1930 Brownlow Medal Winners
Our examination of the footy players who have earned the distinction of winning the Brownlow Medal hits an important milestone when the year 1930 is considered.
This was the last year for the voting system that was inaugurated in 1924, where one vote per game was awarded to the player who officials considered the deserving recipient, and 1930 was the first of two years, the other being 2003, where three players were recognised.
Those three were Stan Judkins, Allan Hopkins and Harry Collier. Judkins’ was the beneficiary of the count back rule that first made its debut in 1930 and was in effect until 1980. It was simply a way of handling the awarding of the medal in the event of a tie in the number of votes received during the home-and-away portion of the season based on the number of games played – Bonus Bets
The 1930 season was the first time that the count back rule resulted in multiple winners. Each man received four votes. Collier and his side were concluding the final season of four consecutive where they would raise the flag. He played in all 18 rounds prior to the finals. Hopkins, playing for Footscray, appeared in only fifteen. Judkins, on the other hand, appeared in only 13 matches for Richmond. The opinion of the umpires apparently was that even though all three men were the fairest and best in the VFL that season, it was really an instance of fair, fairer and fairest mixed in with best, bester and bestest.
Here, then, is a bit about the careers of the three men that will forever have an asterisk or some other punctuation mark next to their names when record books are consulted.
Stan Judkins made his debut with Richmond in 1928. He played in a total of 133 games for the Tigers up until 1936, when he was on the ground for the final five times. His squad won 100 of those matches, drew two and lost 31. Over that time, Judkins, starting out just short of his 21st birthday, contributed only five goals, something his co-winner Collier exceeded in just one game against Hawthorn in a match played in 1934. It would be safe to say that the contributions of Judkins were in other realms. It would follow that this was true not just for the 1930 season, as well, because he would receive 15 votes in 1931 when the voting system was modified and 14 in 1932.
His winning was controversial, to say the least. The umpires’ board, in charge of naming the Brownlow Medal recommended that there be no award, since there was no provision for dealing with ties. The VFL administration viewed the matter otherwise. They overruled the umpires, declaring that the award would go to the player who had played the fewest games, which was Judkins. It would, of course, be one thing had Judkins not appeared due to physical inability, but he had in fact been demoted to the seconds, so it could, has been, and will be argued that he was rewarded for substandard play.
Even stranger, one game featured a vote for simply Collier, and since Harry Collier played alongside his brother Albert (1929 Brownlow Medal winner), and not one of the umpires could recall to which Collier the vote referred, it simply was not counted.
Try to imagine a similar scenario in today’s age where statistics on everything from games played and votes received to the number of times a wing chewed his gum in the second quarter of the preliminary final at MCG to the number of times that same statistic occurred in the first match of the home-and-away played away from the home field in the third round, and you have some idea of the uproar not knowing which Collier had received the vote generated.
This was not meant in any way to impugn Judkins or his abilities. Quite the opposite, in fact. Judkins played well representing the Lions in a 1932 Grand Final victory over Carlton that was essentially a one-sided affair, where he played alongside Jack Titus. He also participated in the 1934 premiership over South Melbourne that was an absolute shellacking of the Bloods. Titus scored six goals on that occasion, with Judkins serving as centre.
He held the Brownlow Medal alone until 1989, three years subsequent to his death, when Hopkins and Harry Collier were given Brownlows retrospectively. Harry Collier did live to see that, as did Allan Hopkins. Justice, if it was indeed justice that was served, oft operates on its own schedule.
Stan Judkins played two more seasons after, but took part in only 13 matches that entire time. The 1936 season was the first time the Tigers missed the finals during his entire career. He was 29, nearly 30 when he retired to do a bit of coaching before joining the Second Australian Imperial Force, where he saw action in Borneo. From the football perspective, his defining moment is considered the game he had against Geelong in the 1934 semifinals.
He passed away 17 October 1986, just two weeks after his 79th birthday.
Hopkins spent his career with Footscray, playing for that side for premierships in 1923 and 1924, although in those two years, the club was part of the Victorian Football Association and did not join the Victorian Football League until 1925.
Unlike many of the other players to win the Brownlow, he was a better than average goal kicker, leading his team in 1925 and 1926, with 40 and 42 respectively. After 1926 his scoring declined, but for a centreman, it was nothing at which to scoff. In fact, he scored 205 in 151 games for the Bulldogs after they joined the VFL. He was the captain in 1926 and 1929 and Footscray’s best and fairest in 1931. He also appeared as Victorian representative in 17 matches.
As far as the club was concerned, Hopkins was destined to experience nothing beyond mediocrity. As might be expected, Footscray experienced typical expansion team woes. His team won only four games against eleven losses in the season for which he eventually received his Brownlow recognition. The 1931 season was the high-water mark, with 12 victories. The only other winning season he experienced was 1933, when the club went 9-0-7. He took a turn as coach in 1930, but the Bulldogs had a paltry four wins against 14 losses, but for Allan Hopkins, that was his year to shine. It was not uncommon at the time for a player to serve as coach, however, and many teams relied on a player for those duties.
He would eventually be named as one of the members of Footscray’s Team of the Century and he did make an impression sufficient to warrant inclusion in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. He also was Footscray’s Charles Sutton Medal winner as best and fairest for 1931.
He was 97 years of age when he died at Yarrawonga on 2 July, 2001.
By far the most successful from the team perspective, Harry Collier was a member of the Collingwood side that won the premiership four times consecutively from 1927-30. He made his debut in 1926, so his was not a case of persevering for an extended period before finally tasting success. He had to endure some less successful seasons, because for the Tigers of that time, anything short of the grand prize represented a letdown. When he was appointed captain in 1935, Collingwood would again take the Grand Final, and again in 1936, so he was privileged to participate in the game’s top honour six times over 15 seasons.
H. Collier played in 253 matches and scored 299 goals, one excruciatingly short of the 300 milestone. His last effort at achieving that mark came in 1940, when he played in one last match, scoring two goals against the Essendon club, a team for which he served as seconds coach the following year, passing along his knack for winning by guiding the reserves to the premiership.
It could be speculated that he spent many years wishing his brother had a different surname. If that had been the case, he would have been the clear Brownlow Medal winner in 1930 with five votes. Instead, he had to wait until 1989 and only got to enjoy his honour at the age of 81 until his death at 86 in 1994. His brother Albert had won the award the previous year, so it is quite probable that many a family gathering saw Harry playing second fiddle.
The 1930 Brownlow Medal was quite an affair. On the one hand, there was c clear winner based on having received an equal number of votes whilst playing in fewer games, making a case for brilliance combined with mediocrity. Then, there was the payer who had just a brief moment to shine, that being Allan Hopkins, who spent some of his time in another league. Interestingly, in 1931, he received 25 Brownlow votes, by far his best and his team’s best showing, although it all came to naught for both. Finally, there was the highly competent player on the most dominant team in the history of the game, at least where the top level is concerned.
Two players in 1940, 1949, 1952, 1959, 1965, 1981, 1986, shared the Brownlow Medal 1987 and 1996.
Over 70 years passed without a split betwixt three players. In 2003, it took 22 votes to arrive at the three-way of Adam Goodes, Nathan Buckley and Mark Ricciuto. All three played in 24 games, so there was no potential of the count back provision resulting in one man receiving the award for having played less, either with the seniors or with the seconds, even if that odd twist had not long since been eliminated. Of the three, only Buckley came close to the flag that year, if a 50 point loss by Collingwood to Brisbane could be considered close.
The 1930 Brownlow Medal will permanently occupy a unique position in the history of Rules. It rewarded inconsistency in the case of Stan Judkins, new blood in the case of Allan Hopkins, and the importance of first names in the case of Harry Collier.