THE problem with the Brownlow Medal is that it has become too much like its cricket counterpart. Too few can win it. At least in football the contest is between rival players from different teams, but - just as in cricket - the possibility of success is limited to a very small number. Where the Border Medal is elitist, the Brownlow has become too exclusive.

With the home-and-away season done, and the votes all cast, a quick check of one betting agency's market reveals that only 11 players - a cricket team - are under 50-1 to win. And, surprise, surprise, every one of them is a midfielder.

If you're not in the engine room, you may as well lock up your trophy cabinet and throw away the key. You can kick hundreds of goals, you can be a colossus in the ruck, you can drive star forwards mad week-in, week-out, you can be a springboard to attack out of the back half, you can put your body on the line with utter abandon over and over again, but you won't win the Brownlow.

As we know, it wasn't always thus. And it must be stated that the modern trend in Brownlow outcomes is in parallel with what's happening in virtually every media award. So clearly the root cause is that the game has changed, along with the compilation and emphasis given to statistics, creating a perception that possession-hoarding midfielders are the best and most important players.

But is this the reality to the extent that a decade-and-a-half of Brownlow results would suggest?

Certainly the midfield is the territory on which most games now are won and lost. But that shouldn't necessarily translate to an immutable acceptance that the best midfielder is automatically the best and most important player in the competition.

And bear in mind that midfield ascendancy in any game these days is achieved by a small army. They feed off each other. It's rare, indeed virtually impossible, for a winning team to attain its victory on the back of a solo performance by one member of that army.

In trying to assess the relative importance of player types in the modern game, perhaps a little bit of imaginary schoolyard team pick-up might help. Imagine there are 44 star players available to be selected, turn-about, by the two captains, and they contain playing categories in a proportion to provide typical modern team balance.

So, there would be about 20 midfielders, four specialist tall forwards, four specialist tall defenders, some smaller forwards and defenders, two specialist ruckmen and a couple of pinch-hitting relief types. Which category of player would you choose first?

I'm sure most would opt for the gun tall forward. As it becomes harder by the year for even the best forwards to kick big tallies of goals - Jack Riewoldt's Coleman Medal-winning tally of 65 is the lowest in 47 years - so the value of players who can conjure four or five in a big game grows. To have the best from this category in your team is a big advantage, particularly if he has Lance Franklin-like versatility.

Yet tall forwards - like ruckmen and defenders - struggle to register on the Brownlow Medal scale. Admittedly they fare better than those in the other two groups, but the fact they don't see as much of the ball as their fleet-footed midfield mates means they poll fewer votes.

As for the other groups, well, they have no hope. Matthew Scarlett, one of the game's greatest full-backs, finally got his career vote tally beyond 30 last year. The bad news is his career total, through 268 games, remained lower than Dane Swan's winning score in one season. As for poor old Darren Glass, he might have won his third club champion award in 2011 but it wasn't enough to earn him a single Brownlow vote. He has now won three B&Fs in 12 completed seasons and over the journey the whistle-blowers have awarded him seven votes!

Then there's the best ruckman of the modern era, Dean Cox. Last season he achieved a career-high 18 Brownlow votes and finished in 13th place. In his previous 10 seasons he had averaged a tick below four votes per year. His career tally is 56.

There's something wrong with this. It's not doing justice to the various types of players in what is a game for all sizes. In 1990, the 164-centimetre Tony Liberatore won the Brownlow; the following year it was the turn of the 199-centimetre Jim Stynes. Now, the winners are almost invariably in the 180-190-centimetre band.

Perhaps it's time to consider a revamp of something we've taken for granted for decades. The voting system has never treated all players equally, but now it's giving some of the best absolutely no chance. Maybe a system of greater complexity is required to ensure recognition of each of the playing categories within every match. For the Brownlow Medal to achieve its fullest significance, the likes of Swan, Franklin, Scarlett, and Cox should start on roughly equal terms.

The game has changed. Alas, its gold standard award hasn't changed with it.