ONLY five best and fairest winners in AFL history played a lower percentage of games in a season before winning their club award than Gold Coast champion Gary Ablett did in 2017.
The Suns champion locked in his sixth best and fairest award with 126 votes despite playing just 14 of the 22 games (or 63 per cent) in a shock result.
Despite some consternation about the result the little master earned the award on merit, although the voting system the Gold Coast used helped Ablett's cause.
That system rewards outstanding performances more than consistency, with the coach and four assistant coaches awarding a maximum of five votes to an unlimited number of players each game.
It meant that a brilliant game from Ablett – who polled 126 votes for the season – could earn a maximum of 25 votes (or more realistically 12 to 18 votes) and give him a head start on those putting together consistent but not outstanding efforts.
Ablett ended up 22 votes ahead of David Swallow, who played 18 games in a remarkable return to football after missing 2016, recording the lowest winning tally since the Suns began in 2011.
Coincidentally, the most recent of the dozen players to win a best and fairest award despite playing fewer than 70 per cent of the season's games was Ablett's father, Gary, who played 15 of 22 games for Geelong in 1984 to win the best and fairest ahead of John Mossop.
It was Ablett Sr's only best and fairest in his illustrious career.
Two players, Tigers' legend Jack Dyer and South Melbourne wingman Danny Wheelahan, won their club's best and fairests after playing just 50 per cent of games in their winning year.
Dyer was 18 when he won Richmond's 1932 best and fairest despite playing just 10 games. A knee injury kept him out of the Tigers' premiership team.
Essendon legend Albert Thurgood won the club best and fairest in 1901 despite playing just 10 of 19 games although unlike Dyer he played in the club's premiership that season.
Carlton forward Horrie Clover won the Blues' 1929 best and fairest after playing just 11 games, including two finals while triple Brownlow medallist Bob Skilton won the sixth of his nine best and fairests after playing just 10 games for South Melbourne in 1964.
Then came Ablett Jr's effort, the first this century, equalling former Cat Geoff Mahon, who also played 63 per cent of games before winning the 1946 best and fairest.
It puts him in rare company, just ahead of Fabulous Phil Carman's memorable debut season with the Magpies in 1975 when he kicked 41 goals and was just three votes short of winning the Brownlow Medal despite playing just 15 games for the season.
Least games in season to win best and fairest
|% Games Played||Name (club)||Year||Games/Season Games||Finishing Place|
|50||Jack Dyer (Richmond)||1932||10/20||Premiers|
|50||Danny Wheelahan (South Melbourne)||1929||9/18||8th|
|53||Albert Thurgood (Essendon)||1901||10/19||Premiers|
|55||Horrie Clover (Carlton)||1929||11/20||3rd|
|56||Bob Skilton (South Melbourne)||1964||10/18||11th|
|63||Geoff Mahon (Geelong)||1946||12/19||10th|
|63||Gary Ablett Jr (Gold Coast)||2017||14/22||17th|
|65||Phil Carman (Collingwood)||1975||15/23||5th|
|67||John Gill (Essendon) 1954||1954||12/18||6th|
|67||George Lambert* (Fitzroy)||1909||12/18||6th|
|67||Bill Stephen (Fitzroy)||1954||12/18||11th|
|68||Gary Ablett Sr (Geelong)||1984||15/22||6th|
* denotes equal best and fairest winner
Club Champion 2017 Top 10
Gary Ablett (126 votes)
David Swallow (106)
Jack Martin (104)
Tom Lynch (101)
Aaron Hall (97)
Jarryd Lyons (91)
Jarrod Harbrow (79)
Touk Miller (70)
Steven May (66)
Adam Saad (64)