Nat Fyfe appears set to suffer the pain of watching a Brownlow medal slip through his fingers this year, but the star midfielder won’t care one bit as long as Fremantle take home the ultimate prize – an AFL flag.
Gary Ablett’s season-ending shoulder injury has thrown the Brownlow medal race wide open, with Sydney’s Josh Kennedy, Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury, Geelong’s Joel Selwood, and Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak among the contenders.
Fyfe would have been the outright favourite had he not been suspended in round two for a shoulder-to-shoulder bump that resulted in an accidental clash of heads with Gold Coast’s Michael Rischitelli.
Most AFL experts felt Fyfe was unlucky to be banned, with some calling on the AFL to review its policy of ruling suspended players out of the Brownlow race.
Only two players in VFL/AFL history have been robbed of the Brownlow medal due to suspension.
North Melbourne’s Corey McKernan was ineligible to win despite tying with Brisbane’s Michael Voss and Essendon’s James Hird in 1996,
One year later, Bulldogs star Chris Grant topped the voting but had to step aside for St Kilda’s Robert Harvey.
Fyfe has been in the hottest of form this season, averaging 27 possessions and a goal per game.
But individual glory isn’t on the mind of the 22-year-old, who would much rather guide Fremantle to a maiden premiership.
“That incident happened all of the way back in round two – it is what it is,” Fyfe said of his controversial suspension.
“There are only a couple (of players) who have topped the poll and been ineligible, but there are other prizes I have on my mind.
“The biggest challenge I usually have is keeping my body together and getting through the year. So touch wood, I am going pretty well in that area and been able to stack some consistent footy (together).
“But the crunch time starts now.”
Fremantle slipped to fourth spot on the table following their shock 58-point loss against St Kilda a fortnight ago.
Dockers players had the bye week to “stew” over that inept performance, and Fyfe is confident they’ll rebound strongly in Thursday night’s clash with Carlton at Patersons Stadium.
Fremantle will welcome back ruckman Aaron Sandilands (back), midfielder Stephen Hill (leg) and goalsneak Hayden Ballantyne (suspension), while Garrick Ibbotson, Hayden Crozier and Tom Sheridan are also in line for recalls.
“I’m sure the guys who feel they’re on the edge are certainly aware of the pressure that’s coming from underneath, which is really healthy,” Fyfe said.