The news that Gary Ablett would miss the rest of the season as a result of surgery caused a flurry among bookmakers to reframe their Brownlow Medal markets. And even though the Gold Coast captain could theoretically still win the award despite being absent for the final seven home and away games, the medal has a new favourite.
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury firmed from $7 before Ablett's injury to $3.25 on Wednesday afternoon with Sportingbet.
Ablett had been a $1.60 favourite heading into last Saturday's game against Collingwood, but has eased to $6 second favourite, with Sydney's Josh Kennedy on the next line of betting having come in from $10 to $6.50.
Sportingbet analysts have Ablett six votes clear of Pendlebury at present, who is half a vote clear of ineligible Fremantle star Nathan Fyfe. Fyfe was suspended for two matches for a rough conduct charge in round two.
Ablett won last year's Brownlow with 28 votes, the lowest winning total since the Bulldogs' Adam Cooney won with 24 in 2008. Sportingbet estimates the Suns captain is sitting on 24 votes.
Brownlow night now looms as a one-day cricket-style chase, as the challengers to Ablett's crown will know his final tally two-thirds of the way through the evening. From that point on, the contenders will face off ispon a bid to topple the master midfielder in the remaining seven weeks.
Ablett leads The Age Footballer of the Year award with 91 votes, while Fyfe sits atop the AFL Coaches' Association Most Valuable Player ladder with 75 votes. Both awards allow a player to poll up to 10 votes per game, compared with a maximum of three per game in the Brownlow.
Ablett will have to defy history if he is to claim a record-equalling third medal. No player has missed more than six games and still triumphed. That feat was achieved 84 years ago by Richmond's Stan Judkins, who polled seven votes to win the Brownlow in a three-way tie with Footscray's Allan Hopkins and Collingwood's Harry Collier. The low-winning total was the result of a system in which umpires gave just one vote every game to the best player on the ground. Stranger still was the reason Judkins played so few games in 1930: He was dropped five weeks out from the finals.
Ablett won his first Brownlow in 2009, and has finished no lower than 7th in any count since 2007. He is likely to this year move into third position on the all-time Brownlow votes tally, behind only Gary Dempsey and Robert Harvey.
In Gold Coast's three completed seasons, he has 75 votes to his name. The next best Suns player is Harley Bennell with 13.