Patrick Dangerfield breaks records in winning the 2016 Brownlow Medal with 35 votes

On Monday night explosive Geelong midfielder Patrick Dangerfield won the 2016 Brownlow Medal in convincing fashion, polling 35 votes to finish nine votes ahead of Sydney midfielder Luke Parker, with Dustin Martin third on 25 votes. Dangerfield started the 2016 Brownlow Medal as the hottest favourite in the events 89 season history and lived up to expectations, breaking the record for most votes in a season set by Dane Swan in 2011 with 34 votes, breaking the record for most games polled in a season with 15 and equalling the record for most best on grounds in a season with nine. Dangerfield’s winning margin of nine votes was the equal second greatest in the awards history under the 3,2,1 system, only surpassed by Richmond ruckman Roy Wright’s winning margin of 10 votes in 1954.

In all five seasons from 2012 to 2016 Dangerfield has been one of the top seven vote-getters at the Brownlow Medal and has polled a total of 123 votes, with at least 21 votes in each season. Highlighting the superb standard Dangerfield has maintained over the past five seasons no other player has polled at least 20 votes in every season during this period. This Milestones and misses article comprehensively covers Dangerfield’s phenomenal 2016 season that resulted in him winning the league’s highest individual honour and summarises his eight seasons for the Adelaide Crows, from rotating between the midfield and forward line between 2008 and 2011 to elevating himself to one of the best midfielders in the competition from 2012 to 2015.

Dangerfield won the Brownlow Medal in 2016 at 26 years of age in his ninth season on an AFL list and first season playing for Geelong. At the 2007 National Draft Dangerfield was selected by the Adelaide Crows with selection 10, having been recruited from the Anglesea Football Club and the Geelong under 18’s TAC Cup side. In eight seasons for Adelaide from 2008 to 2015 Dangerfield played 154 AFL games and kicked 163 goals, he won Adelaide’s best and fairest award in his final season for the club and was named in the All-Australian team three times – 2012, 2013 and 2015. Three days before Adelaide’s 2015 best and fairest the club released a statement saying that Patrick Dangerfield had informed them that he wanted to pursue free agency and return to Victoria. During his acceptance speech on 26 September as winner of the 2015 Malcolm Blight Medal as Adelaide Crows best and fairest Dangerfield said “This is certainly a unique situation and a difficult speech to deliver because of the special place the Adelaide Football Club holds in my life. It has been an honour to play for a Club, which in just 25 years has achieved so much. I will forever be proud of my small part in its journey. My decision has not been based on football but family. And I recognise that some of you don’t agree with the call I have made. It is hard to close a chapter and say goodbye to an extended Adelaide family. When this playing group achieves the success it deserves, I will watch on with fond memories and reflect on how proud I was, and am, to have been a Crow.” Although Dangerfield was a restricted free-agent Geelong knew that Adelaide would match any offer they made to the game-breaking midfielder so a trade was negotiated in which Adelaide received Dean Gore and 2015 National Draft picks 11 (used on Wayne Milera) and 33 (on-traded) from Geelong in exchange for Dangerfield.

Upon joining Geelong in October 2015 Patrick and his wife Mardi moved to Moggs Creek and into a house that Patrick had purchased in the small coastal town six years earlier. Several relatives of Patrick’s live in Moggs Creek and when he was considering his long-term future during the 2015 season there were only two options, remain with the Adelaide Football Club or join the Geelong Football Club and move to Moggs Creek which is located only 50 kilometres away from Victoria’s second largest city. In his acceptance speech after winning the Brownlow Medal Dangerfield commented “Moving back (to Geelong), all of a sudden there are no question marks around next season … it’s home and it’s home for good. All you have to worry about is footy and that life balance that I think is really important is easy to find and easy to achieve.”

Dangerfield decided to wear the number 35 jumper for Geelong, the same number he had worn when he represented the Geelong Falcons in 2007 and 2008. Two of the most famous players to wear number 35 for Geelong are rover Billy Goggin who played 248 games for Geelong between 1958 and 1971 forming a great combination with ruckman Polly Farmer, won two club best and fairest awards, captained Geelong from 1968 to 1971 and was selected as rover in Geelong’s team of the century and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2000. Half-forward/midfielder Paul Chapman wore number 35 during his 14 season career with Geelong from 2000 to 2013, playing in three premierships and winning the 2009 Norm Smith Medal.

The profile for Dangerfield in AFL Prospectus 2016 said “Dangerfield’s arrival at Geelong will go a long way in fixing their contested possession issues. His inside game ranked among the best, ranking third for contested possessions and seventh for clearances, averaging four centre clearances per game – ranked No 1. Despite being so inside, Dangerfield ranked elite for metres gained, gaining the most metres of any midfielder in the AFL to win at least 50% of possessions contested.”1

During Dangerfield’s phenomenal 2016 season he played all 24 games for Geelong including two finals, increasing his consecutive games tally to 74 – ranked first at the club. During his 22 home and away games in 2016 Dangerfield averaged 84% game-time, 16.0 kicks, 15.3 handballs, 5.1 marks 4.6 tackles and 1.0 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 68.9% and had a career-best season for disposals, kicks, handballs, marks, inside 50s, uncontested possessions and goal assists. Dangerfield became the seventh Geelong player of all-time to win the Brownlow Medal and third in the last decade, joining current team-mate Jimmy Bartel (2007) and Gary Ablett (2009). Geelong’s winners before the extremely successful last decade were Edward ‘Carji’ Greeves (the first Brownlow Medallist in 1924), Bernie Smith (1951), Alistair Lord (1962) and Paul Couch (1989). During the 2016 Brownlow Medal there was a segment in which several of the late Paul Couch’s Geelong team-mates paid tribute to him. After his Brownlow Medal win Dangerfield said “You think of the past players to win the medal and what it actually means. It didn’t hit me until halfway through the night with the scenes of Paul Couch and the older Geelong players talking about him. So Couchy, this one is for you mate. My mind is racing now, as is my heart, so it’s hard to articulate it properly, but it’s something I’ll look back on with great pride.”

During the 2016 home and away season Dangerfield led the AFL for inside 50’s, ranked second for total disposals, equal fourth for total clearances, seventh for kicks and eighth for handballs. In terms of winning the contested ball and then being able utilise his speed to burst away from the pack, create space for himself and provide drive for his team Dangerfield is unsurpassed in the AFL. At 189 centimetres tall and weighing 92 kilograms Dangerfield has a tremendous mix of strength, speed and ball-winning ability as well as being a good overhead mark and whilst he racks up the disposals, he is also damaging with ball in hand, creating space for himself and his team-mates, making him extremely difficult to tag due to being exceptional on both the inside and outside.

Although Dangerfield ultimately had a comprehensive winning margin of nine votes, for most of the count it was far closer than people anticipated and it was in the penultimate round of the season that Dangerfield’s lead grew to an unassailable six votes. In his first game for Geelong against their arch-rivals Hawthorn in Round 1 on Easter Monday in front of 74,218 spectators at the MCG Dangerfield dominated to receive three Brownlow Medal votes, setting a new career best for disposals in game with 43, comprised of 18 kicks and 25 handballs, he also set game-highs for contested possessions -21 and inside 50’s – 10, had an equal game-high seven clearances. Dangerfield kicked three behinds all in the last quarter and was nominated for mark of the week, in the last quarter getting tremendous elevation to get his knees to shoulder height of Ben Stratton and  took a spectacular overhead mark 15 metres out from Geelong’s goal. Throughout the game many people wondered if a new recruit had ever played a better debut game for their club than Dangerfield’s Round 1 performance against the Hawks. One blemish in Dangerfield’s performance during the 30 point win was his goal-kicking, going goalless and kicking three behinds, all in the last quarter including a sitter immediately after his brilliant mark over Stratton.

Dangerfield’s goal-kicking was far better in his second vote-getting game, kicking three goals and one behind against the Brisbane Lions in a 69 point win at Simonds Stadium in Round 3. Dangerfield received the three votes, having 13 kicks, 13 handballs, six inside 50’s, five clearances, 17 contested possessions and a goal assist. In his next game Dangerfield didn’t receive a vote, after Round 4 Dangerfield was in sixth position on six votes, three votes behind the leader – Gold Coast midfielder Aaron Hall who started the season in perfect fashion with a hat-trick of best afield performances, becoming the third person to achieve this feat alongside his Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett in 2012 and Essendon full-forward Paul Salmon in 1984.

Against Gold Coast in Round 6 Dangerfield was best afield in the 120 point win at Simonds Stadium, having 17 kicks, 13 handballs, six marks, five tackles, 17 contested possessions, a game-high three contested marks, and kicked two goals. Dangerfield’s three votes increased his tally to 11 votes to be in outright second place two votes behind Luke Parker, the lowest position either player would be in for the rest of the count would be equal second. Sydney midfielder Parker’s 13 votes after Round 6 broke the record for most votes polled in the first six rounds of a season.

With his second best afield in a row Dangerfield’s three votes in Round 7 moved him to the outright lead for the first time in the count, starring in the 44 point victory against West Coast at Simmonds Stadium with 14 kicks, 12 handballs, an equal game-high nine marks, seven inside 50’s, six clearances, a game-high three goal assists, an equal game-high three contested marks and a disposal efficiency of 76.9%.

From Round 8 to Round 11 Dangerfield didn’t poll a vote, highlighting the exceptional level of consistency Dangerfield delivered during his last season at Adelaide in 2015 and his first season at Geelong in 2016 this was the only time during 2015 and 2016 that Dangerfield had a sequence of four games in which he failed to poll a vote. After Round 11 Parker led on 15 votes with his team-mate Dan Hannebery and Dangerfield tied for equal second on 14 votes.

At the half-way point of 2016 the most dominant player of the year, Dangerfield delivered the most dominant individual game of the season to poll three Brownlow Medal votes against North Melbourne in the 31 point win at Etihad Stadium, amassing 27 kicks, 21 handballs, 11 inside 50’s, 13 clearances, 23 contested possessions, three contested marks and kicked two goals, setting game-highs in the first five categories and an equal game-high for contested marks. Dangerfield’s 48 disposals equalled the record for most disposals in a game by a Geelong player set by Peter Featherby in Round 16 1981 against Melbourne at the MCG. For his sublime game Dangerfield earned a rare perfect 10 in the Inside Football Player Ratings and scored 229 supercoach points, just over triple the average player score of 75 points in a game. With the best afield performance Dangerfield increased his tally to 17 votes and regained the lead, two votes ahead of Parker who polled one vote in Round 12. Dangerfield didn’t relinquish the lead for the remainder of the count although Parker drew level with him after Round 15.

At the post-game press conference Geelong head coach Chris Scott was asked if he could think of any better games than Dangerfield’s performance against North Melbourne and responded “I can’t think of any, from a midfielder.” Chris Scott went on to say “We even commented a few times – some of the stuff in the contest. Seemingly the ball was just going to him one-on-one … and he just looked like winning it every single time. The numbers were outstanding, but his work and his power to get out of traffic is pretty special to watch”. Although Dangerfield was a ball magnet personified during the game and consistently won the ball under pressure he remained damaging with his ball-use throughout the night, having a superb disposal efficiency of 83.3%. Dangerfield’s brute force and superb finishing were on show with a minute and 30 seconds remaining in the first term, winning the ball from a contest, breaking a tackle and after taking just two steps kicking a goal from just outside 50 metres. Dangerfield’s second goal for the game halfway through the last quarter highlighted his reading of the play, speed and hard running capabilities, he crumbed a marking contest at half-back superbly, sprinted away, took a bounce, gave a short handball diagonally backwards to Mitch Duncan who in turn handballed slightly backwards to Steven Motlop. After taking a bounce and running to the centre of the ground Motlop kicked the ball long to a hard-running Dangerfield who running towards the goals took a chest mark just in front of a North Melbourne opponent, Dangerfield kicked the set-shot goal from 45 metres out, directly in front to put Geelong 28 points in front.

For the second time in 2016 Dangerfield had back to back best afield performances in Rounds 12 & 13, following up his career best 48 disposals in Round 12 with 37 disposals in Round 13 his sixth most disposals in a game to that stage of his career, it has since dropped to seventh – having been surpassed by 39 disposals in the preliminary final loss to Sydney. During the 57 point victory over the Western Bulldogs in Round 13 at Etihad Stadium Dangerfield had 17 kicks, a game-high 20 handballs, seven tackles, a game-high 12 inside 50’s – seven more than the second ranked player, eight clearances, a game-high 19 contested possessions and also made an impact on the scoreboard with two goal assists and two goals. Eight minutes into the last quarter Dangerfield gathered the ball 55 metres out from goal just inside the boundary line and kicked a brilliant right-foot goal on the run from just outside the 50 metre line to extend Geelong’s lead to 39 points.

In Round 14 Dangerfield didn’t poll a vote against St Kilda and with Geelong having the bye in Round 15 Luke Parker joined Dangerfield in the lead on 20 votes by polling two votes. Most AFL players would be extremely happy if they polled Brownlow Medal votes in eight games throughout an entire season, amazingly Dangerfield achieved this feat in an eight game sequence – polling in every game from Round 16 to Round 23, amassing a total of 15 votes during this scintillating sequence. Patrick followed up 34 disposals, 16 contested possessions and one Brownlow medal vote against Sydney in Round 16 with his seventh best afield performance for the season against Fremantle in Round 17 le to extend his lead over Parker to four votes, his biggest lead to that stage of the count, surpassing the two vote lead he held from Round 12 to Round 14. In a low scoring 17 point win against Fremantle at Subiaco, 78 points to 61 Dangerfield kicked a season-high four goals and had an equal game-high 31 disposals, highlighting his massive contribution on the scoreboard despite playing predominantly in the midfield, only one other player kicked multiple goals in the game, Geelong ruckman Zac Smith with two. Dangerfield also had 15 contested possessions – ranked second for the game behind Selwood’s 16, and had a game-high eight inside 50’s.

For the third time in 2016 Dangerfield kicked at least three goals and had more than 25 disposals in Round 19 against the Western Bulldogs, having 21 kicks, 12 handballs and kicking three goals in the 25 point victory at Simonds Stadium. Dangerfield also had 10 inside 50’s, six clearances and 17 contested possessions to set game-highs in all three categories. Dangerfield increased his tally to 28 votes, eight ahead of Parker and Dustin Martin. Patrick’s former team-mate and great mate Rory Sloane had polled the second most votes with 21 but was ineligible due to receiving a one-game suspension. With two votes in Round 22 Dangerfield wrapped up the Brownlow medal, increasing his tally to 32 votes, six votes ahead of Parker.

Dangerfield bookended the 2016 home and away season in brilliant fashion with his ninth best afield performance for the season, having 32 disposals comprised of 18 kicks and 14 handballs in Round 23 at Simonds Stadium against Melbourne, he also had a game-high 16 inside 50’s – eight more than the second ranked player, and set game-highs for clearances (10), contested possessions (17), and goal assists (6) to set a new career best – surpassing his previous best of three goal assists three times. Dangerfield’s 16 inside 50’s set a new record for a Geelong player – surpassing the previous record of 13 by Steve Johnson in Round 8, 2009. Dangerfield’s three votes increased his final tally to 35 votes, breaking the record for most votes in a season set by Collingwood midfielder Dane Swan with 34 votes in 2011.

As well as comfortably winning the Brownlow Dangerfield also easily polled in the most games with 15, four more than Dustin Martin, followed by seven players including Parker who polled in 10 games. Dangerfield’s 35 votes were comprised of nine 3’s, two 2’s and four 1’s. Dangerfield’s votes polled in his best afield performances alone of 27 exceeded his competitors total votes with Parker finishing in second place on 26 votes and Martin in third place on 25 votes, whilst the ineligible Rory Sloane polled 24 votes. Three players were best afield six times, Parker, Martin and Gaff who polled 21 votes to tie in equal fourth position with Parker’s team-mate Dan Hannebery and Collingwood recruit Adam Treloar.

Top 14 vote-getters at the 2016 Brownlow Medal

Player                                   Club                                   Votes

Patrick Dangerfield          Geelong                               35

Luke Parker                        Sydney                                 26

Dustin Martin                    Richmond                            25

Rory Sloane*                     Adelaide                              24

Andrew Gaff                      West Coast                         21

Dan Hannebery                Sydney                                 21

Adam Treloar                     Collingwood                       21

Marcus Bontempelli       Western Bulldogs            20

Lachie Neale                      Fremantle                           20

Nick Riewoldt                    St Kilda                                 19

Robbie Gray                       Port Adelaide                    19

Zach Merret                       Essendon                            19

Joel Selwood                     Geelong                               18

Patrick  Cripps                   Carlton                                 18

Ineligible*

There was much discussion on the impact Dangerfield would have when he joined Geelong and in particular the damage two of the best contested ball winners in the AFL, Dangerfield and his new captain Joel Selwood would be able to wreak on opposing sides playing alongside one another. Due to Selwood having a disrupted pre-season because of a planter fascia injury the duo spent little time playing alongside one another during the pre-season, however you wouldn’t have known it given the way they combined during Round 1 with Dangerfield being best afield and Selwood receiving the two votes in the Easter Monday win over arch-rival Hawthorn. Throughout the season the dynamic duo were frequently referred to as ‘Dangerwood’ and occasionally referred to as ‘Selfield’. Throughout 2016 Dangerfield and Selwood polled in eight games together, setting a new record for teammates in a season. Six times in these eight games Dangerfield received more votes than Selwood and in all of these games Dangerfield was best afield, with Selwood receiving two votes four times – Rounds 1, 3, 12 & 23 and one vote twice – Rounds 6 and 13. The only time Selwood received the three votes and Dangerfield two votes was in Round 5, and in Round 18 Dangerfield  polled a single vote with Selwood receiving the two votes. Selwood polled the equal 13th most votes in 2016 with 18, it was the seventh time he had polled at least 16 votes in a season and he has now polled 168 votes in his career. Three-time premiership player Selwood is renowned for his leadership and hardness at the ball. In his Brownlow Medal acceptance speech Dangerfield commented on Selwood “His will and desire to be better and to stand up in the big moments, I’ve learned so much from him and from so many other players at the club.”

Geelong finished the 2016 home and away season in second spot on the ladder with 17 wins and five losses, percentage behind the minor premiers Sydney. In a thrilling qualifying final at the MCG against Hawthorn the result came down to an after the siren shot at goal by Hawks midfielder Isaac Smith, his miss resulted in Geelong winning by two points, earning the week off and progression to a home preliminary final at the MCG. In the preliminary final the best final quarter team in the AFL – Geelong played against Sydney who have been by far the best performed team in the AFL during the opening 20 minutes of games and it was during this time that Sydney set up a match-winning lead, kicking five goals to nil in the first 14 minutes, Sydney added another two goals for the first quarter and kept Geelong goalless to kick seven goals to nil and lead by 39 points at quarter-time. The closest Sydney got for the remainder of the match was 30 points two minutes into the first quarter and Sydney outclassed Geelong to win by 37 points. During both finals Dangerfield was one of Geelong’s best players and across the two games he totalled 74 disposals, 40 contested possessions 16 clearances, 15 inside 50’s and used the ball well to have a disposal efficiency of 73%. As expected the recruitment of Dangerfield significantly improved Geelong’s ability to win contested possessions with the club averaging 149 contested possessions per game in 2016 ranked fifth in the AFL, and ranked sixth in the league for centre clearances with 37.8 per game. Dangerfield and Selwood both ranked in the top 10 of the AFL for total contested possessions however no other Geelong player ranked in the top 55.

 

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Dangerfield and Selwood were the most effective one-two punch in the AFL during 2016, however to increase their premiership chances in 2017 and beyond Geelong will be looking to reduce their reliance on the magnificent midfield duo who between them polled 53 votes at the 2016 Brownlow Medal. The total votes polled by Geelong players was 84 and only two other Cats received more than three votes, defender Corey Enright with eight and skilful but inconsistent small midfielder Steven Motlop with six. There is a possibility that neither Enright or Motlop will be playing for Geelong in 2017, with 35 year-old defender Enright considering retirement despite earning the sixth All-Australian selection of his career in 2016 and several reports suggesting that Motlop might be traded by Geelong.

For the second year in a row and fourth time in five years Dangerfield was named in the 2016 All-Australian team, being selected as ruck-rover alongside Selwood who was named as rover, and the All-Australian captain for the third time, having also been named captain in 2013 and 2014, it was the fifth time that Selwood had been selected in the team. Geelong had three representatives in the 2016 team with Corey Enright being selected at half-back.

During 2016 Dangerfield led Geelong for disposals, kicks, handballs, contested possessions, goal assists, inside 50’s and clearances, ranked second for contested marks and uncontested possessions and fourth for tackles and goals with 24. In the 2016 home and away season Dangerfield broke the AFL record for most inside 50’s in a season with 194 and his 16 inside 50’s against Melbourne in Round 23 also equalled the record for most inside 50’s in a game. Dangerfield also recorded the most disposals in a game during 2016 with his 48 against North Melbourne in Round 12. Dangerfield averaged a career-high 131.8 supercoach points per game in 2016 to lead the AFL ahead, 11% ahead of Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury with 118.7 points per game, followed by Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn with 118.6. Dangerfield exceeded 130 points in 12 of his 2 home and away games and scored less than 99 points twice. Dangerfield was remarkably consistent during 2016, having at least 26 disposals in 22 of his 24 games, including at least 28 disposals in every game from Round 10 onwards. The view that Dangerfield was the best AFL player in 2016 was almost a universal one, with him becoming the first player since Gary Ablett in 2009 to win the Brownlow Medal, the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year award, and the Leigh Matthews MVP award as voted by AFL Players Association in the same season. Dangerfield won several other Player of the Year Awards in 2016 including from the Age, Herald Sun, SEN, ABC, 3AW and Channel Nine.

Patrick Dangerfield was born on 5 April 1990 and grew up in Moggs Creek, a small town approximately 50 kilometres from Geelong. Patrick played his junior football with the Anglesea Football Club and in the under 14’s and under 16’s was coached by his uncle Greg. The Dangerfield’s had a long history with the club with his dad and several uncles and their sons playing for the Anglesea Football Club whilst several of Patrick’s aunties and their daughters played for the Anglesea Netball Club. Growing up Dangerfield was a keen surfer and he has enjoyed living so close to the coast after his return to Moggs Creek, even shooting an infamous Fox Footy commercial in his home town about mixing business with pleasure, featuring Dangerfield surfing whilst wearing a suit.

As recognition for his superb junior football performances Dangerfield was selected in the 2006 Australian Institute of Sport AFL academy, being joined by one Victoria Country team-mate, current Geelong team-mate Lachie Henderson. During 2007 Patrick played nine games for the Geelong Falcons in the under 18’s TAC Cup, averaging 10.4 kicks and 4.3 handballs per game, he excelled in the last three games of the season when he was utilised as an attacking midfielder with his strengths, being his speed, hard running and ability to win contested possessions. At the 2007 under 18 National Championships Dangerfield played three games for Victoria Country and predominantly played as an accountable defender.

Adelaide recruited Dangerfield with pick 10 the 2007 National Draft in November when he was 17 years and seven months of age, making him the third youngest player on an AFL list in 2008 with only Callan Ward – five days younger and Trent Cotchin – two days younger, being younger then Dangerfield. These three players have all gone on to have outstanding AFL careers with each of them having won at least one best and fairest, Cotchin and Ward are both currently captains of GWS and Richmond respectively, whilst Dangerfield was co-captain of the Adelaide Crows with Rory Sloane in 2014. The next three youngest players on an AFL list in 2008 were Brad Ebert, three-time St Kilda best and fairest winner Jack Steven and Dangerfield’s current Geelong teammate Scott Selwood. At the time of being drafted Dangerfield was 187 centimetres tall and weighed 84 kilograms.

Many parochial South Australians criticised the Adelaide Crows for drafting Dangerfield and overlooking South Australian youngster Brad Ebert who was recruited from SANFL club Port Adelaide. In November 2014 the Adelaide Crows National Recruiting Manager Hamish Oglivie commented “We had Patty really high on our draft list. We thought we’d get him at No.10 because the other clubs that had showed interest were picking a bit after us. Melbourne was going to be a threat, but they had a later pick (No.14, eventually used to select Jack Grimes). It was talked up that way, but it was never Patrick Dangerfield versus Brad Ebert for us. We rated Brad highly, but Patrick was just a little bit higher. Brad of course went to West Coast with pick No.13.”2 Hamish commented about the first time then Adelaide head coach Neil Craig met Dangerfield during Adelaide’s last meeting with Dangerfield before they drafted him in November 2007 “By the time the Draft Camp rolled around, we really liked Patty and wanted him to spend some time with Neil. I can remember sitting in the indoor soccer field at the AIS in Canberra. There were five or six of us sitting in a half circle. Patty was in front of us and he just talked. We didn’t really ask him any questions. He told us how it was. He intelligently explained about himself, why he wanted to stay at school in 2008 and wouldn’t be coming to Adelaide right away. He’d also done some research and knew Neil’s background and bit about our Club. He was so prepared. It was like he was going to a job interview as a General Manager or something. He basically held court for 25 minutes. Then we were done. We didn’t need to talk to him again after that.”3

The profile for Dangerfield in the AFL Record Season Guide 2008 said “A quick midfielder with excellent skills, he wins the hard ball and can play in defence. Did exceptionally well at the 2007 NAB AFL Draft Camp, being in the top three in the 30m repeat sprints and the vertical leaps.”4

As Patrick mentioned in his final interview with Adelaide before being drafted he remained in Geelong in 2008 for his final year of high school. Dangerfield was named as an emergency for Adelaide in Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 14 and despite not playing any games in the SANFL due to living in Victoria Dangerfield made his AFL debut for the Adelaide Crows at 18 years of age in Round 20 against Essendon at Etihad Stadium, on debut Dangerfield had six kicks, three handballs, four marks and kicked a goal in Adelaide’s 56 point win. Dangerfield was retained in the Adelaide side for Round 21 against St Kilda and made his first SANFL appearance in Round 22. Dangerfield’s profile in the AFL Prospectus 2009 said “In an unprecedented arrangement, Dangerfield, who finished his schooling in Geelong last year, was able to play in the TAC Cup competition for the Geelong Falcon’s despite being on Adelaide’s list. He had simply too much strength and class when playing in the TAC Cup, kicking 32 goals in his 13 matches and averaging 24 disposals, six marks and 12 contested possessions per game.”5 Dangerfield’s 32 goals ranked equal seventh in the TAC Cup for 2008, with current Brisbane captain Tom Rockliff leading the league with 59 goals. The player who won the TAC Cup 2008 Coaches’ Award – Eastern Ranges Rory Sloane was selected by the Adelaide Crows with pick 44 at the 2008 National Draft. During their eight seasons together at Adelaide Dangerfield and Sloane became close mates and developed from inexperienced teenagers into two of Adelaide’s best players and leaders.

Although Dangerfield played only two games for Adelaide in 2008 due to his high school commitments in Geelong he was thought off very highly by the Football Club as highlighted by being given the number 32 jumper which had previously been worn with distinction by powerful Adelaide midfielder/forward Mark Ricciuto who played 312 games for Adelaide, was selected in the All-Australian team eight times, won the 2003 Brownlow Medal, captained the club for seven seasons and was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2011. Part of the reason why Dangerfield was given number 32 was that he played in a similar physical manner to Ricciuto and was expected to develop into a game-breaker. After wearing number 19 for his first two games for Adelaide in 2008 Dangerfield wore number 32 in 152 AFL games for the Crows from 2009 to 2015.

During his first full season with Adelaide in 2009 Dangerfield settled in well, cementing a position in the club’s best 22 and playing 21 of a possible 24 games including both finals. In Round 3 Dangerfield earned a Rising Star nomination in the 24 point Round 3 win against Fremantle at Subiaco Oval, having nine kicks, 11 handballs, three marks, five inside 50’s five clearances, nine contested possessions, a goal assist and kicked a goal. Dangerfield received four votes in the 2009 Rising Star award to finish in seventh position, with the top three being Brisbane half-back Daniel Rich (45 votes), Adelaide team-mate Andy Otten (30) and Tayte Pears (20). Playing as a half-forward/midfielder Dangerfield averaged 13 disposals per game in 2009 and amazingly led the club with 78 hard-ball gets, five ahead of inside midfielder Scott Thompson, and kicked 21 goals – ranked fifth at the club. Dangerfield was recognised by his peers for his physical approach and unrelenting attack on the ball by being nominated for the AFL Player’s Association Robert Rose Award.

During 2010 Dangerfield continued to rotate between the midfield and half-forward, although he was given more time in the midfield than the previous season his endurance had to improve to become a full-time midfielder. Dangerfield played 19 games for Adelaide in 2010, averaging 15.7 disposals per game, his 26 goals for the season ranked third for the club behind Kurt Tippett (46) and Taylor Walker (35), for the second season in a row he led the Crows for hard-ball gets, having 89 – four more than Thompson. In Round 14, 2010 Dangerfield polled the first Brownlow Medal votes of his career, receiving two votes in the 84 point win against Essendon at Football Park, having seven kicks, four handballs, five tackles and kicking four goals.

In 2011 Dangerfield continued his steady improvement, playing all 22 games, averaging 17.1 disposals per game. After Adelaide was thrashed by St Kilda in Round 18 Neil Craig stood down as Adelaide’s coach after holding the role for seven years. Two-time Adelaide Crows premiership captain Mark Bickley held the role as caretaker coach of Adelaide for the remainder of the season, and after rotating between midfield and half-forward to that point of the season Dangerfield played purely as a midfielder for the final six rounds. In Round 9, 2011 Dangerfield played his 50th AFL game at 21 years of age. In 58 AFL games up until Round 18, 2011 Dangerfield’s career high for disposals in a game was 25 against Fremantle in Round 3, 2011. In the final six games of 2011 Patrick exceeded this mark twice, having 27 disposals against Port Adelaide in Round 19 and 31 disposals against Richmond in Round 23.

Dangerfield polled seven Brownlow Medal votes in 2011, ranked third for the club behind Thompson (12 votes) and Adelaide captain Nathan Van Berlo (9). In Round 1 2011 Dangerfield was judged best afield by the umpires for the first time in his career, having 17 disposals, six inside 50’s, eight contested possessions and kicked three goals in Adelaide’s 20 point win against Hawthorn. Dangerfield received two votes twice, Round 19 against Port Adelaide and Round 8 against Gold Coast when he had 23 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50’s, 13 contested possessions and kicked a career-best six goals – two more than the second ranked player on the ground, Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett who also had 41 disposals and polled the three votes. Dangerfield had his first top 10 finish in Adelaide’s best and fairest, polling 35 votes to finish in fifth place, one vote ahead of Rory Sloane. Dangerfield led Adelaide for hard-ball gets with 105 – eight more than Thompson and ranked third for goals with 23 behind Walker (32) and Tippett (31).

From 2008 to 2011 Dangerfield split his time between the midfield and forward line, playing a total of 64 games and averaged 15.0 disposals per game, in 2012 he played all 25 games and relished playing predominantly as a midfielder, taking his game to a new stratosphere, averaging 26.7 disposals per game – a 56% improvement on his previous best of 17.1 disposals per game in 2011. Dangerfield had at least 25 disposals in 15 of his 25 games, including more than 29 disposals eight times. Under new head coach Brenton Sanderson Adelaide made the preliminary final where Hawthorn beat them by five points at the MCG in an enthralling contest. Dangerfield led Adelaide for inside 50’s, loose-ball gets, hard-ball gets with 198 – 70 more than Thompson, ranked second for kicks, handballs and disposals – behind Thompson in all three categories, and ranked fifth for goals with 23. Dangerfield finished second in Adelaide’s best and fairest – polling 101 votes to finish 11 votes behind Thompson and 12 votes ahead of Sloane.

Entering 2012 Dangerfield had polled a total of nine Brownlow Medal votes, he polled more than double this in 2012 alone with 23 votes, ranked second at Adelaide behind Thompson with 25 votes, and seventh overall with Essendon midfielder Jobe Watson polling 30 votes to win the Brownlow Medal. Dangerfield polled votes in 10 games including six times in the final seven games of the home and away season – polling a total of 14 votes during this period. Patrick was judged best afield five times.  In recognition of his outstanding season Dangerfield was selected at half-forward in the All-Australian team, joining Adelaide team-mate Thompson who was selected as ruck-rover in the team. The profile for Dangerfield in AFL Prospectus 2013 said “Dangerfield had a breakout year, recording the biggest rise in disposals of any player to play at least seven games in each of the past two seasons. He is a unique inside player who is elite at the contest but then elite on the outside. He ranked No. 1 in hardball-gets and second in contested possessions across the H&A season, while averaging the eighth-most metres gained per game.”6

After his breakout 2012 season Dangerfield was able to perform at a similar level in 2013, playing 20 of a possible 22 games for Adelaide, he averaged 23.3 disposals per game which was a 13% drop on the previous season, however he made more of an impact on the scoreboard – kicking a career-high 31 goals, five more than his previous best of 26 goals in 2010 and a 35% increase on his 2012 output of 23 goals. In Round 11 against Sydney Dangerfield played his 100th AFL game at 23 years of age. Dangerfield again led Adelaide for hard-ball gets with 118 – 30 more than Sloane, ranked second for goals just two behind Tom Lynch, ranked second for kicks and inside 50’s and third for loose-ball gets. Patrick had at least 25 disposals in a game eight times with a season best of 35 disposals against Hawthorn in Round 6. At the 2013 Adelaide Crows best and fairest Dangerfield had his second successive top three finish, polling 60 votes to finish equal third with Daniel Talia, behind Sloane and Richard Douglas on 71 and 68 votes respectively.

Dangerfield polled 22 votes at the 2013 Brownlow Medal to lead Adelaide and finish fifth overall, with Gold Coast captain Gary Ablett polling 28 votes to become a two-time Brownlow Medallist, having previously won in 2009 when he was playing with Geelong. Patrick polled votes in nine games, including six best afield performances, ranked equal second behind Ablett and Geelong captain Joel Selwood with seven each, Selwood finished the count in second place with 27 votes – one vote behind his former teammate Ablett. Four of Dangerfield’s best afield games were in a period of six games from Round 4 to Round 9 and in two his BOG’s in this period he kicked four goals. Dangerfield was the only Adelaide Crow to be selected in the 2013 All-Australian team, being named at half-forward for the second year in a row. Dangerfield’s profile in AFL Prospectus 2014 said “Dangerfield was one of only three players ranked in the elite for contested possessions, metres gained and goals. He kicked the most goals of any permanent midfielder across the H&A rounds and average the third-most disposals of the top 50 goalkickers.”7

Durable Dangerfield played all 22 games for Adelaide in 2014, averaging 24.9 disposals per game, and kicked 17 goals to be ranked fifth at Adelaide, he led the club for disposals, contested possessions and inside 50’s. Due to Adelaide captain Nathan Van Berlo missing the entire season due to injuring his achilles in the pre-season Dangerfield and Sloane were co-captains of Adelaide during 2014. Dangerfield had at least 25 disposals in a game 11 times in 2014 with a season best and then career-high of 41 disposals against Hawthorn in Round 17. Dangerfield polled 76 votes at Adelaide’s best and fairest to finish third behind key defender Talia on 79 votes and fellow midfielder Sloane on 77 votes. At the end of 2014 Brenton Sanderson was sacked as Adelaide coach after three years in the job. He was replaced by first-time AFL head coach Phil Walsh.

For the third season in a row Dangerfield had a top 10 finish and polled more than 20 votes, polling 21 votes in 2014 to lead Adelaide and poll the equal fifth most votes behind the winner Matt Priddis on 26 votes, the ineligible Nat Fyfe on 25 votes and Ablett and Lance Franklin on 22 votes. Dangerfield polled votes in eight games including a hot-streak from Round 5 to Round 9 when he had four consecutive best afield performances, averaging 28.8 disposals and 1.8 goals per game during this sequence, he also had successive best afield performances in Rounds 17 and 18.

Whilst externally it was anticipated that Dangerfield and Sloane were the two leading candidates to be named as club captain, key forward Taylor Walker won the role. At the start of 2015 Dangerfield was the biggest name on the list of AFL players who would become free-agents at the end of the season if they didn’t sign a contract with their current club during the season. Throughout the season there was much speculation about where Patrick would be playing in 2016 and beyond, however the common consensus was that it was a battle between two clubs and either he would join Geelong to be closer to family and friends or he would remain with the Adelaide Crows. Many high profile players had struggled with the intense media scrutiny during the final year of their contracts which contributed to a drop in their on-field performance, Dangerfield was the exception, having the best season of his career to that stage in 2015. Adelaide had a good first half of the season to be in seventh position with seven wins and five loses after Round 13, however in the early hours of July 3 Adelaide Crows head coach Phil Walsh was killed. Assistant coach Scott Camporeale held the role of caretaker head coach for the remainder of the season and despite the tragedy Adelaide faced with the loss of Walsh they maintained strong form late in the season to finish the home and away season in seventh position to make the finals, defeating the Western Bulldogs in an elimination final before losing to Hawthorn in a semi-final.

Dangerfield played 23 of a possible 24 games for Adelaide in 2015, setting a new career-high with 26.8 disposals per game, he led Adelaide for disposals, kicks, clearances, inside 50’s, contested possessions and ranked second for handballs and tackles. In 17 games Dangerfield had at least 25 disposals, including at least 31 disposals five times. At 25 years of age Dangerfield reached 150 AFL games in Round 21 against Brisbane at Adelaide Oval. Dangerfield won his first Malcolm Blight medal as the Adelaide Crows best and fairest, polling 315 votes, ahead of defender Rory Laird with 289 votes and small forward Eddie Betts with 278 votes. Dangerfield extended his sequence of polling more than 20 votes and finishing in the top seven at the Brownlow Medal to four seasons, polling 22 votes in 2015 to finish sixth behind the same top two as the previous season but in the opposite order with Nat Fyfe winning on 31 votes by three votes from Matt Priddis. Dangerfield polled votes in nine games including five best afield performances. For the third time in four seasons Dangerfield was selected in the All-Australian team being named as rover, he was joined in the team by Adelaide teammate Eddie Betts who was named in the forward pocket.

In his 178 game AFL career to date Dangerfield has averaged 12.0 kicks, 10.6 handballs, 3.6 marks, 1.1 goals, 0.78 Brownlow Medal votes and 3.6 tackles per game. Dangerfield’s 0.66 Brownlow Medal votes per game whilst he was playing for Adelaide ranks first on the club’s all-time list ahead of Scott Thompson – 0.58, Shaun Rehn – 0.54, Mark Ricciuto – 0.49 and Andrew McLeod 0.45. From 2008 to 2011 Dangerfield played 64 games rotating between the midfield and the forward line, only having at least 25 disposals in a game three times and averaging 15.0 disposals per game. From 2012 to 2016 when he has played predominantly in the midfield Dangerfield has averaged 26.8 disposals per game in his 114 games and has had at least 25 disposals in a game 74 times – equating to 65% of his games during this period.

There was an immense level of hype surrounding Patrick Dangerfield’s recruitment by Geelong. Amazingly Dangerfield not only matched the hype but exceeded it with his incredible performances in the midfield for Geelong during 2016 to earn a record breaking 35 Brownlow Medal votes to convincingly win the league’s highest individual honour. Dangerfield’s strengths were his ability to win contested possessions, use his power and speed to create space for himself and his team-mates and make an impact on the scoreboard, whether kicking goals himself or delivering the ball inside 50 to a team-mate. Having a unique skill-set that makes him very difficult to curtail and delivering extremely consistent football for the past five years 26 year-old Patrick Dangerfield is ideally placed to challenge for more individual awards and perform a pivotal role in Geelong’s AFL premiership quest for several more years.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – the essential number-cruncher for season 2016, 11th Edition, page 155

2 http://www.afc.com.au/news/2014-11-06/recruiting-files-dangerfield

3 http://www.afc.com.au/news/2014-11-06/recruiting-files-dangerfield

4 AFL, AFL Record Season Guide 2008, page  34

5 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – the essential number-cruncher for season 2009, 4th Edition, page 31

6 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – the essential number-cruncher for season 2013, 8th Edition, page 47

7 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – the essential number-cruncher for season 2014, 9th Edition, page 31

 

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