AAP AFL

Blue-collar mids lead AFL Brownlow chase

By AAP Newswire

Forget show stoppers Dustin Martin and Patrick Dangerfield - this year's Brownlow Medal winner is just as likely to be an old-fashioned blue-collar battler.

With nine rounds remaining, Hawthorn's Tom Mitchell, Carlton's Patrick Cripps and North Melbourne bolter Shaun Higgins have emerged as leading contenders for the AFL's most prestigious individual honour.

Each would be a worthy winner but would also be the least glamorous recipient since West Coast prime mover Matt Priddis's surprise victory in 2014.

The three most recent Brownlow Medallists - Martin, Dangerfield and Nat Fyfe - are poster boys for the modern AFL: explosive, dynamic midfielders with stacked highlight reels and the ability to play in multiple positions.

Mitchell and Cripps, in contrast, are hard-nosed contested beasts whose best work is done at the bottom of packs rather than in open play.

Higgins is a more versatile player but would be one of the most low-profile Brownlow winners in recent memory.

Mitchell is the bookmakers' favourite, followed by Cripps and Martin, while Higgins has surged into contention along with West Coast free agent Andrew Gaff and Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn.

The 25-year-old Mitchell started his season with a bang, breaking the VFL/AFL disposals record with 54 touches during Hawthorn's win over Collingwood.

An extraordinarily prolific ball-winner, Mitchell has gathered 40 or more disposals in six of 13 games.

But he can consider himself lucky to remain in contention, having controversially escaped suspension for elbowing North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein off the ball.

Fyfe was less fortunate.

The Fremantle skipper has been in sensational form but hopes of backing up his 2015 triumph were dashed when he was suspended for striking Collingwood's Levi Greenwood.

Nine rounds is plenty of time for the two biggest names in the game to mount a late Brownlow push but neither Martin nor Dangerfield have quite reached their best.

Tigers superstar Martin is likely to bleed votes to Trent Cotchin, while Geelong's Dangerfield has spent more time forward this season to accommodate prodigal son Gary Ablett.