There was a bit of early excitement for the Crows with Taylor Walker grabbing two best-on-grounds in the first three rounds to storm to seven votes and get his name right amongst the leaders. After Walker's early push it was left to Rory Laird to fly the flag most of the night, polling 16 votes in his first season as a full-time midfielder. Ben Keays' resurrection as a bona fide AFL midfielder continued, consistently voting throughout the evening.

Top five
16 - Rory Laird
11 – Ben Keays
9 – Taylor Walker
5 – Reilly O'Brien
4 – Paul Seedsman

Total votes: 51 (14th overall)

Aliir Aliir and Rory Laird at the 2021 Brownlow Medal. Picture: Getty Images

With 2020 winner Lachie Neale missing a third of the season through injury, there was plenty of votes up for grabs. Neale's trusty midfield offsider Jarryd Lyons caught the umpires' attention to have a career-best year with 23 votes, while it looks like All-Australian squad member Hugh McCluggage hasn't quite caught that knack yet, registering just 10 votes. 

Top five
23 – Jarryd Lyons
14 – Dayne Zorko
10 – Hugh McCluggage
8 – Lachie Neale
6 – Daniel Rich 

Total votes: 80 (sixth overall)

Lachie Neale and Jarryd Lyons share a laugh at Brisbane's 2021 Brownlow Medal function. Picture: AFL Photos

Like Carlton's season, it was Sam Walsh or bust on Brownlow night for the Blues. The emerging superstar finished fourth on an astonishing 30 votes, polling in 12 of his 22 matches. Walsh had a stunning run of 14 votes across six games following the bye, but just dropped off at the end of the season. Key forward Harry McKay polled in five matches, including one best-on effort.

Top five
30 – Sam Walsh
8 – Harry McKay
5 – Patrick Cripps
4 – Ed Curnow
2 – Sam Docherty

Total votes: 52 (13th overall)

Carlton's Sam Walsh at the 2021 Brownlow Medal event in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images

A tough season for the Pies was reflected in the vote count. Jack Crisp's fine year recognised as the top vote-getter for the club, polling consistently throughout the season. Skipper Scott Pendlebury was named best-afield for coach Nathan Buckley's final game, while Jordan De Goey didn't trouble the umpires until round eight, but featured a few times after the bye.

Top five
11 – Jack Crisp
9 – Jordan De Goey
9 – Brodie Grundy
6 – Scott Pendlebury
5 – Taylor Adams

Total votes: 45 (16th overall)

Darcy Parish had only polled two votes before this season but his belated move into the midfield led to a breakout season that was capped off with a top-five Brownlow finish. Parish polled in 10 matches including a streak of four best-on-grounds in rounds 9-12. Proven vote-winner Zach Merrett earned a career-best tally as did Jake Stringer for his impactful second-half to the season. First-year Bomber Peter Wright and emerging ruck Sam Draper each picked up votes in a couple of matches.

Top five
26 - Darcy Parish
20 - Zach Merrett
8 - Jake Stringer
5 - Peter Wright
4 - Sam Draper

Total votes: 78 (seventh overall)

The evergreen David Mundy arguably had a career-best year at 36 (and quite possibly found the fountain of youth), polling his best-ever result of 20 votes. Young gun Andrew Brayshaw looks to be a worthy successor when Mundy eventually hangs up the boots, coming second for the Dockers. Sean Darcy's seven included two lots of three, while two-time winner Nat Fyfe polled three votes in an injury-hit year. 

Top five
20 – David Mundy
10 – Andrew Brayshaw
7 – Sean Darcy
7 – Rory Lobb
5 – Caleb Serong

Total votes: 61 (equal 10th overall)

David Mundy with Sally at the 2021 Brownlow Medal. Picture: AFL Photos

Cameron Guthrie continued his strong vote-winning form from last year and topped the Cats’ leaderboard for the first time. Joel Selwood polled well after a couple of lean years by his elite Brownlow standards and with 210 now sits equal-seventh with Chris Judd on the all-time votes list. Tom Stewart reminded the Cats of his importance with a high tally for a key defender after polling in five matches before injuring his foot and missing the end of the season.

Top five
18 - Cameron Guthrie
9 - Joel Selwood
8 - Tom Stewart
6 - Jeremy Cameron, Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins, Brandan Parfitt

Total votes: 83 (fifth overall)

The only genuine interest heading into the night was how many votes ineligible All-Australian Touk Miller could get. After a slow start (just one vote in the first six rounds), he got rolling to end up with 17 for the night. Second-year midfielder Noah Anderson pinched some votes off his more experienced teammate, being adjudged best on ground in wins over North Melbourne in round two and Sydney in round six.

Top five
17 – Touk Miller
8 – Noah Anderson
5 – Brandon Ellis
3 – Charlie Ballard
3 – Ben King

Total votes: 44 (17th overall)

David Swallow and Georgia Homer arrive ahead of the 2021 Brownlow Medal function in Brisbane. Picture: AFL Photos

The Giants’ midfield helped drive them to a semi-final this season and were rewarded at the Brownlow count with career-highs for Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper. It is the first time Hopper in particular has truly caught the eye of the umpires after collecting only five votes in total in previous years but polling in nine matches this season. Josh Kelly equalled his second-best career count and veteran Callan Ward polled his first votes since 2018.

Top five
15 - Tim Taranto
15 - Jacob Hopper
11 - Josh Kelly
8 - Callan Ward
6 - Tom Green, Toby Greene, Lachie Whitfield

Total votes: 71 (eighth overall)

Stephen Coniglio and Rebecca Demlakian at the Brownlow Medal. Picture: Getty Images

While Jaeger O'Meara started the night earning votes early and earning them often, Tom Mitchell finished it like the proverbial steam train to storm into the top 10. O'Meara polled in four of the first six rounds, but it was what 2018 winner Mitchell did after the round 12 bye that turned heads. The inside midfield ball magnet racked up a remarkable 20 votes in the second half of the season, including six best-ons. 

Top five
25 – Tom Mitchell
11 – Jaeger O'Meara
8 – Chad Wingard
3 - Jacob Koschitzke
2 – Jonathon Ceglar
2 – Changkuoth Jiath

Total votes: 53 (12th overall)

Tom Mitchell chat with Jack Steele at the 2021 Brownlow Medal event in Melbourne. Picture: AFL Photos

Top five

31 – Clayton Oliver
23 – Christian Petracca
16 – Max Gawn
8 – Tom McDonald
5 – Jake Lever

Total votes: 96 (first overall)

Melbourne duo Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca at the 2021 Brownlow Medal. Picture: AFL Photos

The wooden spooners claimed the lowest number of votes as a team and relied on gun midfielder Ben Cunnington for a fair portion of those. It was the 30-year-old’s career-best count as Cunnington ended with an average of a vote a game. Emerging midfielders Tarryn Thomas and Luke Davies-Uniacke were each recognised for a couple of good performances but Jy Simpkin could only catch the umpires’ eye for one vote and even missed out when gathering 38 disposals and 14 clearances in the Kangaroos’ breakthrough win over Hawthorn. 

Top five
15 - Ben Cunnington
5 - Tarryn Thomas
4 - Luke Davies-Uniacke
3 - Aaron Hall, Nick Larkey, Jaidyn Stephenson

Total votes: 39 (18th overall)

He started the night as one of the favourites and Ollie Wines finished it as a Brownlow medallist with a staggering 36 votes. In contention all night, Wines led with 11 votes through six rounds and was never far from the action. With evergreen Travis Boak also polling strongly right throughout, Port trailed only Melbourne for the most votes for a club. 

Top five
36 – Ollie Wines
25 – Travis Boak
11 – Karl Amon
7 – Aliir Aliir
5 – Dan Houston

Total votes: 91 (second overall)

Port Adelaide's 2021 Brownlow medallist, Ollie Wines. Picture: Getty Images

Despite missing the last five games of the season with a nasty kidney injury, Dustin Martin was the top vote-getter in the reigning premier's disappointing season. Martin polled three best-afields, including in the first two rounds of the season. Veteran Jack Riewoldt showed there's plenty left in the tank, while 14 Tigers polled, including key backs David Astbury and Dylan Grimes.

Top five

11 – Dustin Martin
8 – Jack Riewoldt
5 – Shai Bolton
3 – Trent Cotchin, Jack Graham, Bachar Houli, Kane Lambert, Toby Nankervis

Total votes: 46 (15th overall)

Jack Steele came home with a bullet, polling an incredible 16 votes after the Saints' bye in round 14. Unfortunately for the star co-captain, he left his run too late, finishing an impressive equal-fifth overall. Curiously, Luke Dunstan, who is set to depart the club, polled the second-most votes for St Kilda. Thirteen Saints attracted the attention of the umpires, including mid-season rookie recruit Cooper Sharman – who started the year playing SANFL reserves – in round 23.

Top five
26 – Jack Steele
11 – Luke Dunstan
5 – Brad Crouch
4 – Bradley Hill, Zak Jones, Rowan Marshall

Total votes: 68 (ninth overall)

Jack Steele at the 2021 Brownlow Medal function in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images

Callum Mills had only polled five votes before this season when he mostly played as a defender but a full-time move into the midfield helped him stand out and top the Swans’ leaderboard. The 24-year-old was best-on-ground in two of the opening three rounds then in another three matches throughout the season before being sidelined with an Achilles injury. Luke Parker polled double-digits for the sixth consecutive season, while ruck recruit Tom Hickey went from earning a single vote across his previous 10 seasons to then polling in his first three matches as a Swan.
Top five
18 - Callum Mills
17 - Luke Parker
8 - Lance Franklin
8 - Isaac Heeney
8 - Josh Kennedy

Total votes: 84 (fourth overall)

Dom Sheed and Tim Kelly topped the Eagles’ leaderboard for a second consecutive season, with Sheed’s consistency earning him votes in seven matches and Kelly relying on three best-on-ground displays. Kelly now has 58 career votes from 85 matches across four seasons. Oscar Allen was rewarded for his strong start to the season with three votes in two matches, while Nic Naitanui again barely polled despite being selected in the Therabody AFL All-Australian team. 

Top five
13 - Dom Sheed
10 - Tim Kelly
9 - Andrew Gaff
6 - Oscar Allen
5 - Nic Naitanui 

Total votes: 61 (equal 10th overall)

Dom Sheed and Brooke Parker at the 2021 Brownlow Medal. Picture: Getty Images

It didn't take long for Marcus Bontempelli to establish he was going to be right there until the death. He had 10 votes through six rounds and got on a huge roll either side of the bye to charge to lead with 27 votes after round 15. Despite having more disposals than any player in a single season, Jack Macrae was forced to play second fiddle to Bontempelli, notching a quiet 14 votes.

Top five
33 – Marcus Bontempelli
14 – Jack Macrae
8 – Bailey Smith
7 – Adam Treloar
5 – Josh Bruce

Total votes: 85 (third overall)

Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli at the 2021 Brownlow Medal count. Picture: AFL Photos