Anzac Day medal vote snub causes outcry after Essendon-Collingwood draw

The AFL’s Anzac medal has been dragged into controversy following Thursday’s thrilling draw at the MCG.

Collingwood and Essendon drew on Anzac Day for the first time in 29 years as both clubs missed late chances to snatch a dramatic win.

Essendon skipper Zach Merrett won the medal, which is handed out to the player that best exemplifies the “Anzac spirit” as well as the best player on the ground.

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Merrett polled 11 of a possible 15 votes — including three best-on-grounds — from five judges after finishing with 31 disposals, 10 contested possessions, eight tackles and six clearances.

Four of the five judges voted for Merrett, with only triple premiership Cat Cameron Ling leaving the Bombers star out of his votes.

Essendon teammate Andrew McGrath finished second with seven votes, while Collingwood star Nick Daicos was third with five votes.

The panel of Collingwood great Dale Thomas, Crows icon Eddie Betts, Geelong great Cameron Ling, football reporter Andrew Wu and football reporter Sarah Black varied significantly in the votes awarded in a game where there were few standout players.

Kane Cornes on Friday said Bombers powerhouse Jake Stringer had been “disrespected” in voting after failing to receive a solitary point despite his early dominance.

“Eleven score involvements he had. I thought he was a little bit disrespected in the voting,” Cornes said on SEN Breakfast.

“He kicked 1.3 and if they (behinds) are three goals, I thought he’d win the medal, but I thought he was so influential. Eleven score involvements, most on the ground.”

The Fox Footy post match panel of Garry Lyon, Nathan Buckley, Jonathan Brown and Jordan Lewis widely agreed with the votes handed out by Betts, but Brown pushed the case of the forwards that could have won the game for their clubs if they’d kicked straight.

Essendon’s Kyle Langford would have been the hero if he’d have kicked his final shot at goal that would have seen him finish with five goals for the match. He received two total votes.

Collingwood’s Brody Mihocek could also have had a bag if it weren’t for his two late misses and finished with three goals from six shots.

“Let’s be honest, goalkickers, if Langford kicks that goal, surely he gets the medal,” Brown said. “

“Five (goals) out of 13.”

West Coast Eagles great Will Schofield was much more critical of the voting panel.

“Some of these votes are hilarious,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Lingy couldn’t squeeze Zach Merrett into the votes and Collingwood had players impact the game more than N Daicos.”

AFLW legend Erin Phillips said Collingwood captain Darcy Moore was a “real chance” to win the medal, but said Essendon’s Nick Martin was her pick.

“The fourth term, he (Martin) has had 10 disposals, two score involvements and a goal when he got pushed forwards,” she said on Triple M moments before the award was announced.

St Kilda great Leigh Montagna responded by saying Stringer had been “enormous”.

“I think it’ll be a Bomber,” Montagna said.

“We know Nick Daicos played OK. Darcy Moore was probably Collingwood’s best, but enough to win the medal? Mihocek had a chance. Three goals, three (behinds). He was enormous and then he sprayed the two late. He could have sewn it up if he could have kicked one or two.

“I think it’ll go to an Essendon player, but I wouldn’t want to be a voter.”

He went on to say: “I’ll go Zach Merrett. Over four quarters I think he had a huge influence on this game, but Jake Stringer wouldn’t be far behind.”

While there has been plenty of debate about the votes handed out, Merrett was still a popular winner.

“What a game,” Merrett told fans at the MCG post-match.

“Darcy, Craig — you guys are amazing. You’ve shown over the last 36 months you’re the best team in the competition. We love and respect you guys so much and we look forward to playing you again later in the year.

“To all the fans – Collingwood, Essendon, neutral – what an amazing day. We’re so grateful to be part of this special day in Australia’s history. Thank you so much for turning out live and watching on TV.

“To our boys, great fight. We took it up to the best team in the comp. We’ll learn a lot of lessons from that and come back better next week.”

Four-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis lauded Merrett’s performance.

“The Zach Merrett of old would always go against traffic to get possessions – and I’m glad he’s got that out of his game,” Lewis told Fox Footy post-match.

“A lot of his possessions now are facing towards goal. He clearly runs the angles and maximises his running patterns and has become a damaging player

“I love his leadership – I think that changed once Brad Scott came in, a little more unselfish.”

FULL ANZAC DAY MEDAL 2024 VOTES

Dale Thomas (Channel Seven – Chairperson)

3. Zach Merrett

2. Nick Martin

1. Nick Daicos

Eddie Betts (Fox Footy)

3. Zach Merrett

2. Nick Daicos

1. Andrew McGrath

Sarah Black (AFL Media)

3. Zach Merrett

2. Darcy Parish

1. Kyle Langford

Cameron Ling (ABC Sport)

3. Andrew McGrath

2. Nick Daicos

1. Kyle Langford

Andrew Wu (The Age)

3. Andrew McGrath

2. Zach Merrett

1. Nick Daicos

Final tally

11 — Zach Merrett

7 — Andrew McGrath

5 — Nick Daicos

2 — Nick Martin, Darcy Parish, Kyle Langford

— with foxsports.com.au

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