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Brownlow Medal race shaping as a classic with Ablett, Franklin and Heppell in the frame

Despite sustaining this season-ending injury in round 16, Gary Ablett is still second favourite in the odds for the Brownlow Medal.

Despite sustaining this season-ending injury in round 16, Gary Ablett is still second favourite in the odds for the Brownlow Medal. Photo: Getty Images

It’s been 43 years since football last boasted a triple Brownlow medallist, and when Gary Ablett’s season ended seven weeks ago you would have taken very short odds on that number becoming 44.

That, however, was before this year’s prize for the AFL’s best-and-fairest player threatened to become known as the “Bradbury Brownlow”, such is the toll being taken on the competition’s prize assets.

And the result appears that Ablett’s quest for a big slice of football history is back on. In some betting markets, Ablett’s price actually shortened over the weekend after a couple of other fancies bit the dust.

Odd for the Brownlow Medal.

Odd for the Brownlow Medal.

Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury didn’t even make it to the starting line on Saturday night because of a corkie. And earlier on, Sydney midfield workhorse Josh Kennedy was subbed out in the second quarter with hamstring trouble.

We’ve already seen much discussion about the possibility of a third ineligible player topping the vote count on Brownlow night after Nat Fyfe’s unfortunate two-game suspension in round two for an accidental head clash with Gold Coast’s Michael Rischitelli.

You could look at the casualty list and on a superficial level wonder whether the 2014 medal might end up looking a little less-lustrous than its predecessors. The reality, however, is that this year’s Brownlow win might indeed be one for the ages.

The wrap.

The wrap.

If Ablett gets over the line with enough votes racked up from 15 games, no winner will have taken out the medal having played fewer games since that last triple medallist, Ian Stewart, played just 14 to win his first in 1965. And Stewart’s rivals, remember, in a shorter season could play no more than 18.

But if Ablett doesn’t get there, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to see someone remarkable stepping up on the Brownlow stage. Particularly if it happens to be a certain big-name key forward from Sydney.

The “midfielders’ medal” knock on the Brownlow has been pretty hard to argue with given the last player to win one without having spent the vast bulk of their game time around the centre square was Essendon back-pocket Gavin Wanganeen  in 1993.

But Lance Franklin’s nine-goal haul against St Kilda on Saturday cut his price to $15, behind only Joel Selwood, Ablett, Pendlebury, Kennedy, Dyson Heppell and Matt Priddis.

“Buddy” would be the first key forward to win the medal since Tony Lockett in 1987. It’s not encouraging history, but then Franklin is hardly your orthodox key forward.

Not only has he kicked five goals or more in a game five times this season, four times he’s managed multiple goals plus swags of 20-plus disposals. With Franklin, the umpires are seeing a lot more than just mark and kick.

Franklin finished four votes behind the winner  in 2008 (although ineligible) when he won the Coleman Medal with 102 goals. But he’s won more of the ball this season than then, laid a lot more tackles and, if anything, is an even more conspicuous presence given his gifts and lofty status have been uppermost in the umpires’ minds for 10 years now.

And another big mover in the Brownlow market over the weekend would provide another great story as well.

Essendon’s Dyson Heppell now sits behind only Selwood, Ablett, Pendlebury and Kennedy in the betting. Of that quartet, Kennedy is the least experienced, in his seventh season of AFL football and with 131 games under his belt.

Heppell, only 22, is in his fourth season and his best-on-ground performance against West Coast on Saturday was only his 82nd game. 

To put it in context, Chris Judd, who won his first medal with West Coast in 2004 after only 68 games, is the only Brownlow winner since 1996, when the still-young pair of Michael Voss and James Hird won the award, to have played less than at least 90 games.

Heppell was the AFL’s Rising Star in 2011, finished top three in the Bombers' best and fairest in both 2012 and last year, but in 2014 has clearly gone to another level.

When skipper Jobe Watson went over against Greater Western Sydney in round 12, the call went out for his support midfielders to go up a cog. Heppell has, now averaging 28.4 disposals a game and only once in those 10 games has had fewer than 22.

No game in that period underlined Heppell's continued growth better than Saturday’s, when he was effectively curtailed by West Coast’s Mark Hutchings in the first half, held to just 10 possessions, but cut loose in the second to pick up another 29 and drag his team over the line.

A triple Brownlow medallist who missed a third of the season? A key forward whose high-profile transfer to a second club was being questioned only a few months ago? A young man who won’t reach the 100-game milestone until late next year?

All would be unusual and terrific Brownlow Medal tales in a season in which, even when it comes to individual honours, there’s been more than odd departure from the accepted script.



You won't find this column claiming that umpiring decisions determine the outcome of games. But while I think the umpiring is generally tracking well enough in 2014, the flaws still need to be identified.

And perhaps there may be one creeping into officiating not only on the ground, but up in the box as well. Certainly if you took at least three instances on the weekend of officials, let's say, exceeding their brief.

The first, and most controversial, was Brendan Hosking's decision as non-controlling umpire to award a free kick to Geelong's Allen Christensen in the dying stages of the Cats' nail-biter over Carlton.

While allowing the umpire not in control of play to call a free kick has helped pick up plenty of previously undetected infringements, the convention has been that they need to be pretty blatant breaches.

Umpires' coach Hayden Kennedy has already conceded Carlton's Sam Docherty's contact with Christensen didn't warrant a free kick. But you'd hope he'll also be telling his men that if they're going to blow the whistle from outside your zone, it needs to be for something far more obvious.

Just as puzzling were a couple of score review decisions, namely those to overturn a goal from Essendon's Brendon Goddard, and one from Adelaide's Rory Sloane.

In the first case, the vision didn't appear to indicate the ball had crossed the goal line before Goddard pulled it back. And in the second, a dozen-odd replays of Sloane's snap didn't reveal any conclusive evidence it had brushed the goalpost.

Conclusive is the key word here. And none of these examples were anything like the sort. Let's not get too trigger happy on the line-ball calls, guys.


There's been many times over his 12-year AFL career that Essendon veteran Jason Winderlich might have contemplated pulling the pin.

But it still came as a comparative surprise when he announced he was doing just that the other week. And it's also a decision the Bombers must be thinking long and hard about attempting to reverse. Winderlich has run the gamut of injuries, a serious back problem, a knee reconstruction, a long catalogue of soft tissue complaints.

But he's still only 29, and his performance as the ''go-to'' man in a rejigged Bomber forward set-up on Saturday underlined just how important are not only his natural ability, but football smarts.

If the Dons manage to make the eight and win a final, Winderlich could finish the season with his equal second-highest game tally of those dozen seasons. And while Essendon has decent talent on its list, it has few if any players with a better football brain, something increasingly at a premium in the AFL.

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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