Gary Ablett’s hopes of a third Brownlow Medal could be in jeopardy after he appeared to elbow Western Bulldog Liam Picken during Gold Coast’s 45-point AFL win on Sunday.
The Suns’ skipper, who was clearly frustrated by the close attention he received from Picken during the first half, seemed to swing his right arm at the Bulldog when the pair lay on the ground in backplay during the second quarter.
The incident wasn’t picked up by any of the on-field officials during the Suns’ 18.11 (119) to 10.14 (74) win but is sure to attract the attention of the match review panel.
Any ban would deny Ablett the chance of adding to his 2009 and 2013 Brownlows.
Ablett was restricted to just eight disposals in the first half of Sunday’s clash, at one point kicking out on the full as he battled to make his usual impact.
The 30-year-old was on the receiving end of a heavy bump with Bulldogs star Adam Cooney in the second term, for which Cooney was placed on report for high contact.
Despite his first half woes, Ablett played a key role with four clearances in the third term as the Suns booted eight goals to turn a six-point halftime advantage into a 53-point three-quarter time lead.
Suns coach Guy McKenna believed his skipper had handled the physical attention from the Bulldogs well.
“That’s testament to him to keep his discipline in those situations,” McKenna said.
“He gets frustrated. He’s got an expectation of how he wants to play and how he wants to lead the side and when he’s denied that, unfairly, all we talk about is he just has to remain cool.
“He’s our captain. He sets a fine example on and off the field and to his credit today, I didn’t see anything but if there was anything undue you wouldn’t have picked that up from Gary.”
The victory lifts the Suns up to third on the ladder with seven wins and two losses, but McKenna wasn’t getting carried away with a tough stretch ahead in the next six weeks.
“I’m probably scarred by Fremantle and Hawthorn (the Suns’ two losses) to be honest,” McKenna said.
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney said his team had battled well but were made to pay for a lack of belief in the third term.
The Suns kicked seven unanswered goals after the halftime break to take the game away from the visitors.
“They just lost a smidgen of belief for five minutes,” he said.
“That was enough to open the door.”
McCartney also felt confident Adam Cooney’s report wouldn’t eventuate into anything more serious with Sydney’s Daniel Hannebery cleared for a similar incident with Essendon’s Michael Hurley last week.
Cooney was reported for high contact after sliding into Ablett as the Sun was crouched over the ball, appearing to make contact with his head as well as catching Ablett’s legs.
“There’ll be more adjudication and more talk about it, but I think there was a nice precedent set last week,” McCartney said.