Tom Mitchell’s AFL Brownlow Medal night was much like his football – amid the chaos, he just kept accumulating.
The Hawthorn midfielder had his first Brownlow confirmed with two rounds left at Monday’s count.
But no-one would have predicted that Collingwood onballer Steele Sidebottom would finish runner-up and Melbourne’s Angus Brayshaw would take third place.
Sidebottom had AFL officials scrambling to compile briefing notes for chairman Richard Goyder in case he won.
It was even worse for Brayshaw, who missed out on a Brownlow invitation.
So he posted an Instragam photo of himself in a t-shirt, kissing a fake medal for third place and sarcastically thanking the AFL for its support.
Mitchell was the short-priced favourite and polled 28 votes, four clear of Sidebottom and seven ahead of Brayshaw.
The Hawks ball magnet, who averaged a whopping 35 possessions per game this season, admitted his heart was racing near the end of the count.
“The exciting thing about the Brownlow is that it’s so unpredictable,” Mitchell said.
“No one knows what’s going to happen – I was sitting there like everyone else, a little bit unsure.”
It all appeared to be too much for Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson, who appeared to be napping during Mitchell’s acceptance speech.
As Mitchell started thanking the Hawks, the camera cut to the coach, who was startled and smiled sheepishly as the audience laughed.
For all the inevitability of Mitchell becoming Hawthorn’s sixth Brownlow Medallist, there was one blemish in his outstanding season.
He was fined for misconduct after round five for a high elbow on North Melbourne ruckman Todd Goldstein.
Had Mitchell been suspended for the offence, it would have made him ineligible for the Brownlow.
“I do remember the incident. I think Goldy actually looked after me a bit in the post-game as well,” Mitchell said.
“I don’t reckon there was a lot in the incident from memory, I think it probably didn’t look great on the vision, but I don’t think there was a lot of contact in it.
“It was lucky for me that I didn’t get suspended.”
Indeed, Goldstein played down the contact in a post-match TV interview, saying: “it was like a fly touching me.”
Mitchell was destined to be an AFL star – his father Barry played more than 200 games at Sydney, Collingwood and Carlton.
He joined Sydney as a father-son selection.
After struggling initially, Mitchell found his feet four years ago and has played 76 consecutive games.
He joined the Hawks two years ago and has flourished under Clarkson.
Mitchell also credits partner Hannah Davis for straightening his diet, which featured too much junk food and takeaway.
Now Mitchell wants a leadership role at the Hawks.
“I will be doing as much as I can to help the younger guys coming through and my teammates in the midfield around me, to make them better players,” he said.
Mitchell will undergo shoulder surgery on Wednesday, but he says he will be ready for the start of next season.