Sweet and sour: can Ablett win medal?

Can Gary Ablett win a second Brownlow Medal, while the Suns take the spoon?

Can Gary Ablett win a second Brownlow Medal, while the Suns take the spoon?

GOLD Coast's dismal record in its inaugural AFL season is not in Gary Ablett's favour as he chases a second Brownlow medal, but there is a growing feeling he has had enough standout performances to worry the favourites.

Only two men have taken home ''Charlie'' while consigned to the bottom-placed team, where the Suns look destined to finish. In 1936, Fitzroy centre half-back Denis ''Dinny'' Ryan finished with 26 votes and polled in 10 matches. The Lions had just two wins.

In 1949, Hawthorn half-back flanker Col Austen tied with South Melbourne's Ron Clegg.

Austen, at the time, lost on a countback - a decision overturned in 1989. Austen collected 23 votes and also polled in 10 matches. The Hawks won three. While triple Brownlow medallist Bob Skilton still gives Ablett some hope of topping this year's count, former AFL umpire Derek Humphery-Smith said it was hard ''to assess the level of influence a player has had'' when his team had been heavily beaten.

''He [Ablett] may have racked up a number of stats, because as a gun player his teammates are naturally going to go to him and obviously rely on him to be a playmaker in a team like Gold Coast. But I think it's going to be very difficult when they are being beaten by the margins that they have suffered to see him really figuring highly [in Brownlow voting],'' he said yesterday.

''He will probably poll in more matches than any player if he has had a great season, but I can't see him getting [many] three votes.''

Ablett is averaging 31 disposals, six clearances and a goal per game this season. It's expected he has been adjudged best on ground three times, including in a 50-point loss to Fremantle on Saturday. He is arguably having a better year than 2009 when, as the centrepiece of a premiership team, he averaged 33.8 disposals a game and won the Brownlow by eight votes.

But his hopes could be dashed by the Suns' woeful record, with five maulings by more than 70 points.

Humphery-Smith said in Ablett's favour was that he still caught the eye because he carried the ball and kicked goals. ''That's certainly going to lift his stocks ? but with margins the Gold Coast are suffering, he is going to, at best, get two votes. But more likely he will almost get a sympathy vote for a great effort in a terrible losing margin.''

Skilton, the former South Melbourne rover, says Ablett remains firmly in the mix. Like Ablett, Skilton knows all about the pressures of being the premier player in a struggling side. He won his three Brownlows in teams that finished ninth (eight wins in 1959), 11th (four wins, 1963) and ninth (6? wins, 1968) in a 12-team competition.

But he says that wasn't necessarily a bad thing when it came to attracting votes. ''There is no doubt it's nice to have good players around you. But then, of course, sometimes you find you probably share votes, too.''

That was the case with Collingwood pair Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury last year. Swan finished third and his teammate fourth behind Carlton superstar Chris Judd.

Judd had little competition from his teammates. This year, he has Marc Murphy to contend with. Ablett is unlikely to have that problem.

Media experts also appear divided on how to judge Ablett this season. He is only behind Murphy in The Age's footballer of the year award. Judd, the Brownlow favourite, sits sixth. Yet, in another newspaper award, Ablett isn't in the top 19.

In most Brownlow betting markets, Ablett is fifth-favourite behind Judd, Murphy, Fremantle's Matthew Pavlich and Pendlebury.

Richmond great Matthew Richardson spent many seasons toiling away in poor teams but almost snatched victory in the 2008 count, falling two votes shy of Adam Cooney. The Tigers won 11 games that season.

Richardson doubts whether Ablett can poll enough votes in a losing side. ''If you are losing by 10 goals, the three, two, one [votes] usually go to the winning teams,'' he said.

''I think he will get plenty of two [votes], but [umpires] are normally reluctant to give three to a losing team. I don't remember getting many threes in losing teams.''

Ablett has already achieved much in his career. He is a dual premiership player and dual best-and-fairest winner with Geelong, a four-time All-Australian and captain of the Suns.

But if he was to win the Brownlow this year, it may just be his greatest individual accolade.

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