Is this the dark horse contender for the Brownlow? (2021)

Ollie Wines has sky rocketed into Brownlow contention. Is he worthy of such talk?

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Ollie Wines - 2021

Ollie Wines is starting to get some buzz for the Brownlow. He is currently 2nd in the betting odds. It's easy to see why. He's having a career best year in a top 4 team that relies heavily on the output of their midfielders to execute their forward territory game style. On the weekend, he had a career high 43 disposals including 23 contested possessions, 13 clearances (career high), 8 inside 50's, 7 tackles and 6 score involvements. It’s well and truly a Russell Westbrook-like triple double for an inside midfielder. But are the cries for Brownlow favouritism fair or overblown?

Let's have a look...

Immediately with Wines (#16), the numbers jump off the screen. He is averaging 32.5 disposals a game (including 14.4 contested possessions), 5.4 inside 50’s, 5.9 clearances, 4.6 tackles and 6.3 score involvements. The only other players averaging 30+ disposals, 5+ Inside 50’s and 5+ clearances are Macrae, Parish and Oliver. Pretty good company.

When you think of Wines, you think of the inside midfield beast who throws his weight around in contested situations and distributes in tight stoppage scenarios to his teammates. And that certainly rings true this year.

Yet, what is really surprising this year is the second part of that clip - his outside work. Wines is 18th in the league for uncontested possessions, which makes sense when you look at his astronomical increase in his disposal numbers (almost 5 disposals better than his career best year). He is positioning himself in smarter areas of the ground and is spreading quicker from contests – highlighted by his elite 9.4 ground ball gets a game. It’s created a better balance to his game where he is able to accumulate disposals in different ways outside of just his stoppage nous. Look at how quickly he spreads from this contest to be the first midfielder back in defence.

To say Wines is having a career year would be an understatement. Wines’ top 5 disposal games in his career have all been in 2021. He has a clear 4-5 best on ground performances and he doesn’t really have anyone outside of Boak that will steal meaningful votes from him. So on the surface – he has a really good chance to win the Brownlow.

But there are a couple of things that may hurt his case:

Wines’ kicking has been poor – sometimes to the detriment of Port Adelaide. At one point on the weekend he had 29 disposals but was going at 25% kicking efficiency with 7 turnovers. He is currently at 48.7% kicking efficiency this year, which is rated below average for AFL standards. It's the aspect of his game he's never truly got right but its the only thing holding him back from being one of the top 2-3 midfielders in the competition. For all of Wines' dominance averaging the 3rd most disposals in the league, he averages the 3rd most turnovers. Some of the criticism is warranted – he really struggles to weight his kicks to his teammates advantage even with time.

Yet, some of it is misleading. Wines can be a victim of his own ball winning ability. He does so much of his good work tight in stoppages and provides important forward momentum for Port. For example, this is considered a turnover yet Wines has objectively put Port in a better position than where they were.

The numbers back up how damaging Wines is. He's 9th in the league for total inside 50's +14th in clearances and score launches (among midfielders). The combination of these statistics is extremely valuable. To be within the Top 15 of all three metrics means not only is Wines winning his own ball, he's providing significant forward momentum and scoring opportunities for his team.

A further knock on Wines is that he hasn’t kicked many goals this year (4) compared to the other Brownlow favourite Bontempelli (21). This is important towards both impacting the game through direct scores but also generates more umpires votes. Yes, Wines is a permanent midfielder whilst Bontempelli splits his time far more evenly between the two positions. Yet at the end of the day, it’s a determinative factor for Brownlow votes.

Regardless of a Brownlow or not, Wines is having a phenomenal All-Australian season. From losing the captaincy to people questioning and doubting his ability to become an A-grade midfielder, he has proven many wrong – including me. He has been far and away Port Adelaide’s best player this year and his game is primed for finals football. What a big stage for Wines to prove that he is one of if not the best midfielder in the competition.  

For more Ollie Wines content - check out the Zero Hanger!

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