Ben Cunnington had an exceptional 2021 season. The statistics say it, the fans say it, the coaches say it, and now the umpires say it.

After finishing with 15 Brownlow votes, Cunnington set a new career best tally for the prestigious award, eclipsing his 2014 total of 13 votes.

But both Cunnington and North Melbourne are far different prospects in 2021 than they were in 2014.

Currently in the early stages of a drastic rebuild, North is coming off a bottom-placed finish, and while exceptional when he played, Cunnington only managed 15 games for the season.

In 2014 however, ‘Cunners’ played every game of the year as North catapulted to a preliminary final place.

Polling 15 votes from 15 games, the inside midfielder has had a historically impressive individual campaign when compared to other bottom finishing sides, with his average of one vote per game the second-highest for a player in a team that finished bottom in the AFL era.

The only man who stands above North’s number 10 this metric is Gary Ablett Jr, who polled 23 votes from 20 games for the Gold Coast Suns in 2011. Andrew Swallow led North’s count that year with 16.

In North’s most recent bottom-placed side, Keith Greig finished with 11 votes from 20 games in 1972, while Barry Cable finished with 19 votes from 20 games in 1970.

Greig would go on to win back to back Brownlow Medals in 1973 and 1974, also taking part in the 1975 premiership success, while Cable played in the 1975 and 1977 premiership sides.

With Tarryn Thomas and Luke Davies-Uniacke rounding out North’s podium of votes, North’s midfield looks to be in good hands heading into 2022.