Dusty, Danger neck and neck in race for AFL best: Ling
IT MIGHT not be the race that stops a nation, but when it comes to the battle for just who the best player in the competition is, Cameron Ling reckons it's a photo finish.
Who crosses the line first: Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield or Richmond gun Dustin Martin?
"I don't know horse racing well enough, but those two are Black Caviar versus Winx," said the Geelong premiership skipper and now All-Australian selector and Channel 7 commentator.
But, while it's neck and neck, it's Martin's neck that will be the focus tonight when - ironically - it will be Dangerfield, as last year's winner, that is expected to drape the Brownlow Medal over his head.
Whichever midfield behemoth is considered the best, both will have earned the league's highest individual honour. Martin is an unbackable favourite at $1.05.
Dangerfield can't win after being suspended for a dangerous tackle on Carlton's Matthew Kreuzer.
"Dangerfield won the Brownlow last year in one of the best (individual) years and he's been better than that (this year)," Ling said. "But, unbelievably, I think Dusty has been even better for his team."
Dangerfield polled 35 votes last season to claim 'Charlie', surpassing Dane Swan's previous record of 34 in one season. He also equalled the record most three-voters - nine - set the previous season by Nat Fyfe.
Martin may yet notch double figures. He was arguably best-afield in 13 of the Tigers' 16 home-and- away wins, and registered at least 30 possessions and kicked multiple goals in seven of them - a recipe for Brownlow success.
He polled 25 votes in 2016 when Richmond won just eight games.
Ling is an unabashed Danger fan - "loved him almost from day one", he said. But, like the rest of the footy going public, he's been won over by Dusty's relentless attack on the footy and ability to burst away from opponents - usually after throwing out a stiff arm.
"The special ones are the ones who can win their own ball, win the hard-contested ball and explode into space as well, break the game open," Ling said.
"You've got outstanding ones who are brilliant in close, so creative with their hands ... Sam Mitchell, Brett Ratten. You get the unbelievable ones who are brilliant on the outside who can cut you to ribbons with their pace.
"But then you get ones that can do both like (Gary) Ablett and (Chris) Judd ... and Dusty Martin now. They are the truly rare ones, the truly great ones."
And Martin just might get one-up on Dangerfield this Saturday by claiming a premiership medal too.