by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Western Bulldog midfielder Adam Cooney has won the 2008 Brownlow Medal, the first number one draft pick to do so. Brisbane Lion Simon Black, who won the prestigious medal in 2002, led for much of the evening's count, which is done on a round by round basis. Cooney's Round 21 performance took him ahead of Black on 23 votes and Cooney won with 24 votes. Cooney is also the first Bulldog player to win the award since former ruckman Scott Wynd took out the award in 1992.
Cooney, the first draft selection in 2003, played all 25 games this year for a total of 112. He averaged 26 possessions per game and racked up more than 30 in four games. His highest possession tally came against the Brisbane Lions in Round 12 with 37. He kicked 23 goals for the season.
It the Brownlow were determined by fan favorite voting, it would have been a toss-up between Geelong's Gary Ablett and Richmond's Matthew Richardson. Ablett was a favorite to win it last year and finished second to teammate Jimmy Bartel while this year, Richo's name was greeted with loud cheering when read out. Although ineligible, Sydney's Adam Goodes and Hawk Lance Franklin polled 21 and 20 votes respectively, ahead of another Geelong gun, Joel Selwood.
Black grabbed the early lead with four best on ground 3-vote performances in the first eight games. Hot on his heels were Cooney, Richardson and Hawk Brad Sewell with 13 votes each. Goodes, Franklin and Hawk Sam Mitchell, also ineligible, were the next three and Cat Ablett brought up the rear with eight votes. Black still led the count with 20 votes after Round 15, just one ahead of Ablett, who missed the next three games due to an ankle injury. Following were Cooney, Goodes and Richardson with 16 votes each. They were followed by Mitchell (15), Franklin (14) and Essendon's Mark McVeigh and Sewell (13).
Black picked up his last three votes for Round 16, leaving the field wide open. Richardson picked up three votes in Round 17 for a total of 19 votes. By this round Ablett, Cooney and Goodes were also on 19 votes while Fremantle's Matthew Pavlich and Hawk Mitchell had 15. Hawk teammates Sewell and Franklin had 14 votes, while McVeigh remained on 13. Round 20 had Richardson and Ablett on 22 votes and Cooney with 21 votes. Cooney took the lead with a 3-vote best on ground in Round 21 for a total of 24. Along with Black, Richardson and Ablett did not gain any votes in Round 22, leaving Cooney a one vote winner over Ablett.
Cooney described the win as unexpected and "... a bit surreal....a weird...and crazy feeling..." In his acceptance speech, Cooney thanked his family for helping on his way while growing up, driving him to training.and the rest. Cooney, who just became engaged, also said he went to the men's room with a few rounds left to go and almost got locked out when he returned as staff had locked the doors. He admitted that perhaps he shouldn't have participated in the club's Mad Monday after their finals loss to Geelong as he had been out with teammates starting at about 10:00 that morning. His fiancee said he was nervous during the final rounds of the count, squeezing her hand and was pale with a "...look of absolute terror...".She went on to say she was very proud of him. Cooney revealed that he had played through the finals series with a minor fracture of his kneecap which will require surgery
The gala also paid tribute to two-time Medalist and retired St. Kilda champion Robert Harvey. Old friends and former teammates formed a guard of honor for Harvey as he headed for the stage for an interview with TV caller and host for the night, Stephen Quartermain. Harvey won the Medal in 1997 and 1998.
THE VOTING Adam Cooney (WB) 24 Simon Black (Bris) 23 Gary Ablett (Geel) 22 Matthew Richardson (Rich) 22 Adam Goodes (Syd)* 22 Lance Franklin (Haw)* 20 Joel Selwood (Geel) 19 Brent Harvey (NM) 17 Matthew Pavlich (Fre) 17 Chris Judd (Carl) 14 Brad Sewell (Haw) 16 *ineligible
Source: Herald Sun, afl.com.au
Article last changed on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 - 11:50 PM EDT