Ollie Wines takes out 2021 Brownlow Medal

Brilliant midfielder Ollie Wines has become the first Brownlow medallist in Port Adelaide’s history, winning a record-breaking count at Perth’s Optus Stadium on Sunday night.

The star onballer powered home to poll a record-equalling 36 votes to be crowned the League’s best and fairest player in 2021, edging Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli (33).

The 26-year-old from Echuca equalled Dustin Martin’s 2017 record for the most votes polled under the 3-2-1 system, after a career-best season leading the Power midfield.

Wines polled in a record 16 games and stormed home with votes in 11 of the last 12 rounds, taking the lead from Bontempelli after round 22.

He sealed the game’s highest individual honour when he polled two votes to Bontempelli’s nil in the Power’s round 23 win over the Bulldogs. 

It was an historic count in several ways, with a record four players polling 30 or more votes after Melbourne midfielder Clayton Oliver finished third with 31 and Carlton’s Sam Walsh tallied 30 in fourth.

“I’m a little bit rattled, to be honest, still,” Wines said on stage at Perth’s Optus Stadium, the Toyota AFL Grand Final venue.

“There are so many great players that I still look up to at my age … and a lot of them are obviously playing on Saturday in the biggest game of the year.

“I’m extremely envious of them and I’d love to be in their position.

“It wasn’t to be this year and I know we’ll rebound and go again next year.”

Speaking at the post-count media conference, a “numb” Wines paid tribute to his teammates and club for making the award possible and said he hoped he could inspire young country kids to chase their dreams as he had.

“When I was a kid, I watched (Carlton player and Echuca product) Andrew Walker and these guys and aspired to be like them,” Wines said.

“I know Mum and Dad, when they’re in town, go into the grocery shop and they’ve always got parents coming up to them saying how much their kids love watching me and passing on footy cards for me to sign.

“If I can inspire those young kids from my town, who perhaps don’t get as much opportunity as the kids in the city, I think I’m doing my job well.

Recruited with pick No.7 in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft, Wines said the key to taking his game to a new level in 2021 had been focusing on his strengths, rather than trying to be something he is not.

The inside bull averaged a career-high 32.1 disposals during the home and away season, as well as six clearances, 5.2 inside 50s and 443m gained per match.

“I probably accepted my role a little bit and understood I wasn’t going to be the silky smooth mid who carved up outside the contest,” Wines said.

“All Ken (Hinkley) needed from me was to put my head over the ball inside and dish it out to the guys on the outside, who are the creative, more talented players.

“I don’t think I’ve got a lot of talent, but as my Mum said, I’m a bit of a stayer and will stick it tough to the end and grind it out.

“Once I simplified my game a little bit more, everything clicked from there.”

Wines spoke about his disappointment at being drafted to the Power from Victoria but said it had turned out to be the best thing he could have asked for as a person.

His connection with teammates kept him at the club when he flirted with a move at the end of 2019, committing to a four-year deal at the end of 2020 and then experiencing a stunning career revival this season.

“The club never wanted to leave me, but it was probably myself thinking perhaps I’ve got to go somewhere else to get more out of my career,” Wines said. 

“To the club’s credit, they didn’t let me and wanted to keep me, and I’m thankful to this day, despite not winning a premiership or playing in a Grand Final at this stage.

“I’m incredibly proud to still be at the club and glad I didn’t go anywhere.”   

Bontempelli looked the likely Brownlow winner from the midway point of the count on Sunday night, taking the lead from Oliver after 12 rounds and holding it outright until Wines drew level on 33 votes after round 21.

The Bulldogs superstar, who will lead his team in Saturday’s Grand Final, didn’t poll in the final month of the season as the thrilling count came to its conclusion.

Young midfielders Oliver, Walsh and Essendon’s Darcy Parish (26) announced themselves as future contenders, while veteran pair Travis Boak (25) and David Mundy (20) polled well.

2021 Brownlow Medal top 10

1. Ollie Wines (PA) – 36 votes
2. Marcus Bontempelli (WB) – 33
3. Clayton Oliver (Melb) – 31
4. Sam Walsh (Carl) – 30
=5. Darcy Parish (Ess) – 26
=5. Jack Steele (StK) – 26
=7. Travis Boak (PA) – 25
=7. Tom Mitchell (Haw) – 25
=9. Jarryd Lyons (BL) – 23
=9. Christian Petracca (Melb) – 23

Story – AFL.com.au