_This article presented in partnership with _Draftstars__
Patrick Avenell is the Sydney journalist and lover of stats whose predictions for the 2015 Triple J Hottest 100 were actually pretty good. Four of Patrick's top five appeared in the official top 10, including first place-getter "Hoops", by the Rubens, which he had in fifth. Add to that the fact that his predicted winner, "Lean On" by Major Lazer, DJ Snake & MØ, landed in third, and you have to admit he was definitely onto something. Sure, it wasn't exactly Dustin Hoffman counting cards in Rain Man but nobody said predicting a national poll of earnest young alt. music enthusiasts was easy.
So what do you do with a person like this? Well, considering he's a keen sports fan, we thought we'd apply his knack for predictions to the AFL and NRL. Specifically, the two biggest end of year awards in each code: the Brownlow and the Dally M Medal. The former is voted on by AFL umpires. The latter, by writers at News Limited. Neither are simple to guess the outcome of. Let's see who he went with.
Patrick's Brownlow Prediction: Patrick Dangerfield
I think it is safe to say that Dangerfield is a lock for the Brownlow Medal. He is a prohibitive favourite across betting markets, the media commentariat, and by reverse engineering how the umpires will have cast their votes. The only thing stopping him from winning it is a suspension. If he weren't playing for Geelong, a team battling for a Top 4 finish, he'd be tempted to feign injury, sit out the season, and collect his medal.
Since 2004, seven of the 12 Brownlow winners have come from Top 4 teams, racking up a minimum of 14 wins across the season which seems to confirm the theory that winning matches is the best recipe for accruing votes. The other five awardees include three from teams outside the Top 8: Chris Judd, Jobe Watson and Gary Ablett Junior, lending some credence to the idea that being the outstanding player in a team that wins as few as eight matches—as the Gold Coast did in 2013—can be sufficient.
Dangerfield also fits the concrete trend of midfielders dominating this gong. Not since Jason Akermanis, who some might still describe as having a midfield bent, has a player stationed near posts won this award. There is a suspicion that some umpires simply check the Most Disposals stat at the end of each match when allocating points. Lachie Neale is well clear across the season in this department. Of course, the Dockers are third last with only 3 wins, so he would be fighting history to claim the prize.
Patrick's Dally M forecast: Cam Smith
Those southwest of the Barassi Line must scratch their heads at the whackiness of the NRL's premier individual honour, which is voted by News Limited journalists and remains public until after Round 16. At the time it went behind closed doors, there was a 4-way tie on 16 points between Ryan James, Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk and Jason Taumololo. In their rearview mirrors are Josh Hodgson, Corey Norman and Andrew Fifita (all on 14); Michael Ennis (13); and last year's winner Johnathan Thurston (12).
Like the Browlow, the Dally M is also significantly skewed by position. Not since 1989, when Cronulla second-rower Gavin Miller went back-to-back, has a player from outside the 1-6-7-9 playmaking axis won the award. That adds up to 26 statistically significant years of history weighing against James and Taumololo.
To alight on Cam Smith as this year's winner, I've modelled how points will be awarded for the six completed rounds since voting was secreted, and that results in Smith leading on 25, ahead of Cronk (24), James and Fifita (21) and Hodgson (19). Norman's challenge was ended after being stood down by the NRL and Thurston's run has been upended by injury and the Cowboys' form dipping. Winning form is slightly more important in forecasting the Dally M winner. Only twice since 2005 has a player from outside the Top 8 been victorious (Jarryd Hayne's second, which he shared with JT in 2014), and while the mean ladder position for the Brownlow winner's club is 5.4, in the NRL it is more than a full place higher at 4.5. This supports my model's Top 4, as Melbourne, Cronulla and Canberra is currently the Top 3.
So there you have it. Predictions for the two biggest individual awards in Australian football from a guy who did an OK job of guessing the order of the Hottest 100. Time will tell if his picks are correct. In the meantime, check out Patrick's forecasts for the AFL and NRL premierships.
This article is presented in partnership with Draftstars