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As the AFL world awaits the prognosis on Gary Ablett’s shoulder injury, let’s take a look at how this could affect this year’s Brownlow Medal and the Gold Coast Suns’ finals chances.
Ablett is the raging favourite to claim a third Brownlow Medal this year, with his countless best-on-ground honours helping the Gold Coast Suns to what is so far their most successful season.
His chances of becoming the first repeat medallist since Robert Harvey in 1997-8 took a sharp turn when he dislocated his shoulder under the tackle of Brent Macaffer in the third quarter of the Suns’ five-point victory over Collingwood on Saturday night.
It was the first serious injury of his long and distinguished career which contains an endless list of achievements, including two premiership medallions with Geelong, two Brownlow Medals and universal respect from the AFL community.
His departure from the game, coupled with injuries to Charlie Dixon, Trent McKenzie and Sean Lemmens could not stop the Suns upsetting the Pies at home for the second consecutive year.
Their five-point victory over the Pies marked their ninth for the season, bettering last year’s effort when they won eight matches. With seven rounds left before the finals, there is more than enough time for the Suns to lock up their first ever finals berth.
But while it is inevitable they may have to do it without Gary Ablett, the big question that their fans want answered is just how long he will be out for. The prognosis to his injury could range from at least four weeks to the rest of the season.
It would be a huge blow to the Suns’ chances of reaching the finals for the first time, however, they have emerged through what many believed was their toughest stretch of matches between their Round 11 loss to Adelaide at the Oval and last week’s win over the Pies.
The Suns also recorded an impressive 40-point win over Geelong with Ablett, in tandem with best-on-ground Harley Bennell, plotting the downfall of the club with which he won two premierships and his first Brownlow Medal.
Ablett was also best on ground with 45 touches in their 53-point loss to Hawthorn in Launceston last week.
In the final seven weeks of the season, the Suns will host St Kilda, Port Adelaide and West Coast at home, while they will travel away for matches against the Western Bulldogs (in Cairns), Brisbane Lions, Carlton and Essendon.
Given the Suns’ impressive form this season, there is the chance they could win at least half of those games, which should be enough for them to qualify for the finals for the first time in their history.
However, if the Suns are to keep their finals chances alive, they must start winning matches without their inspirational captain, who has missed only six matches since relocating from Geelong at the end of the 2010 season.
Not surprisingly, the Suns have lost all six matches in which Ablett has missed since joining the club in 2011. This includes their worst-ever loss in the AFL, when they lost to Geelong by 150 points late that season.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the other favourites who could win this year’s Brownlow.
Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury, the Sydney Swans’ Josh Kennedy and Geelong captain Joel Selwood are among the contenders, while Port Adelaide’s Chad Wingard could also emerge as the dark horse given his role in their rise from basket cases to premiership contenders.
But there is also the chance that Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe might lead the voting at the end of Round 23, however he is ineligible due to suspension.
If that were to occur, he would become the first ineligible leader at season’s end since Chris Grant in 1997. It was on that occasion in which Robert Harvey won the first of his two consecutive Brownlow Medals.
It’s possible, however that Gary Ablett may all but have a third Medal wrapped up by this point. According to @BrownlowPredict on Twitter, he is projected to be on 25 votes after Round 15, three best-on-grounds ahead of Collingwood’s Pendlebury.
No player has won the Medal with 25 or fewer votes since Ben Cousins won it in 2005 tallying just 20 votes.
But as the saying goes, anything could happen between now and then.
The news of Ablett’s first serious injury in such a distinguished career has not only blown the betting wide open but it could also lure the chasers in the pack to perform well over the last seven rounds of the season.
I will provide an analysis into your team’s run home starting with Round 17 this week.