The Dogs ball magnet emerging as a Brownlow contender
IF THE umpires agree with Caleb Daniel, teammate Jack Macrae will have at least 12 Brownlow votes in the bank already and should be firmly in the mix to win the game's most prestigious individual prize.
The Western Bulldogs star has been one of the best players in the game so far this season and was once again the difference in Saturday night's win over Brisbane at Etihad Stadium.
A week after amassing 40 disposals, 25 contested possessions and 12 clearances against Gold Coast in Ballarat, the 23-year-old was even better under the roof in Docklands.
This time, Macrae touched the ball a career-high 47 times - equalling Ryan Griffen's club record from back in 2012 - including 18 contested possessions, 10 clearances, 10 score involvements, eight tackles and eight inside 50s.
After eight games, only All-Australian guns Rory Laird (34.3) and Tom Mitchell (34.1) are averaging more touches than Macrae (33.9).
He has been everywhere.
"I'd say he has polled three votes in all of our wins, so it's great to see he is getting some reward for the hard pre-season he put in," Daniel said after the Western Bulldogs' 14-point win on Saturday night.
"We are only eight rounds in, but he's definitely in that category [Brownlow Medal] at the moment so there is plenty more of the season to come.
"Last year he was really building. He probably didn't have the start to the year last year, but towards the back end of the year he was absolutely on fire.
"To bring it into the first eight rounds or so he's nearly averaging 40 touches and killing it."
After establishing himself as an outside player during his formative years, the 2016 premiership star has become a more balanced player across the past 18 months, blending his class on the outside with grunt at the coal face.
He is averaging more contested ball (13.8) and more clearances (6.6) than ever before - much more.
And as far as Daniel is concerned, it's a big factor behind Macrae's stellar rise across the first two months of 2018.
"It's great to see that he has the inside and outside mix now," Daniel said.
"He probably started off as more of an outside player when he first came into the footy club, but he's built that really hard grunt that we're seeing.
"He's getting that blend of going in really hard at that footy and winning that contested ball as well as knowing when to let someone else have a crack and get the hands on the outside."