When Robert Harvey won his first Brownlow medal in 1997, the fact Western Bulldogs’ key forward Chris Grant had polled more votes, but was ineligible due to suspension, lit a fuse.
As the rules clearly state, the St Kilda champion had fairly won the games highest individual accolade, despite registering one less vote. But that wasn’t enough; Harvey wanted to prove a point in 1998. And prove a point he did.
Following a brilliant year in 1997, which saw Harvey awarded not only the Brownlow, but also the AFLPA MVP prize, the Trevor Barker Award and an All Australian guernsey, Harvey didn’t sit back and rest on his laurels ahead of 1998.
In fact, as his long-time Captain Danny Frawley revealed to saints.com.au, ahead of Harvey’s elevation to legend status in St Kilda’s Hall of Fame, the stigma of winning the Brownlow without polling the most votes drove Harvey on like never before, causing one of the games hardest ever workers to dig deeper than he ever had.
“The mark of Robert Harvey the competitor was he won his first Brownlow in ’97 and Chris Grant actually got the most votes, but Chris Grant actually got a week’s suspension and was ineligible,” Frawley said.
“So Rob, unbeknown to anybody else had a pre-season that he’s never had before after winning the Brownlow. You’d expect some people to sit back and smoke the cigar, but Rob wanted to go to a new level.
“’98 was an unbelievable year – not only did he win the Brownlow but he won it quite easily because he just didn’t want the doubters to say Rob Harvey won a Brownlow but Chris Grant had more votes.
“The next year he had it blown away by Round 18 – that just says a lot about Rob Harvey. His actions have always spoken louder.
“He walked away from the game absolutely having spent every ounce of energy he had for the red, white and black.”
At the 1998 Brownlow medal count, Harvey left no doubt regarding his status in the game, with the champion midfielder accumulating a staggering 32 votes – the second highest tally ever recorded in the game’s history, to win his second Brownlow medal. Only Collingwood’s Dane Swan has ever polled more with a haul of 34 in 2011.
Across 383 games Harvey polled 215 votes, the second-most in AFL/VFL history behind fellow Brownlow medallist Gary Dempsey on 246 votes (adjusted to 218.5 due to an altered voting system at the time).
With 45 three vote games, Harvey sits just behind two dual Brownlow medallists in Gary Ablett Jnr and Chris Judd on 46. Talk about elite company.