The Australian Football League and the National Rugby League competitions conclude in Melbourne and Sydney respectively this weekend and one thinks that there is value in backing the obvious contenders for the man-of-the-match awards.
The Norm Smith Medal is the prize given to the player whom an independent panel of experts rate as the best player in the Australian Football League Grand Final, which this year will see Hawthorn and West Coast go into battle at the home of Australian Rules football, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
West Coast has had a remarkable Australian Football League season considering that it lost a few key defenders in the early rounds, injuries that sparked a debate about having a mid-season draft so that teams such as the Eagles could get their hands on experienced players to remain competitive. West Coast managed to upset Hawthorn in the first week of the Australian Football League Finals Series but that game took place at Domain Stadium in Perth, which is a different arena to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. West Coast plays its home oval very well but the Melbourne Cricket Ground is a lot wider than Domain Stadium and one can see the Eagles struggling to contain Hawthorn at the broader venue.
Hawthorn, which is seeking its third Australian Football League Grand Final win in a row, merits favouritism but the purpose of this weekly article is to highlight big-priced bets and the Hawks are odds on to take out the big game. So that is where the Norm Smith Medal comes in, with Hawthorn champion Sam Mitchell available at odds of +500 with many bookmakers, including Bet365 and William Hill.
Mitchell had 35 disposals – nine more than any other player – when Hawthorn lost 64-96 to West Coast at Domain Stadium three weeks ago. Mitchell’s 10 clearances were four more than anyone else in the ground and no-one topped his 13 contested possessions. If there had been Brownlow Medal votes up for grabs, Mitchell would have received at least two despite being a member of a well beaten Hawthorn side.
There were Brownlow Medal votes on offer when Hawthorn faced West Coast in Australian Football League Round 19 at Domain Stadium, a match in which the Hawks came from behind in the fourth quarter to win 88-74. Mitchell earned three Brownlow Medal votes for his outstanding performance that included a game highs of 36 disposals, nine clearances, 15 contested possessions and eight inside 50s. Mitchell was instrumental in Hawthorn fighting back from a 32-point half-time deficit.
Hawthorn and West Coast have only gone toe to toe once at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the last seven years and guess who was that game’s star player? Yes, Mitchell, who received three Brownlow Medal votes in Hawthorn’s 95-70 Australian Football League Round 23 win three seasons ago.
With Hawthorn captain and Norm Smith Medal second favourite Luke Hodge not only under an injury cloud but also one of three players to have won the award multiple times, one thinks that Mitchell is overpriced at odds of +500 .
The Clive Churchill Medal is the National Rugby League Grand Final equivalent of the Norm Smith Medal. Sunday’s National Rugby League decider between North Queensland and Brisbane is, to a large extent, all about one player and that player is Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston. Joyce Churchill, the widow of the rugby league immortal after whom the prize is named, has come out publicly and said that she hopes that Thurston is the National Rugby League Grand Final player whom she greets on the ANZ Stadium stage after Sunday’s match. William Hill’s odds of +250 are very fair about Thurston receiving the Clive Churchill Medal because all eyes will be on him if North Queensland wins the title.
Sam Mitchell to win Norm Smith Medal
3rd October 05:30 GMT
Johnathan Thurston to win Clive Churchill Medal
4th October 09:15 GMT
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