Unless Collingwood star on-baller Dane Swan can rekindle the startling form that he crashed into 2011 with, the prestigious medal is headed back to Chris Judd’s mantle piece or his teammate Marc Murphy’s or Pies play-maker Scott Pendlebury.
Pendlebury and Judd have made appreciable pushes in recent outings to close an extensive early gap on contenders set by Murphy.
After 18 rounds and with Judd and Murphy still to contend with their second bye of the season in Round 23, Pendlebury should lead the Brownlow votes tally.
On my weekly allocation of votes from all games, generally also trying to get inside the umpire’s heads on who they will favour out of relative match performances, Pendlebury has just slipped ahead of Murphy and Judd.
Western Bulldogs first-year captain Matthew Boyd also stays in touch with the leaders but has not been as prominent in recent outings as his flying start to the season.
Big ball-winning Hawthorn link-man Sam Mitchell is ineligible to win the 2011 medal and continues to rack up votes on his incredible average of 32 touches a game.
Judd remains a $2.50 favourite with top on-line bookmakers sportsbet.com.au with Murphy $5.50 and Pendlebury $8.50.
Gold Coast champion and 2009 winner Gary Ablett is next at $14 and West Coast veteran ruckman Dean Cox and early season favourite Dane Swan at $18.
Judd, who was somewhat of a surprise winner last season to add to his 2004 win, has dominated his past few engagements with potential best-afield outings against Essendon in Round 18 and Richmond in Round 15.
The stunning Blues pack-breaker and play-maker could well have also picked up higher votes than when Murphy was at his finest over the open month of the new season.
Depending on which way umpires spread their voting among Judd and Murphy as the Blues marched out with five wins and a draw in their opening seven engagements before a Round 8 bye could ultimately decide this year’s Brownlow.
But Pendlebury has guaranteed a possible late closing on the Blues pair with his stunning mid-season run and then his past three outings when the smooth as silk follower could well have gathered successive best-afield voting allocations.
Swan’s 39-possession dominance when the Pies ruthlessly smashed North Melbourne to the tune of a record-breaking 117-points in Round 16 probably gets the top votes.
But the 23-year-old Pendlebury should get top votes for his impeccably polished Round 17 display when the Pies held off Judd and Murphy’s Blues at the MCG and again last week up on the Gold Coast to trounce the Suns by nine goals.
Pendlebury hardly wasted a disposal among his 26 possessions against the Blues and should get top votes ahead of Judd’s imposing 35 collections which included a typically hard-earned 23 contested possessions.
Pendlebury will again by among the higher votes against the Suns with his clean 34 disposals and should vie with 2009 winner and serial match dominator Gary Ablett.
Despite plenty of debate surrounding Ablett’s chances to head this year’s count from a struggling side, with the Suns only having won three games and possibly only notching another victory or two at best, the stunning on-baller and clearances master will be hampered with lower allocations rather than the important three’s.
Kim HAGDORN’S Brownlow Watch after Round 18
Scott PENDLEBURY (Collingwood) 23 votes
Marc MURPHY (Carlton) 22 votes
Matthew BOYD (Western Bulldogs) 19 votes
Chris JUDD (Carlton), Sam MITCHELL (Hawthorn) 18 votes
Dane SWAN (Collingwood) 17 votes
Brent MOLONEY (Melbourne) 15 votes
Ryan O’KEEFE (Sydney) 14 votes
Nick DAL SANTO (St Kilda), Daniel WELLS (North Melbourne) 13 votes
Gary ABLETT (Gold Coast), Brendon Goddard (St Kilda), Dean COX (West Coast), Matthew Pavlich (Fremantle), Ryan GRIFFEN (Western Bulldogs) 12 votes
Scott THOMPSON (Adelaide), James KELLY (Geelong), Nat FYFE (Fremantle), Andrew Embley (West Coast) 11 votes
Jobe WATSON (Essendon) 10 votes