Fremantle star Andrew Brayshaw has entered rare territory this season, emerging as arguably the best two-way midfielder in the competition and putting himself on track to achieve a statistical feat typically reserved for only one player a season.
Brayshaw has moved to the top of AFL.com.au’s Brownlow Medal predictor after his best afield performance against Brisbane on Sunday, as well as climbing to equal second in the AFL Coaches Association Award.
The 22-year-old is now sitting comfortably among the game’s leading midfielders, but there is a statistical combination that separates him from the AFL’s superstars, including Brownlow Medal contenders Clayton Oliver, Lachie Neale, Patrick Cripps and Christian Petracca.
Brayshaw is the only player among them to average both 30 possessions or more (30.6) and at least six tackles (6.1), with his elite pressure points (56.1) also ranking No.1 among that group.
Throw in midfield jets Callum Mills and Touk Miller, who fill the remaining top-six positions on the 2022 Brownlow Medal Predictor, and Brayshaw is still unmatched.
His only challenger so far this season when it comes to judging the best two-way midfielders is Adelaide’s Rory Laird, who is also having an excellent season and averaging 32.1 disposals and 7.1 tackles.
To put the pair’s achievements after 12 rounds into context, only one player each season since 2015 has averaged more than 30 disposals and six tackles for the year.
2021: Touk Miller (Gold Coast) – 31.8 disposals and 7.1 tackles
2020: Clayton Oliver (Melbourne) – 25.0 and 5.4 in shortened matches
2019: Clayton Oliver (Melbourne) – 30.1 and 6.3
2018: Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn) – 35.3 and 6.3
2017: Tom Mitchell (Hawthorn) – 35.7 and 6.5
2016: Adam Treloar (Collingwood) – 30.6 and 6.3
2015: Josh Kennedy (Sydney) – 30.5 and 6.2
You have to go back to 2014, when both Brisbane midfielder Tom Rockliff (32.7 and 9.1) and Geelong superstar Gary Ablett Jnr (32.1 and 6.1) achieved the combination, to find two players in one season with such a strong two-way game.
In 2022, Brayshaw is delivering on teammate Sean Darcy’s pre-season prediction that he was ready to “take over” the competition this year.
Sticking with the comparison to the other top Brownlow Medal contenders this year, he is clearly a less contested player when matched with Neale, Oliver, Miller and Cripps.
But his speed and agility at stoppages is helping him quickly get to the outside and receive handballs from teammates, racking up uncontested possessions (19.8) and playing a key role in scoring chains.
His inside 50s (5.8) and meters gained (460.8) both rank elite this season, and he holds his own with the game’s best midfielders for score involvements (6.0).
Asked on Sunday to describe Brayshaw’s season and how he had improved, Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir said the midfielder was reaping the benefits from his elite training standards.
“He does extras, more than anyone at the club. Him, Caleb (Serong), Sean Darcy, (Lloyd) Meek and these types of players, and it’s really shining out in their games,” the coach said.
“Their ability in the contest, and to use their hands is because of the work they’re doing with their coaches during the week.
“He’s leading by example on and off the field. I rate him really highly and you’re just really confident as a coach that you know what you’re going to get from him.”