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Stokes in Brownlow move

By Kim Hagdorn
21 May 2013 01:59PM EST

GUTSY Geelong on-baller Mathew Stokes could be a surprise early challenger to Brownlow Medal leaders after eight AFL rounds.

The somewhat under-estimated dual Cats premiership star should be a consistent vote-getter and even in his powerhouse outfit’s first loss of the season to Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday night Stokes is a leading contender to poll.

While some of the game’s biggest names and most prolific ball-winners continue to win accolades as leading Brownlow candidates Stokes has accumulated a possession status to match the guns.

But, while the Cats veteran of 139 games has assumed standing among his side’s and the game's top ball winners and critical line-breakers, Stokes isn’t among Brownlow favourites in betting markets.

Leading bookmakers still expect the eventual 2013 winner to come from favourite and 2009 medallist Gary Ablett from Gold Coast and reigning winner and Essendon captain Jobe Watson.

Collingwood superstar Scott Pendlebury, brilliant Adelaide on-baller Patrick Dangerfield and prolific Hawthorn ball-winner Sam Mitchell, as well as scintillating young guns Daniel Hannebery and Trent Cotchin are also around the front-end of medal betting after Round 8.

With much more regular duty around midfield than his accustomed small forward specialities Stokes is in the season’s top 10 possessions winners averaging almost 27 disposals an outing.

He could well have polled in as many as four games so far this season and will vie for votes from the Cats surprise loss to the Pies.

New Pies midfielder Harry O’Brien was probably best-afield as the 2010 premiership defender turned in the finest game of his season since shifting to more permanent roles off a wing with 31 possessions and six clearances.

Stokes was most likely the Cats best as the league leaders relinquished a 13-point three-quarter-time lead on the back of their stunning eight-goals to two third term to be run-down by the Pies in the last term and go down by a goal.

Stokes racked up 31 disposals with a couple of clearances and four tackles, but must win votes ahead of equally impressive contributions from the consistent Pendlebury and Dane Swan, as well as Cats veteran Joel Corey with his 30 touches and seven clearances.

Pendlebury gathered his usual big possession tally with 31 as well as six clearances and also finished another classy effort with two goals while Swan racked up 29 touches and five clearances in another quality display.

The incomparable Ablett is probably the only contender among early leaders and betting market favourites who looks certain to get votes from Round 8 as the ball-winning genius led his Suns to a fourth win of the season over a struggling Western Bulldogs at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.

Ablett, who just turned 29 early this month, had 31 disposals and could just pip rapidly rising young Suns stars Dion Prestia and first-year sensation Jaeger O’Meara to the top votes.

Other candidates for top votes include consistent Adelaide veteran Richard Douglas most likely pipping high profile Dangerfield as the Crows stormed out to a big 40-point win over St Kilda and first-season Carlton captain Marc Murphy potentially best-afield in his side’s plucky win over Port Adelaide in Melbourne.

Mitchell, 30, should get the votes with his 35 disposals ahead of reliable on-baller Jordan Lewis who racked up 27 touches and 11 clearances as well as big all-rounder Jarryd Roughead with 22 possessions and five goals as the Hawks smashed Greater Western Sydney in Launceston by 83 points.

The toughest allocation of votes from the weekend would go across the two closest outcomes with West Coast’s last-gasp big pack-mark and goal after the siren from cult figure Nic Naitanui in Perth on the massive Friday night stage and a tie between a brave Fremantle and reigning champions Sydney.

Naitanui, 23, will vie for votes on the strength of his astonishing match-winning exploits with just seconds left on the clock and steely set-shot after the siren, along with on-ball clearances master Matt Priddis and tough North follower Ben Cunnington.

New Swans co-captain Kieren Jack should be a vote candidate along with a host of other gruelling followers as well as versatile Dockers big man Michael Johnson as Fremantle crashed back from a hefty 27 points down 11 minutes into a pulsating last term to draw with 20 seconds on the clock at the SCG.

Unsung but rapidly emerging Richmond on-ball option Brandon Ellis should have no genuine challenger to his best-afield claims against Melbourne and potentially his first votes of a brief 29-game time with the Tigers.

Ellis, 19, rattled up a magnificent 39 possessions and also booted a goal in his top outing as the Tigers held onto a crucial spot in the back end of the top eight with a vital fifth win.

Exciting first-year Tigers boom recruit Nick Vlastuin could also notch a first with his prospects of first votes as he collected 25 possessions and bagged a goal.

Kim HAGDORN’S Brownlow watch at Round 8:

Gary ABLETT (Gold Coast) 11 votes
Jobe WATSON (Essendon) 11 votes
Travis BOAK (Port Adelaide) 11 votes
Patrick DANGERFIELD (Adelaide) 9 votes
Mathew STOKES (Geelong) 9 votes
Matt PRIDDIS (West Coast) 8 votes
Ryan O’KEEFE (Sydney) 8 votes
Kieren JACK (Sydney) 8 votes
Scott PENDLEBURY (Collingwood) 7 votes
Trent COTCHIN (Richmond) 7 votes
Rory SLOANE (Adelaide) 7 votes

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