Richmond superstar Dustin Martin has won the 2017 Brownlow Medal after guiding the Tigers to their first AFL grand final in 35 years.
The midfielder polled a record 36 votes, narrowly outpolling ineligible Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield (33) and Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell (25).
Last year’s winner Dangerfield was ruled out of contention after being suspended for a dangerous tackle, but the prospect of Martin being outpolled was alive until round 23 when the gun Tiger polled three votes.
The shortest-priced favourite in Brownlow history, Martin becomes the sixth Tiger to win the AFL’s most prestigious individual award.
It adds to a remarkable year for the Tigers, who will break a 35-year drought when they face Adelaide in Saturday’s grand final.
No player in history has won both the Brownlow and Norm Smith medals in the same year but Martin would have to be a huge chance to do just that.
TAB Sportsbet has Martin favourite at $4.75 to be named best afield in the grand final, ahead of Adelaide’s Matt Crouch and Rory Sloane (both $8).
Martin had earlier been recognised by the AFL Players Association and AFL Coaches Association as the competition’s most valuable player.
The question of whether he would exercise his rights as a free agent and find a new home was the AFL’s hottest topic for much of the season.
But Martin refused to let the speculation affect his play, running rampant with his trademark fend-offs and ball-gathering talent for a career-best year.
In a huge boost for the Tigers, the 26-year-old last month signed a new seven-year deal worth about $1.2 million per season.
Martin polled the maximum three votes in 11 games, surpassing the nine-game record of previous winners Dangerfield, Nat Fyfe (2015) and Greg Williams (1994).