PREDICTING the Brownlow Medal is football’s most impossible task.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

The AFL umpires jot down their thoughts after every match of the home and away season, voting for the three best and fairest players on the field.

In theory, selecting those players should be relatively easy, but as history has shown, the umpires see the game through a different lens.

So, it’s hard to know if Clayton Oliver’s career-best season will correlate to votes – given he has averaged just 13 per-season across the past four years – or if Christian Petracca will out-do his 20-vote effort from 17 games in 2020 to take ‘Charlie’ home.

Sure, this may be a stab in the dark, but let’s reminisce on each round of the Demons’ 2021 campaign and hypothesise at who is most likely to poll.

Round 1 – Melbourne 11.14 (80) def Fremantle 8.10 (58)

3 S May (MELB) 

2 C Oliver (MELB)

1 A Brayshaw (FREM)

Steven May kicked off 2021 in fine fashion with a best-on-ground display against Fremantle.

While key defenders aren’t always recognised on Brownlow night, May (21 kicks and eight marks) is deserving of the three votes here, with Oliver (35 disposals) in game No.100 also in contention.

After much talk about Tom McDonald’s off-season, the key forward started his year with a flourish booting two majors from 18 touches, while Christian Petracca (24 disposals and two goals) is also in the frame for a vote.

But Docker Andrew Brayshaw (29 disposals and one goal) led the way for his side and deserves to be recognised despite the result.

Round 2 – St Kilda 11.7 (73) def by Melbourne 12.19 (91)

3 C Oliver (MELB)

2 C Salem (MELB)

1 K Pickett (MELB)

An Oliver blitz at Marvel Stadium should earn him maximum votes, chopping up the Saints with 37 disposals and 11 clearances.

Christian Salem and Petracca were equally as influential with 30 touches each, but some wayward kicking (three behinds) may cost Melbourne’s No.5 some votes.

Kysaiah Pickett could earn the first Brownlow vote of his career in Round 2 with a thrilling two-goal game.

Ed Langdon also started the season on fire, collecting 22 disposals and slotting one major to give him a chance at polling from the wing, while Max Gawn (40 hit-outs and 17 disposals) was one of his side’s best.

Round 3 – GWS 11.2 (68) def by Melbourne 15.12 (102)

3 M Gawn (MELB)

2 K Pickett (MELB)

1 T Greene (GWS)

The skipper set up a big win in Canberra with 24 disposals, seven clearances and two goals from the ruck and should be a lock for three votes.

Pickett topped his efforts from the week prior to boot a career-high four majors which should be rewarded, but it was Toby Greene who led the way for GWS with a big bag of five.

If those three are overlooked, plenty of other players put their hand up for a vote, with Langdon (27 disposals), Tim Taranto (32 disposals), Jack Viney (24 disposals, eight clearances and eight tackles), Jayden Hunt (25 disposals) and Petracca (29 disposals and one goal) all in the conversation.

Oliver worked through some close attention from Matt DeBoer to collect 24 touches, but two behinds probably cost him votes here.

Round 4 – Melbourne 12.13 (85) def Geelong 9.6 (60)

3 C Petracca (MELB)

2 C Oliver (MELB)

1 M Gawn (MELB)

A career-best outing (36 disposals and two goals) should be enough to hand Petracca the three votes against the Cats, while Oliver’s ability to shake Mark O’Connor’s tag and collect 34 touches should earn him two.

Gawn (41 hit-outs, 23 disposals and one goal) also put together a vote-worthy.

If any of those boys are to miss, Joel Selwood (30 disposals), Bayley Fritsch (four goals), Viney (24 disposals and 12 tackles) and Jake Lever (15 disposals and four marks) are next in line to poll.

Round 5 – Hawthorn 8.6 (54) def by Melbourne 15.14 (104)

3 M Gawn (MELB)

2 C Salem (MELB)

1 C Oliver (MELB)

Another towering performance by Gawn with 26 disposals, 10 marks and one goal should earn him more votes here.

Salem was back to his best with 30 classy touches from half-back, while Oliver (30 disposals) and Petracca (23 disposals and two goals) will likely be fighting it out again.

McDonald (22 disposals, 10 marks and two goals), Lever (16 disposals and eight marks) and Langdon (17 disposals and three goals) were also standouts, while Tom Mitchell (32 disposals) was Hawthorn’s best.

Round 6 – Melbourne 12.10 (82) def Richmond 6.12 (48)

3 C Petracca (MELB)

2 C Salem (MELB)

1 C Oliver (MELB)

Petracca (38 disposals and one goal) claimed the Checker Medal on ANZAC Day Eve, but Salem (39 disposals and one goal), the day after signing a five-year contract extension, was equally as impressive.

The Demons’ midfielders posted huge numbers with Oliver’s 36 touches putting him in the frame, but Langdon (32 disposals), Viney (26 disposals) and Angus Brayshaw (26 disposals in game No.100) are also chances to be recognised.

Gawn (22 disposals) and Lever (18 disposals) are also smokeys, while Luke Jackson (18 disposals) played the best game of his career to date.

Shai Bolton was Richmond’s best, as Michael Hibberd tagged Dustin Martin out of the game prior to a concussion for the Tigers’ star.

Round 7 – North Melbourne 11.7. (73) def by Melbourne 16.7 (103)

3 B Fritsch (MELB)

2 B Cunnington (NTH)

1 L Jackson (MELB)

Bayley Fritsch’s bag of six should get him top honours, although he found his way into the umpire’s book for a high fend-off on Tom Powell.

Ben Cunnington (35 disposals and two goals) should be recognised for his outing which saw the Kangas lead at half-time, while Aaron Hall (33 disposals) was also prolific.

The single vote has interest in this game, with Jackson (22 disposals and one goal) the favourite after his performance earned him the round’s Rising Star nomination.

But Salem (29 disposals), Pickett (17 disposals and three goals) and Petracca (23 disposals) are also in the mix.

Round 8 – Melbourne 10.7 (67) def Sydney 8.10 (58)

3 T McDonald (MELB)

2 C Oliver (MELB)

1 C Mills (SYD)

McDonald continued his fine form with four goals from 18 touches, including some big final term moments which should have him best afield.

Oliver was big once again with 35 touches, as was Callum Mills (33 disposals and one goal) in game No.100, amidst some career-best form.

In his second game for the club, Ben Brown booted three majors, while Luke Parker (32 disposals), James Harmes (31 disposals), Petracca (28 disposals and one goal) and Salem (27 disposals) were all busy without being dominant.

May blanketed Lance Franklin, but the full back is likely to receive credit here.

Round 9 – Melbourne 13.16 (94) def Carlton 10.8 (68)

3 C Oliver (MELB)

2 S Walsh (CARL)

1 T McDonald (MELB)

There weren’t too many standouts on this Sunday afternoon, but 28 disposals and a goal were enough from Oliver to earn maximum votes from both coaches.

Sam Walsh continued his incredible run with 30 touches and should poll in a losing side, which he will do numerous times throughout the count.

McDonald could pinch the one vote for his three goals, but Salem (29 disposals) and Lever (five marks) are in the conversation.

Round 10 – Adelaide 15.6 (96) def Melbourne 14.11 (95)

3 C Oliver (MELB)

2 B Keays (ADEL)

1 P Seedsman (ADEL)

Melbourne’s first loss of 2021 shouldn’t stand in the way of Oliver earning three votes after a performance deemed to be the fourth best on record (since 2010), according to Champion Data.

Ben Keays (34 disposals and two goals), Paul Seedsman (35 disposals) and Rory Laird (35 disposals) could all consider themselves unlucky not to poll maximum votes and should share the remainder, but Taylor Walker (three goals) was one of few forwards to outplay May, and his match-winning heroics could be in the umpires’ minds.

Petracca (32 disposals and one goal) and Lever (24 disposals and eight marks) were the Demons’ next best in the one-point upset.

Round 11 – Western Bulldogs 8.11 (59) def by Melbourne 13.9 (87)

3 C Oliver (MELB)

2 C Petracca (MELB)

1 M Gawn (MELB)

Oliver (33 disposals) was the catalyst to his side’s victory in the top-of-the-table clash, earning nine coaches votes to make it 29 out of a possible 30 in three consecutive weeks.

Petracca (24 disposals and one goal) was equally as damaging, while captain Gawn (21 disposals and one goal) was everywhere and will be fighting for votes.

Jack Macrae (36 disposals) had it on a string as usual, but the Dees should clean sweep, despite the Dogs having seven of the top eight possession getters on the field.

May defeated Naughton, Harmes tagged Liberatore, Lever was at his intercepting best and Trent Rivers earned the Rising Star nomination.

Round 12 – Melbourne 14.13 (97) def Brisbane 11.9 (75)

3 C Petracca (MELB)

2 Z Bailey (BRIS)

1 K Pickett (MELB)

It was all Petracca (nine clearances and two goals) in Sydney, with 724 metres gained from his 26 touches.

Zac Bailey’s four goals set-up Brisbane’s dominant first-half, but interest surrounds the one vote, with Pickett (three goals) in the equation after shifting the momentum in the third term of Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

Oliver (25 disposals) and Gawn (17 disposals and one goal) had big second halves to spark their side, proving to be contenders in Round 12.

Round 13 – Melbourne 9.9 (63) def by Collingwood 11.14 (80)

3 S Pendlebury (COLL)

2 J De Goey (COLL)

1 B Maynard (COLL)

It was one way traffic at the SCG as Melbourne produced its flattest outing for the season.

Scott Pendlebury (31 disposals and one goal) won the best on ground trophy, but Jordan De Goey and Brayden Maynard were equally as important with their 32 touches each.

Those three Pies should take the votes, but big men Darcy Cameron (four goals) and Jackson (21 disposals and two goals) also performed strongly.

Round 15 – Essendon 8.9 (57) def by Melbourne 9.14 (68)

3 S May (MELB)

2 Z Merrett (ESS)

1 C Petracca (MELB)

Not the prettiest game of footy, which makes for one of the most intriguing distributions of votes.

Channel Seven gave Lever a coffee machine for best on ground, but many, including the man himself, thought May was unlucky.

Zach Merrett (41 disposals) and Darcy Parish (37 disposals) were everywhere, but their influence on the match wasn’t to their usual level – it would be hard to find room for both of them in a loss.

This could be an important polling game for Petracca (26 disposals) who kicked two big third quarter goals when nothing else was happening, while if Oliver (34 disposals) pinches a couple of votes, it could hold him in good stead.

Gawn (32 hit-outs and 16 disposals), Langdon (23 disposals) and Ridley (28 disposals) are also a chance.

Round 16 – Melbourne 7.13 (55) def by GWS 9.10 (64)

3 J Kelly (GWS)

2 T Taranto (GWS)

1 C Salem (MELB)

The Giants’ midfielders proved too good as Melbourne fell on home soil for the first time in 2021.

Josh Kelly was prolific with 29 touches (705 metres gained) and a goal, as was Tim Taranto (28 disposals) who also hit the scoreboard.

Contested on-ballers Tom Green (25 disposals) and Callan Ward (24 disposals and one goal) had big days at the office, while Lachie Whitfield put on the finishing touches with the sealer to the City End.

Salem (31 disposals and a goal) deserves votes for his classy display, but Petracca (30 disposals) may just miss out this week.

Round 17 – Port Adelaide 8.7 (55) def by Melbourne 12.14 (86)

3 C Petracca (MELB)

2 C Oliver (MELB)

1 T McDonald (MELB)

Three votes have to go Petracca’s way in Adelaide after he amassed 33 disposals and slotted three majors.

Oliver, whose record in South Australia continues to impress, had 31 touches and should be there abouts once again, as will McDonald for his three-goal haul.

Ollie Wines (33 disposals and one goal) was busy despite having Viney on his tail, while Pickett booted three, Salem had 26 and Gawn was strong in game No.150.

May kept the dangerous Charlie Dixon to just two goals, including one after the siren, in a powerful display from defence.

Round 18 – Melbourne 11.13 (79) drew with Hawthorn 12.7 (79)

3 T Mitchell (HAW)

2 L Breust (HAW)

1 C Petracca (MELB)

In an anti-climactic finish at a vacant MCG, the Demons drew with the Hawks.

Tom Mitchell (39 disposals) had his own footy and deserves top votes, while Luke Breust (three goals) tied the game in the final minute to help his cause.

Petracca (33 disposals) and Oliver (35 disposals) might be fighting each other here, in a game that could help shape the final leaderboard.

Viney (32 disposals) and James Worpel (29 disposals and one goal) are also contenders here.

Round 19 – Melbourne 9.11 (65) def by Western Bulldogs 13.7 (85)

3 M Bontempelli (WBD)

2 C Oliver (MELB)

1 C Daniel (WBD)

In the context of this year’s Brownlow Medal, there may be no bigger game than this one.

Marcus Bontempelli was seemingly best-on with 31 disposals and two goals, including a big last term, but Oliver (38 disposals) was right there with him after a mammoth first half.

Caleb Daniel’s class from defence was a cut above, while Jack Macrae had another 39 disposals, as he proves to be one of the more intriguing players heading into the count.

Petracca (31 disposals and one goal) was busy, but others appear to be ahead of him here.

Round 20 – Gold Coast 4.6 (30) def by Melbourne 18.20 (128)

3 C Oliver (MELB)

2 C Petracca (MELB)

1 L Jackson (MELB)

Following an impromptu trip across the country, the Demons dominated the Suns at Marvel Stadium, with Oliver (35 disposals and one goal) leading the way from the outset (nine clearances in the first half).

Petracca (32 disposals and one goal) may have to settle for two votes, and will be fighting off Jackson who booted a career-high four majors in the first half alone.

Brown also hit the scoreboard with four of his own, as did Gawn who kicked two and caused havoc around the ground.

Round 21 – West Coast 9.9. (63) def by Melbourne 10.12 (72)

3 C Petracca (MELB)

2 E Yeo (WCE)

1 A Neal-Bullen (MELB)

The weather delay halted Melbourne’s momentum and may help sneak an Eagle into the votes here.

Petracca (28 disposals and one goal) should still sneak away with three votes, but Elliot Yeo (31 disposals) looks well poised for two.

Alex Neal-Bullen wouldn’t typically catch the umpires’ eyes, but 20 disposals and two goals in game No.100 could get it done.

Jackson (21 disposals) and Brown (three goals) were important again, while Jack Redden (30 disposals and one goal) would also be a worthy poller.

Round 22 – Melbourne 16.8 (104) def Adelaide 9.9 (63)

3 B Fritsch (MELB)

2 P Seedsman (ADEL)

1 C Petracca (MELB)

Traditionally seven goals would guarantee you three votes, but Fritsch’s may not.

The left-footer snuck in the last three of the game to make his stat-line read nicely, but you would think he has done enough regardless.

Seedsman (36 disposals and one goal) dominated against the Dees for a second time this season, and Petracca (23 disposals and two goals) was impressive again.

Langdon (27 disposals) had a return to form, Jackson (16 disposals and two goals) continued to flourish and Gawn (19 disposals) continued his All Australian run.

Salem and Keays had 29 touches each and are also in the conversation for the minor votes in an eerie clash at the MCG.

Round 23 – Geelong 12.5 (77) def by Melbourne 12.9 (81)

3 C Oliver (MELB)

2 M Gawn (MELB)

1 P Dangerfield (GEEL)

If Oliver is in striking distance in the last round, expect him to take it home.

The star midfielder finished the home and away season with an epic display in Geelong, collecting 37 disposals and two goals.

Gawn would be unlucky not to be considered best afield for his 39 hit-outs, 25 disposals and match-winning goal after the siren, but he should be settling for two here.

The one vote, and possibly an important one at that, is up for grabs.

Patrick Dangerfield (23 disposals and one goal) would’ve been a certainty before a quiet last term, while Joel Selwood (28 disposals and one goal) and Tom Hawkins (four goals) were the Cats’ best.

After trailing by 44 points at one stage, it would be tough to see Melbourne with all three vote getters, although Petracca (26 disposals) may need some luck if he’s close in the count.

Predicted Melbourne Leaderboard:

30 – C Oliver

22 – C Petracca

10 – M Gawn

7 – C Salem

6 – B Fritsch

6 – S May

5 – T McDonald

4 – K Pickett

2 – L Jackson

1 – A Neal-Bullen