Dual North Melbourne premiership player Corey McKernan says the AFL will be forced to overhaul the rules surrounding the Brownlow Medal if Fremantle star Nat Fyfe becomes the third ineligible winner.
McKernan and Western Bulldogs games record holder Chris Grant are the only players to have topped the Brownlow count only to miss out on the individual accolade because of suspension.
The 237-game ruckman-key forward feared Fyfe could join the unwanted company this year in the wake of the Dockers midfielder this week surging into the lead in the AFL Coaches Association award.
Fyfe, who received a two-week ban for a contentious bump in round two, moved three votes clear of Gary Ablett in the AFLCA count after Fremantle's win over Melbourne in Darwin on Saturday night.
Yesterday's announcement that Ablett would have shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the season has since blown the Brownlow race wide open, with Fyfe's chances of topping the votes increasing dramatically with seven rounds still to play.
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was installed the $3 favourite by most bookmakers.
McKernan predicted the fairness requirement that prevented players who had received a reprimand or suspension from winning the Brownlow would be looked at if Fyfe won.
"It becomes awkward for everyone involved," McKernan said.
"Potentially you could've had the situation (this year) where Gary Ablett was suspended, Fyfe was suspended and whoever wins it, it becomes a bit of a Steve Bradbury type situation where you're the third or fourth in line and you've won it.
"I don't know what the answer is my personal opinion is it would get revisited and changed if it happens again."
Ablett ran the risk of being ruled ineligible this season after elbowing Western Bulldogs tagger Liam Picken in round 10, but he avoided a penalty.
Betting agency TAB has Fyfe on an estimated 18 votes so far, equal with Pendlebury and six behind Ablett.
McKernan missed out on the award in 1996 after being suspended for one week for kneeing Geelong's John Barnes.
He didn't want to see Fyfe robbed of the award for the incident that prompted the Docker's ban.
Fyfe made legal contact in bumping Gold Coast's Michael Rischitelli in the shoulder in round two, but was penalised because the contact resulted in a clash of heads. Fremantle chose not to contest the case despite it being the first suspension of its kind under a new rule interpretation.
"I know in my instance that I had a lot, what I would call bigger things, to look forward to, that is, playing in a grand final," McKernan said.
"That probably drove me more that particular year.
"Maybe Nat Fyfe gets in that same position where they've lost a grand final last year and all he's probably focused about is going for the little premiership medallion.
"No disrespect to the Brownlow, but I think a lot of players would feel the same."
" it becomes a bit of a situation where you're the third or fourth in line and you've won it."" *Corey McKernan *on this year's Brownlow Medal