are a-changin’.”
We know the premiership race has undergone a transformation as a fresh captain – Max or Marcus – will hoist a cup that Richmond became used to taking.
On Sunday night it was Brownlow virgins instead of cherished champions who filled the leaderboard to confirm the next wave had arrived.
Previous winners Nat Fyfe, Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield, Lachie Neale and perennial poller Scott Pendlebury were nowhere to be seen.
Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell (2018 winner) secured 25 votes to finish seventh.
Instead Ollie Wines rocketed home after stunning surges from Carlton’s Sam Walsh and Essendon’s Darcy Parish threatened to steal the headlines.
Walsh is 21 and Parish is 24. Hard work has been Sam’s ticket to stardom.
The baby Blue is a supreme athlete whose running power resembles 2005 Brownlow medallist Ben Cousins, who attended last night’s count.
Umpires had paid no attention to Parish until April this season, polling in just one game previously.
Then, whoosh. Parish powered on to the Generation Next list with 14 votes in five games from rounds 8-12, averaging 38 disposals.
Goal of the year was awarded to 20-year-old Caleb Serong, the fresh-faced Fremantle midfielder who won last year’s Rising Star.
Mark of the year went to bouncy Tiger Shai Bolton after he soared into the sky with a speccy in the MCG goalsquare.
Bolton is 22, a decade younger than Jack Riewoldt, who most thought would clinch the gong for a courageous grab.
Perhaps Riewoldt best embodied how times have changed.
A ticket to the Brownlow has long meant a long night sinking Crown Lagers inside a crammed Crown Palladium.
But Riewoldt clasped a cuppa on the couch in a living room that, dare we venture, gave off a retirement vibe.
The dull decor was certainly a long way from Crown’s swanky ballroom as players dialled in digitally. Brayden Maynard’s date – his dog, Simon – donned a bow tie.
It is a young man’s world, and certainly a young midfielder’s medal after the same old sad story playing out for the men at either end.
The likes of Max Gawn, Steven May and Tom Hawkins are hard to miss with their hulking frames. But they, along with many more big boys, went grossly underappreciated by umpires yet again.
Kids these days gravitate to bright lights and big scores and so it was fitting these on-ballers helped produce the most pulsating vote count in Brownlow
history. Previously no two players had polled more than 30 votes until Wines won with 36 votes, beating Marcus Bontempelli (33), Clayton Oliver (31) and Walsh (30).
Wines drew level with Bontempelli in round 21, overtook him in round 22 and polled two votes against Bont’s Bulldogs in round 23 to secure ‘Charlie’.
Bontempelli played forward for 27 per cent of that match while Wines (34 disposals and a goal) ran around without being assigned a designated match-up.
The Bulldogs and Bontempelli ran out of bark in August and last night it bit hardest.
Wines was fidgety before AFL boss Gillon McLachlan read those final votes. A devastated Bontempelli looked like he had seen a ghost.
What a win it was for Wines, who cried tears of sadness when Port Adelaide picked him at No.7 in 2012.
Now it is cheers for greatness as he became Port Adelaide’s maiden Brownlow medallist, carrying a beer on stage to toast his success.
Wines’ mum Jane did not know the Power was based at Alberton and the Echuca kid did not want to leave Victoria.
A hug with coach Ken Hinkley before walking to the stage showed how emotions can change.
The grand finalists were given isolated side rooms that flanked the lavish function room at Perth Stadium.
But on Saturday it will be the Bont looking for a mood swing when he captains the Bulldogs against Melbourne on centre stage.