GEELONG superstar Patrick Dangerfield has capped his glittering season with the most prestigious individual award of all, breaking records to win the 2016 Brownlow Medal.
Dangerfield polled a record 35 votes to win from Sydney Swans midfielder Luke Parker (26) and Richmond star Dustin Martin (25), breaking away in a thrilling finish at Crown Palladium.
The 26-year-old had a four-vote lead going into round 22 and he sealed the win with two votes against the Brisbane Lions, taking his total to an unassailable 32.
To underline the greatness of his season, he polled three votes in round 23 to finish on a record total, surpassing Collingwood winner Dane Swan's 34 votes from 2011.
His margin of nine votes was also a record dating back to 1977 when both field umpires awarded 3-2-1 votes. Gary Ablett's eight-vote win in 2009 was the previous highest.
Dangerfield also polled in 15 games to set a new mark and matched the record nine best on grounds set by 1994 winner Greg Williams and matched by Fremantle superstar Nat Fyfe last year.
Ineligible Adelaide star Rory Sloane polled 24 votes to finish fourth having sat as high as second after 20 rounds.
Favourite to win the award since round one, Dangerfield said the past three days had been an emotional rollercoaster after bowing out with unfinished business in a preliminary final.
Still bitter at that loss, the enormity of the Brownlow Medal only became clear to him Monday night when watching a tribute to late Cats great and 1989 winner Paul Couch.
"You think of the past players to win the medal and what it actually means," Dangerfield said.
"It didn't hit me until halfway through the night with the scenes of Paul Couch and the older Geelong players talking about him.
"My mind is racing now, as is my heart, so it's hard to articulate it properly, but it's something I'll look back on with great pride."
Dangerfield paid tribute to Adelaide, his football home for eight seasons, with former teammate Eddie Betts watching on during his press conference.
He said moving to Geelong in 2016 and playing alongside captain Joel Selwood had helped him become a better player.
"His will and desire to be better and to stand up in the big moments, I've learned so much from him and from so many other players at the club," he said.
"Moving back (to Geelong), all of a sudden there are no question marks around next season … it's home and it's home for good.
"All you have to worry about is footy and that life balance that I think is really important is easy to find and easy to achieve."
Parker was the early bolter, racing to the lead with 13 votes after six rounds and giving the assembled Swans at a function at the SCG reason to cheer.
Dangerfield hit the front for the first time in round seven, polling three votes to take his tally to 14, but consecutive voteless games saw Parker regain the lead on 15 votes in round nine as the pair jostled.
Geelong skipper Joel Selwood congratulates Patrick Dangerfield. Picture: AFL Photos
After round 11, Swans midfielder Dan Hannebery moved into equal second with Dangerfield on 14 votes, with the Geelong superstar going four straight matches without polling.
He was back on the board – and back in the lead – with three votes in round 12 for the best game of his season, amassing 48 possessions, 13 clearances, 11 inside 50s and two goals against North Melbourne.
Parker proved hard to shake, however, and the pair was tied on 20 votes at the end of the bye rounds in round 15, setting up a showdown in the last eight weeks of the season.
Patrick Dangerfield receives a kiss from wife Mardi. Picture: AFL Photos
In other awards, Eddie Betts won Goal of the Year for the second straight season for his brilliant right-foot snap on the boundary against Greater Western Sydney in round 10.
North Melbourne's Majak Daw won Mark of the Year for his soaring grab against Collingwood in round 18, edging out Essendon forward Joe Daniher.
Geelong champion Jimmy Bartel took home the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award for his work campaigning against domestic violence in 2016.
Top 10: 2016 Brownlow Medal
35 - Patrick Dangerfield (Geel)
26 - Luke Parker (Syd)
25 - Dustin Martin (Rich)
24* - Rory Sloane (Adel)
21 - Andrew Gaff (WCE)
21 - Dan Hannebery (Syd)
21 - Adam Treloar (Coll)
20 - Marcus Bontempelli (WB)
20 - Lachie Neale (Frem)
19 - Robbie Gray (PA)
19 - Zach Merrett (Ess)
19 - Nick Riewoldt (StK)
Patrick Dangerfield's stellar season
* First man since Gary Ablett Jr in 2009 to be voted as the game's best player by umpires, players and coaches
* Brownlow Medallist
* AFL Players Association MVP
* AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year
* Player of the Year: The Age, Herald Sun, ABC, SEN, 3AW, Channel Nine
* Nine three-vote games (R1 v Hawthorn, R3 v Brisbane, R6 v Gold Coast, R7 v Melbourne, R12 v North Melbourne, R13 v Western Bulldogs, R17 v Fremantle, R19 v Western Bulldogs, R23 v Melbourne)
* Averaged 32 disposals, five marks, five tackles and a goal each game
* Set new AFL record for most inside 50s (194) and tied record for most in a single game (16 in round 23 win over Melbourne)
* Most possessions in a single game this season (48 in round 12 win over North Melbourne)
* Second-most possessions this season (688) behind Lachie Neale
* Equal fourth-most clearances this season (145) behind leader Patrick Cripps