Trent Cotchin could become the Tigers' first Brownlow Medallist since Ian Stewart in 1971.
He's one of the favourites, but Trent Cotchin is not confident.
IT HAS been more than 40 years since a Richmond player took home the Brownlow Medal, and joint favourite Trent Cotchin thinks the Tigers will have to wait a bit longer to score football's top individual honour.
''In my opinion, I think I'll be the flop of the Brownlow. I wouldn't be backing me,'' said Cotchin, who has already won the club's best and fairest and several media awards, including The Age Footballer of the Year. ''There are too many players up there who have had consistent years and have obviously been in winning sides as well.
''I know a lot of people say you'd prefer to be playing in the grand final and so forth, which is absolutely true. But I suppose when your team hasn't finished off the year [well] and you've got an opportunity to win such a prestigious award, it's nice to be respected as a realistic chance.
''I think the boys [teammates] have been a bit more excited than I have. Obviously you cop a bit of stick about it, but also it's an opportunity for them to celebrate as a team. I mean, you can't get anywhere without your teammates, and as much as it's an individual award, it's almost a team award as well. You need the help every week and the boys have been fantastic all year. Hopefully it only gets better, not only our midfield group but our whole team improves and gets more mature.''
Others are more bullish about Cotchin's chances of becoming the first Richmond winner since Ian Stewart took home Charlie in 1971 for his third Brownlow Medal. Four-time Richmond premiership coach Tom Hafey likes what he sees in Cotchin, believing the 22-year-old midfielder has what it takes to take the Tigers, who finished 12th this year, to another period of greatness.
''When Ian Stewart won it in 1971, the Tigers finished runners-up the following year and they were premiers for the next two years in a row, so it would be lovely if history would repeat itself,'' Hafey said.
''Everybody is very taken with Trent Cotchin. He's an absolutely courageous man. He works very hard when he doesn't have the ball as well, which I'm very critical of a lot of players. When he chases, he grits his teeth. He's got terrific abilities. I would think he would run pretty well in the Brownlow. I don't think there would too many players who would have taken votes off him.''
Former Tigers premiership player Mike Perry said a Brownlow win was the next step in the club's campaign to return to the top of the ladder, and he likened Cotchin to Stewart, who is batting a rare auto-immune condition.
''It would prove that we've actually got arguably the best player in the league,'' he said. ''I think he's just such a terrific kid, that's the standout about him. He's such a level-headed young bloke. I'm so impressed with the boy that I hope he can get it. I'm a good mate of Stewie's, and I played with Stewie. They are very similar, they just don't get into trouble. They have all the courage in the world. Stewie's a wonderful player … he's arguably the best player I've ever seen.''
The Tigers came close to taking out the Brownlow in 1974, when Kevin Bartlett was favoured to win. But he lost to North Melbourne's Keith Greig, much to the chagrin of those at Punt Road, including then president Ian Wilson.
But they lost the battle to win the war, with the Tigers proceeding to beat the Kangaroos by 41 points in the grand final that year.
''I don't know what to say,'' Wilson said this year when asked about the 1974 Brownlow. ''Keith Greig won it and Kevin was favourite. I wasn't particularly involved in it but there was a bit of a scuffle at the back of the hall.''
Hafey, the coach, added that Bartlett didn't always have the umpires on his side, hence the Brownlow votes.
''A lot of the umpires would have had a thing about Bartlett because he was criticised for the number of free kicks he got by throwing the ball out, which was allowable, incidentally. But I think they all felt he was cheating. A lot of other players did exactly the same and they won Brownlows, incidentally.''
But Bartlett holds no grudges, saying he was beaten by a better player, and his voice speeds up a little with excitement when he talks about Cotchin's prospects.
''If he was to win something as time-honoured as the Brownlow Medal, that would be a great joy to the Richmond supporters and a very nice kudos for the club. They haven't had much to cheer about for over 30 years,'' he said.