In one of the more thrilling Brownlow Medal counts in recent years, Matt Priddis was crowned the AFL’s fairest and best player for 2014, a fitting reward in a story of persistence and hard work.
Priddis took home ‘Charlie’ after polling 26 votes, overtaking the ineligible Nathan Fyfe (25 votes) in the last round of the season with Gary Ablett and Lance Franklin finishing in second place on 22 votes.
The 2013 West Coast best and fairest winner had the award wrapped up with 24 votes coming into the last round with only Travis Boak and Patrick Dangefield (21 votes) able to cause a three-way tie but both failed to poll in the last game for the season.
A former rookie draft selection, Priddis’ story is one of perseverance after he was overlooked in the three previous national drafts due to his lack of pace before the Eagles gave him a chance at the end of 2005.
“I’M A PRETTY SHY SORT OF GUY AND I DON’T SEE MYSELF WITH THE LIKES OF SOME OF THE BROWNLOW MEDALLISTS OF THE PAST” MATT PRIDDIS
He debuted in 2006 wearing the number 45 before establishing himself in a talented Eagles midfield the following year and has been a regular since, finishing runner-up in the club’s John Worsfold Medal in 2010 and 2011 and taking out the award last season.
Priddis polled votes in 13 games this season, claiming four best-on-grounds to equal the second highest number games any player has polled in and won the medal. He also has the lowest number of votes by the winner since Adam Cooney in 2008 with 24 votes.
He recorded 18 of his 26 votes in ten of the 12 matches between Rounds 8 and 20 in a remarkably consistent purple patch of form. He averaged 30 disposals, eight clearances, and seven tackles a game during this time.
A humble champion in the same variety as Jimmy Bartel in 2007, Priddis admitted he was shocked by the amount of votes he received, saying he had a consistent season but was unsure how well he would poll.
“I didn’t think I’d be polling mid-twenties,” Priddis Said.
“I just try and be as consistent as I can and I got a pretty simple role being an inside midfielder. I get to control my performances a bit more than your wingers and half-forwards so I’m a bit lucky in that regard.
“It’s a little bit daunting but obviously something I’m very proud of.”
West Coast coach Adam Simpson became the coach of a Brownlow winner his first season at the helm of the Eagles and praised Priddis’ consistent performances saying he doesn’t get enough recognition for his work.
“What a fantastic effort. It’s not just a one out of the blue year, it’s ten-plus years of continuous effort,” Simpson said.
“Every week you just know what you’re going to get (with Priddis) and players like that are underestimated.”
Priddis led the AFL for disposals during the home and away season with 627 (average of 28.5), finished third for tackles with 161 (average of 7.3), and second for clearances with 147 (average of 6.7).
His 2014 highlights include an outstanding 18-tackle game in the Round 15 loss to the Tigers and his Round 20 performance against Collingwood where he collected 42 disposals, 12 clearances, and 22 contested possessions.
He becomes the third West Coast Eagles player to win the Brownlow Medal after former teammates Chris Judd (2004) and Ben Cousins (2005).
For the 2014 Brownlow Medal leader board and the round-by-round votes click here.