Graham Moss – Former Australian Rules Brownlow Medal Winner
It is necessary to make allowances for game and rule changes when comparing Brownlow Medal recipients for total career votes. One of the first issues to be addressed is that in the early days of the Brownlow Medal, the home-and-away portion of the season consisted of 18 games compared to 23 currently, a differential of over 20 percent.
Next, the voting system for the Brownlow Medal has seen some modifications, going from one vote per game from 1924 to 1930 to the 3 – 2 – 1 system, but most notably the brief period toward the end of the 1970s where two umpires awarded votes individually, doubling the number of available votes and inflating the number of votes for players active at that time.
Our footballer at this time, however, did well in Brownlow voting by any measure. He never finished worse than eighth position in voting, ties considered, and besides winning the award in 1976, one of the years with double votes, he finished second in his first year in the league and tied third in his third year.
We are writing, obviously, about Graham Moss (14 May 1950), the Essendon Bomber ruckman who was enjoying considerable success in the WAFL with the Claremont Tigers until the VFL in the form of the Bombers succeeded in luring him to Melbourne to make his debut in the 1973 season. He played just the four seasons with Essendon, the last in 1976 as captain of the side, but a serious injury to his knee sent him back to Claremont, where he managed to play on from 1977 – 1985, and since it was his opinion that the WAFL and VFL were of similar standards by that time, it may not be unfair to speculate that he preferred live in Western Australia as opposed to Victoria.
We will leave the debate as to the standard of play betwixt the two leagues to others more qualified, and we have no desire to dispute the opinion of an undoubtedly great footballer, but we do want to have a look at the career of Graham Moss in closer detail, focusing on his VFL days.
That said, Moss did play 254 games for Claremont before taking over to coach the side for another 223 games after he left Essendon. He averaged more than one goal kicked per game as a player and as a coach posted a record of 135 wins versus 88 losses. When he first appeared in 1969, his idol Polly Farmer was the coach of the opposing West Perth side. Moss also had the honour of playing alongside Farmer as West Australian representative in 1970, making the first of his eventual 23 interstate appearances.
Graham Moss made his VFL debut for Essendon in round one against Richmond. The bombers lost that game by a mere two points on their home ground and Richmond would go on to raise the flag that season. Moss played in all 22 games of the home-and-away season, kicking 15 goals. He apparently was a quite accurate kick, too, or so his figure of 13 behinds would seem to indicate. He added another two goals in the elimination final against St. Kilda after the Bombers had finished in fourth position on the ladder, one better than the Saints. Unfortunately, that positon ahead of the Saints meant nothing in the finals when St. Kilda won the elimination by the convincing score of 158 – 91. Moss was good across the board in all statistical categories, including his career highs of 199 marks and 2221 hit-outs. The Brownlow voters rewarded him with 25 votes, good for second place behind Keith Greig of North Melbourne.
The 1974 season represented a bit of a decline for Moss and Essendon. The team finished well down the ladder in eighth position. Moss missed a couple of games and his numbers experienced the expected decline. He did receive 12 Brownlow votes, which left him in seventh position, his worst finish of his four-year VFL career.
The 1975 season from the perspective of the Bombers treading water and again finishing in eighth, well out of the finals. Moss had another commendable season, kicking a career-high 20 goals. His Brownlow vote tally was 18, tying him at third with two other players, but only two in arrears to the 20 votes winner Gary Dempsey received.
His final VFL season of 1976 in which he won the Brownlow was the first where the VFL instituted its short-lived experiment with having two umpires award Brownlow votes separately. Where 20 votes had taken the Brownlow in the previous season, in 1976 they would have been 28 fewer than the 48 Moss received in winning. Unfortunately, the Bombers slipped all the way down to 10th on the ladder. Precisely when he sustained the injury that played a role in his decision to return to Claremont is not certain. Some sources say the decision was heavily influenced by frustration on the part of Moss over the failure to Essendon to reach the finals.
Along with serving as captain for the Bombers in 1976, he was also acknowledged with the W.S. Crichton Medal as the side’s Best and Fairest for his last three seasons. He is also enshrined in the AFL Hall of Fame.
During the course of his VFL career, Moss is credited with having the third-highest all-time average in terms of Brownlow votes received, that average being 0.95 votes per game according to AFL statistics. Through no deficiency on his part, however, we feel compelled to point out that the average is skewed for two reasons. One is that he played only 84 games in the VFL. The other is that he received 48 votes in the first season where the two umpire voting system was used. Those 48 votes represent almost half of the 103 he received during his four seasons with Essendon. When his figures are adjusted, and his 1976 votes are halved, out of what we feel is a desire for justness, his total is reduced from 103 to 79, placing him behind 1935 Brownlow winner Haydn Bunton and 2015’s Nat Fyfe.
With those two names, along with several others of illustrious stature surrounding Moss’, he need not apologise to anyone when it comes time to assign greatness.