The Brownlow Cabinet welcomes its fifth member

Five Hawthorn players have now won the Brownlow, with Sam Mitchell becoming our fifth Medallist. Previous Hawks to win this award are Col Austen 1949, Robert Di Pierdomenico 1986, John Platten 1987 and Shane Crawford 1999.

Visitors to the Hawks Museum can now see a refurbished display that pays tribute to the Club’s five Brownlow Medallists. A major highlight of this tribute is Robert Di Pierdomenico’s Brownlow Medal and the commemorative ‘Dipper’ T-Shirt that was very popular with his adoring fans back in 1986.

Col Austen’s achievement was recognized in 1949 by the President of the Supporters’ Committee, Max Manderson, with the thoughtful gesture of a Commemorative Cup, presented to Austen for coming second in the Brownlow Medal. Austen had tied with South Melbourne’s Ron Clegg but lost on a countback. This important grassroots trophy can be seen as part of the tribute.

A John Platten facemask, sold at a Family Day in the early 1990s, and an Invitation to his 1987 Brownlow Presentation night add two interesting touches to the tribute. A reproduction of Shane Crawford’s Brownlow Certificate is a highlight as are Crawford’s gold boots, worn in season 2007. The silver tray presented by the Past Players & Officials to Sam Mitchell to mark his achievement in winning the Club Champion and for being Runner Up in the Brownlow Medal in 2011, sums up Mitchell’s outstanding career with the Brown ‘n Gold.

The Charles Brownlow trophy, better known as the Brownlow Medal, is awarded to the “Fairest and Best” player in the AFL during the home-and-away season, as determined by votes cast by the officiating field umpires after each game. It is the most prestigious award for individual players in the AFL.

The medal was first awarded by the Victorian Football League (VFL). It was created and named in honour of Charles Brownlow, a former Geelong Football Club player (1880-1891) and Club Secretary (1985-1923), and VFL President (1918-1919), who died in January 1924 after an extended illness.

Col Austen was the Club’s first Brownlow Medallist and was the third player from the Club to actually receive the medal. Beaten by Ron Clegg (South Melbourne) under the 1949 count-back system. Austen’s Brownlow was retrospectively awarded by the AFL in 1989. Austen was one of Hawthorn’s first VFL super-stars, a brilliant defender always attacking the hard ball and to underline his outstanding season in 1949, he won the Club’s Best & Fairest Award.

Photo: Grant Austen, the son of Col Austen views the revised Brownlow Cabinet that honours the Club’s five medallists.

Robert Di Pierdomenico created football history in 1986 when he became the the first Hawk to be presented with a Brownlow Medal. Di Pierdomenico is unusual among Brownlow Medallists as the terms “ferocious”, “aggressive” and ‘tough” often have been used to describe his relentless style of play. Most Brownlow Medallists are described as “clever” or “unruffled”. Two best on ground over the last final four rounds of the 1986 count enabled Di Pierdomenico to catch the early leader, Sydney Swan’s Greg Williams, for a Brownlow tie.

In 1987, in his second season with the Hawks, John Platten became the third Hawk to win the Brownlow when he tied with St Kilda’s Tony Lockett. Platten was a real crowd favourite, with his long flowing mop of hair, his willingness to give his all in every contest, fighting for the ball at the bottom of the packs, he was a very talented rover who could run all day. In 1987 he played 26 games and kicked 33 goals and was named in the All-Australian team. He was the second player to win South Australia’s Magarey Medal and Victoria’s Brownlow Medal, the first player being North Melbourne’s Malcolm Blight.

12 years later, in 1999, Shane Crawford became the first Hawk to win the Brownlow out right. A genuine champion of the game, for seventeen years Crawford was the heart and soul and the face of the Club. A fitness fanatic, he was capable of playing as an on-baller for an entire game, becoming the sixth player to pass 300 games with the Club. Appointed Captain in 1999, he developed into an inspiring leader, leading the Club to it’s ninth night premiership and in the last two months of the season he was virtually unstoppable, winning football’s highest honour the Brownlow Medal.

Sam Mitchell and Richmond’s Captain, Trent Cotchin received retrospective Brownlow Medals for 2012 when Jobe Watson of Essendon was ruled ineligible due to his involvement in the Essendon supplements scandal that year. Mitchell was presented with his medal by former Hawk teammate, Shane Crawford, who won the AFL’s highest individual honour in 1999. Cotchin received his medal from three-time winner Ian Stewart, who was the last Richmond player to win the award in 1971, after winning two medals while playing with St Kilda in 1965 and 1966.

Author: Peter Haby

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