AFL Chief Defends Umpire Voting Power Amid Controversy Over Brownlow Medal Win

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In a recent display of unwavering support for tradition, AFL’s outgoing chief, Gillon McLachlan, asserted that the authority of voting for the coveted Brownlow Medal should not be snatched away from the umpires, despite brewing criticism in the aftermath of Lachie Neale’s unexpected triumph.

Brisbane’s stalwart Neale carved his name as a two-time Brownlow medalist, executing an impressive low-profile manoeuvre during the 2023 season. Despite missing selection for the All-Australian squad and being thoroughly outperformed in players’ and coaches’ Most Valuable Player awards by rivals like Marcus Bontempelli (Brownlow runner-up), Nick Daicos (third position) and Zak Butters (tie for fourth), his triumph didn’t go unnoticed.

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Certain sections of die-hard footy fans expressed indignation when Neale scored three votes in round 6, a victory against the Giants where he failed to receive any votes from the coaches. McLachlan, however, vehemently dismissed suggestions to upend tradition and strip the umpires of their voting prowess, labeling such intentions as highly misguided.

While McLachlan acknowledged that umpires might find “baseline data” useful in their post-game decisions, he stood by the current selection process with unflinching endorsement. His stance was mirrored by Australian rules legend Leigh Matthews, who expressed belief in the credibility of the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year, won by Port Adelaide’s Zak Butters, as well as the sanctity of the Brownlow’s voting process.

From Brisbane Lions’ training base, a gracious Neale admitted being taken aback by the result, especially the round 6 outcome, but noted how the unpredictability of voting results is indeed the charm of the Brownlow.

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