If you missed yesterday’s write-up of the medal’s history, click here.
The Rhyce Shaw Medal
This is my favourite post to write every year, bar none. But before we start…
Things to consider about the voters
1. The house always wins
That is to say, 10 years of picking the Grand Final’s worst player seems to have given me a fairly good nose for it. If we said that there was a points system that gives 3 points for correct picking of position, 2 for picking one off and 1 for two off (top 3 only) for a max of 9 points, then over the last few years my scores would be (going backwards): 5, 8, 7, 9, 8, 7. Just sayin’ is all.
2. Tall poppy syndrome
One thing is constantly debated: is the RSM for the WORST player on the ground, or are expectations taken into account? Technically, the RSM is for the worst player on ground, period. But expectations are certainly taken into account by the voters. This is how Barry Hall won it in 2006 and how Riewoldt won last year. Embarrassing moments are key. Unexpected blunders are important. Selfish play is a factor. But it is all subjective…much like every other major award. So it is now fair to say that the RSM is generally awarded to the player who performs worst on ground, respective to their expectations.
3. No one likes a bad guy
If you have a history of being a bad character guy anyway – or a showoff – the voters will come down on you like a tonne of bricks given half the chance. See Milne, Hall, Gardiner etc.
4. It’s not always players
People that have received votes in the past include a goal umpire, Robert Walls, Mark ‘Choco’ Williams, field umpires and this year…Eddie Maguire. Also someone tried to vote for my buddy J-Meas. That’s outside the rules. But amusing.
On to the votes themselves…
THE STRANGE SINGLES
Single votes this year went to – Travis Cloke (3 goals, marked strongly), the umpires (some poor decisions), Eddie McGuire (mostly spite), Sharrod Wellingham (wasn’t too bad) and, astonishingly…Scott Pendlebury (who may have won the Norm Smith if Collingwood won the game). But it’s all on the voters.
The Captain and the first-ever Rhyce Shaw medallist polled a few votes. For Davis, this was mostly from a few clangers. Davis actually played passably well, the stats showing 20 touches and 10 tackles. But some poor disposal and some updated high expectation from voters meant that the All-Australian and Rhyce Shaw vote magnet picked up 5 votes in 2011.
(AFL.com player rating – 6.5/10)
For Nick Maxwell, this really seemed like the year that people believed he was an elite AFL footballer. Outside Collingwood, few had considered this to be true. Collingwood captain is an important position and Maxwell, on-field, seemed less worthy than a Swan or Pendlebury. The 2011 GF could have solidified that, but in the eyes of the voters his 14 touches – two of which were out on the full – was not enough.
(AFL.com player rating – 4/10)
Jolly has the right to feel a little hard-done by here. 34 hit-outs. 9 touches. 6 tackles. Not a terrible game. But all that our discerning viewers heard all game were the voices of Stephen Quartermain and Anthony Hudson bleating about how Jolly was “injured”, “underdone” and “getting beaten”. Hmm. Perhaps.
(AFL.com player rating – 5/10)
Dawes, on the other hand, swiftly became the posterchild for the Rhyce Shaw dichotomy. Do we vote for worst on ground, or take into account our expectations? Because despite a good finals series up to that point, voters didn’t really expect anything from Dawes and his zero goals stunned nobody. The response was only a few votes, even though he may have been one of the worst 2 players on the ground outright. But it’s an easy argument to say that the next man had his number in this regard.
(AFL.com player rating – 3/10)
THE REAL CONTENDERS
#4 – Jarryd Blair (Collingwood)
My personal pre-match pick for the Rhyce Shaw did everything he could to lock down the medal. In many ways, it’s near-impossible not to say that Blair was the worst player on the field. Blair had three touches, three tackles and a dumping to the bench in the third quarter to give Alex Fasolo a chance. Which Fasolo did not take, but still. Blair, whose breakout year was perhaps best personified by a 19-touch, 11-tackle and 3-goal masterclass vs North Melbourne, was an utter dud on the day, leading some experts to wonder if he’d peaked already. In his third season. Ouch.
(AFL.com player rating – 2/10)
#3 – Dane Swan (Collingwood)
There’s nothing like Tall Poppy Syndrome to help Rhyce Shaw voters, and who better than (a) a player many argued shouldn’t have won his Brownlow this year (but swapped with Juddy in 2010), (b) someone with more tattoos than IQ points and (c) plays for Collingwood. Seriously. Swanny racked up 20 touches, 1 mark, 3 tackles, no goals and his lowest Dream Team score of the year (68). Ugh. For the Brownlow medallist, that’s a poor game indeed. Expectation was high and delivery was low.
Yes, Swan managed 20 touches, but few that were particularly effective. Many of his kicks and handpasses did little to advance the ball or even to find his player. Why is that, do you ask? Great question. It’s because he had a big tough ranga on his back by the name of Cameron Ling. Ling as a tagger was so effective and marked his man so close, that he LITERALLY BROKE HIS NOSE ON THE BACK OF SWAN’S HEAD.
That is one tough ranga. Lingy, only 30, retired today. It’s hard to top captaining a premiership team and seeing your opponent rack up more Rhyce Shaw votes than possessions. Great finish.
(AFL.com player rating – 6/10)
#2 – Ben Reid (Collingwood)
My personal pick for the Rhyce Shaw, Ben Reid sprang onto everyone’s radar in 2011 with a stellar season that saw him crush numerous opponents and waltz onto the 2011 All-Australian team. Reid’s shutdown abilities, coupled with the abilities of Leon Davis and Harry O’Brien to peel out of defence quickly, saw many Magpies opponents quickly on the defensive.
In the Grand Final, Reid had a relatively simple task. Stop Tom Hawkins. Hawkins had been having the sort of year that he probably wished he could have erased. In and out of the Geelong team with the results you’d expect, sometimes up, sometimes down. Reid, taken 33 places higher than Hawkins in the 2006 AFL Draft, was expected to crush Hawkins comfortably, box him out, make life difficult for Hawkins’ teammate James Podsiadly and rebound out of defence. Uh-uh.
Podsiadly promptly injured his shoulder and was taken off by stretcher, bringing Geelong down a man and, importantly, a key forward. This should have made Reid’s job easier. Instead, Hawkins went into ‘God mode’ and crushed the spirit of the young defender. Reid was a broken shell of a man by the end of the day. Hawkins almost won the Norm Smith. Quite the turnaround
(AFL.com player rating – 3/10)
#1 – Alan Didak (Collingwood)
Not so long ago (yesterday) you heard me say that voters had never been so happy to anoint a Rhyce Shaw winner as when Stephen Milne won. Well this was all like a little bit of history repeating. Alan Didak is a man few like. A buddy of mine went to the same school as him in Adelaide and described in few, uncomplimentary words. He once flipped the bird to Port fans. He is known for his underworld connections, particularly with convicted Melbourne gunman Christopher Hudson. He was involved with the Heath Shaw drink-driving scandal. And his general cockiness and freakish goals have frustrated and angered opposing fans for years. So when he posted a poor 9 touches with zero goals in the losing effort, it seemed to have been the anathema needed to award him an overdue Rhyce Shaw medal. He joins current and former teammates Travis Cloke, Luke Ball, Leon Davis and, of course, Rhyce Shaw himself with the dubious honour. Didak was absolutely nowhere on GF day. If anyone can remember a positive contribution he made, please post it in the comments section. 8 1st place votes and 5 second place votes gave him a close, but deserved win over Reid, Swan and Blair.
So we lift our glasses to you – though perhaps a poor metaphor given your history – Alan Didak, the 2011 winner of the Rhyce Shaw medal!