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Three, two, one

2011 Brownlow Blue Carpet We chat with players and their partners as they head into the Brownlow Medal Awards
Dane Swan celebrates winning the 2011 Brownlow Medal with girlfriend Taylor Wilson
THE PALLADIUM Room at Crown was checked out in blue and the theme of the night was threes.

Before the count, a video montage was played featuring famous Australian sportsmen who did things in three - Glen Boss, who rode Makybe Diva to three Melbourne Cups, John Newcombe (three Wimbledon titles), Leigh Matthews (coached three flags) and Bob Skilton (three Brownlow Medals) were among those featured.

The anticipation was palpable. History was surely in the making. It all pointed to Carlton skipper Chris Judd winning his third Brownlow. Or perhaps, Adam Goodes.

Well, we got the history, but not the sort we anticipated. We got Collingwood's Dane Swan winning the Brownlow with 34 votes, the most by any player in the era of 3-2-1 voting.

We also got the result we were supposed to have last year, when Swan was the overwhelming favourite. He looked crushed this time last year, not because he didn't win but because of the overwhelming expectation that he would. He got his consolation 12 days later when the Magpies eventually won the flag, but he did it tough on the night.

And for that reason alone, he was a popular winner. And, it turned out, a convenient winner. For the elephant in the room most of the night was Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell, who was ineligible for the award and polled 30 votes. One can only imagine the furore had Mitchell finished with the most votes and missed out because of a reprimand from the clash with Geelong's Steve Johnson in round five.

The usually-quiet Swan was very quotable after winning the medal, and very candid when it came to Mitchell. "It wouldn't have felt right," he said. "I was praying that I would finish in front of him because it would have been a very hollow feeling to have won it that way."

The most revealing part of the night was when Hawks skipper Luke Hodge was interviewed with four rounds to go and his teammate and good mate in front. Hodge looked filthy, saying he also hoped that Swan would poll more votes. The consolation for Mitchell was the most votes ever by a Hawthorn player in a Brownlow count.

But back to Swan. His win came a few hours after the AFL confirmed new funding arrangements that will allow more clubs to follow the lead of the Magpies and send their players to exotic locales such as Arizona for altitude training. Swan spent a couple of weeks there midseason, came back refreshed and tellingly, polled votes in nine of the first 10 matches he played upon his return.

Earlier, it was a big day for ins and outs at the AFL. Two changes at the AFL Commission table, with Graham John and Bill Sanders retiring, replaced by Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder. The match committee is still debating the other addition.

Sadly, there was also a change at the head table. This was the first Brownlow Medal count in a long time in which Jill Lindsay wasn't seated alongside Andrew Demetriou, ensuring all went swimmingly. Lindsay passed away late last year after a battle with cancer and was warmly acknowledged by Demetriou but her replacement, Sandra Thomas was there, carrying out her duties with equal aplomb.

The red/blue carpet served it's purpose once again as the curtain-raiser to the main event and you would have to think that to some of the women in the room, was of more interest than the Brownlow count itself. It is the new, glam side to the Brownlow that led Demetriou to declare last week that footy's night of nights is now more glitzy than the Logies.

A fixture at both events is Brynne Edelsten, the partner of one-time Sydney Swans owner Dr Geoffrey Edelsten. Your scribe covers football, not fashion, so therefore is not placed to make any sort of informed comment about her dress, but suffice to say, the good doctor's wife's outfit was being discussed by those who have a clue, in the same less-than-charitable terms that the footy writers were describing Port Adelaide for much of the year.

Also hammered was the lazy Susan that Channel Seven had many of the high-profile guests take a turn on during the red carpet telecast. It copped a hammering on social media, deservedly so, and might one day be remembered much in the same way as Graham Teasdale's velvet suit and puffy shirt in 1977.

As for the count itself, those who had Carlton's Bryce Gibbs to get the first vote of the night either had a collect, or the next long drink. The same with Brandon Matera, who with his one vote against Port Adelaide in round five, became the first Gold Coast player to receive a vote in the Brownlow.

Not sure whether these sorts of exotic bets could be taken on the TAB Sportsbet machine placed strategically just outside the ballroom, which wasn't doing a particularly brisk business. There have traditionally been some monstrous bets placed on the Brownlow at the Brownlow, usually in the room and facilitated by a scrawled piece of paper, not a computer.

The count opened as expected. Essendon skipper Jobe Watson jumped out to an early lead, Swan and Scott Pendlebury weren't far behind and Demetriou, as widely anticipated on Twitter throughout the day, had a fit of giggles the first time he pronounced the name of Richmond's Robbie Nahas. "I knew it would get me," he said.

In an otherwise polished performance, Demetriou's only blemish came in round 14 when "I. Omith" of Hawthorn received one vote against Essendon. Further investigations revealed that the player in question was Isaac Smith. That's 'S' for Smith.

And 'S' for Swan.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs