GOLD Coast skipper Gary Ablett has claimed his second Brownlow Medal with a best-on-ground performance against Greater Western Sydney in the final round officially confirming his standing as one of the all-time greats of the game.
Ablett polled 28 votes to finish one vote ahead of Geelong skipper Joel Selwood, with Collingwood's Dane Swan a further vote back on 26.
It was a dramatic count at the Crown Palladium in Melbourne, perfectly staged by the AFL as chief executive Andrew Demetriou revealed Ablett's medal-winning votes with the last announcement of the night.
Ablett previously won the medal with Geelong in 2009 and becomes the fifth player to win a medal with two clubs.
He is the first player from the three-year old Suns to win the medal, and becomes the 14th player to win more than one Brownlow.
It caps off a dominant season by Ablett, who earlier this month won his fifth AFLPA MVP award and was named to the All Australian side for the seventh time.
"I'm lost for words, honestly - I didn't expect to win it in the end. Obviously it's a fantastic feeling," he said.
"As I said up there, I really have to thank my teammates, because without those boys I couldn't be up here."
He admitted to a bout of nerves as the count went to the wire.
"It was through the roof and I was a little bit nervous coming into the last couple of rounds."
Afterwards, he spoke of the difficulty of playing to such a high level at a developing club, but also of the challenge that came with joining the Suns. He said he heard the jibes that he would struggle to replicate his Geelong form at the fledgling club.
"When I heard that at first, I have to admit it was a little bit hurtful," he said.
"But at the same time, that really drove me to want to prove people wrong and get up there and keep improving my football."
"I've said it before but it has been a really challenging three years up there, and I knew when I made the decision to move to the Gold Coast it was going to take time.
"I just really enjoy working with everyone at the football club and I hope we can win a premiership before my time is up."
Ablett went on a tear from round seven, polling 14 votes in the next five games. It had him in contention for the rest of the season, with Sydney Swan Dan Hannebery leading for much of the night and Selwood surging late.
Adelaide's Patrick Dangerfield, who finished with 22 votes, was also in contention for much of the night.
He did express surprise at getting one vote during a 53-point loss to Carlton in round 18 and also against Richmond a fortnight before, when the Suns lost by nine points.
"That happens sometimes. You get votes in games when you don't expect it," he said.
And he would have been happy to share the medal with Selwood, his teammate at the Cats for four years before leaving for the Suns.
"He's a fantastic guy who has done so much for that footy club," he said.
"I really wish he was up there with me but I'm sure one day he will be sitting up here with a Brownlow around his neck."
Swan also came on strong in the second half of the season but once again, battled for votes with teammate and fellow star midfielder Scott Pendlebury, who finished with 21 votes. It was the third season in which the Magpie pair both polled 20 votes or more in the medal.
Selwood's effort was outstanding and the dynamic Steve Johnson, who was ineligible to win the medal because of suspension, but polled 25 votes to finish fourth, further underlined Geelong's fine form over the season.
Johnson served three suspensions over the course of the season, which cost him four games.
Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell was the subject of a massive betting plunge in the days leading up to the count, but he finished with 16 votes in a tie for 11th.
Teammate Luke Hodge finished a vote further back on 15, while Coleman medalist Jarryd Roughead finished with 13.
Fellow grand finalist Fremantle was led by Nat Fyfe with 18 votes, but like Johnson, he was ineligible to win the medal.
Hannebery would finish with 21 votes, while teammate Kieren Jack polled 19 in another strong showing by the Swans.
Brisbane Lions' Tom Rockliff polled 21 votes to finish equal fifth, to be the surprise packet of the top 10.
It is the second straight season the winner has come from a side outside the eight. Essendon's Jobe Watson won the medal last year and the Bombers also missed the finals.
In fact, the Suns finished 14th and no Brownlow winner has come from a club so low on the ladder since the League expanded in 1987. Hawthorn's Col Austen won the 1949 medal when his club finished in 12th, which was then bottom of the ladder.
Gary Ablett and girlfriend Jordan Papalia celebrate his Brownlow Medal triumph. Picture: AFL Media