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Premier surprise: Defender claims best and fairest in flag year

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 3: Josh Gibson of the Hawks celebrates after the 2015 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Hawthorn Hawks and the West Coast Eagles at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia on October 3, 2015. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Josh Gibson is Hawthorn's 2015 best and fairest winner
It's totally unexpected … I wasn't even thinking about this
Josh Gibson

JOSH Gibson has entered rarified air at Hawthorn by joining legends Leigh Matthews and Jason Dunstall as the only Hawks to win multiple best and fairest awards in premiership seasons. 

The versatile Hawks defender edged out runner-up Cyril Rioli for the 2015 award at Crown Palladium on Saturday night, two years after winning his first Peter Crimmins Medal. 

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He now stands aside the immortal Matthews (1971, '76 and '78) and goalkicking record holder Dunstall ('86 and '89) as a multiple club champion in premiership years. 

Gibson polled 204 votes this season, 10 more than Rioli following the superstar small forward's career-best year. 

Champion midfielder Sam Mitchell placed third with 192 votes after another dominant campaign, highlighted by a brilliant finals series.

Gibson was stunned to pip Rioli and Mitchell after their stellar seasons.

"These guys next to me tonight have had fantastic years, as have a lot of guys at the club," Gibson said after receiving the medal on stage.

"It's totally unexpected … I wasn't even thinking about this.

"To my teammates, I know it's an individual award, but you don't win these things unless you've got the support of the guys around you.

"Especially the brotherhood, my defenders, I love you blokes."

Skipper Luke Hodge (171) was fourth and another ageless veteran, Shaun Burgoyne, rounded out the top five with 165 votes.

But it was Gibson, 31, who capped off a stellar season in which he was awarded All Australian honours for the first time and played 25 of the Hawks' 26 matches. 

He averaged just under 22 disposals, led the competition for marks (207) and completed the second-most 'one-percenters' behind Richmond backman Alex Rance. 

Gibson, who arrived at Waverley from North Melbourne in 2009, polled in all but three of his appearances this season as the Hawks clinched an historic premiership three-peat.

His 204 votes eclipsed his 2013 winning tally by 26 votes.

Rioli was runner-up in the award for the second time after finishing behind Mitchell in '09.

The 26-year-old put years of hamstring issues behind him thanks to a revised pre-season training regime and played 24 matches this year. 

He was the only player to receive the maximum 16 votes in a game for his Norm Smith medal-winning performance in the Grand Final humbling of West Coast. 

Rioli was also named All Australian for the second time after booting 42 goals.

Four-time best and fairest Sam Mitchell led the competition for disposals (31.2 per game) to set a new personal benchmark for possessions in a year.

Mitchell was unstoppable in the post-season, racking up 35, 33 35 and 34 touches to be named the club's Best Player in Finals as he led Hawthorn to its 13th flag.

Despite turning 33 on Monday, Mitchell is showing no signs of slowing down after another All Australian year.

Unlucky wingman Billy Hartung – who was dropped for the Grand Final after playing 20 games – was named Most Promising Player.

Hodge was judged Most Consistent, running defender Daniel Howe received the Best First Year Player gong and unassuming backman Ben Stratton was named Best Clubman. 

Hawthorn's best and fairest is voted on by the match committee – senior coach Alastair Clarkson plus his four assistants - after each game, with a maximum of 16 votes available to be awarded to a player every match.

The Peter Crimmins Medal is named after the former champion rover who died of cancer, aged 28, soon after the 1976 Grand Final.  

Peter Crimmins Medal Top 10
1. Josh Gibson – 204
2. Cyril Rioli – 194
3. Sam Mitchell – 192
4. Luke Hodge – 171
5. Shaun Burgoyne – 165
6. Ben Stratton – 152
7. Grant Birchall – 149
8. Luke Breust – 146
9. Isaac Smith – 145
10. Jack Gunston – 144 

Other awards
Best Clubman – Ben Stratton
Best First Year Player – Daniel Howe
Best Player in Finals – Sam Mitchell
Most Consistent – Luke Hodge
Most Promising Player – Billy Hartung