Morrison Medal night turned into an epic evening of drama after ineligible Rochester player Nathan Marrone polled the most votes.
Marrone's one-game suspension for headbutting or making forceful contact to an opponent using the head against Shepparton United's Dwain Vidler in round 17 left the door ajar for Kyabram's Mick Mattingly to glide on through and take the medal, the Bomber midfielder winning with 19 votes, a single vote ahead of Echuca coach Andrew Walker.
Mattingly polled one vote in the Bombers' round 16 win against Euroa, breaking the tie with Walker who finished with 18 votes, with neither troubling the scorers in the final two rounds.
But Rochester's Marrone stormed home, polling three, three and two votes between rounds 15 and 17 to jump to 21 votes, starring as Rochester charged into the top six to finish its campaign.
However, Mattingly remains an outstanding champion, having polled the maximum three votes four times and polled in another five matches, his polling in four straight games between rounds 13 and 16 winning him the medal.
The Wagga Wagga export thanked his exceptional football club and legendary coach for the effect they have had on his football.
“(My season) has been solid enough, I started off a bit slow and worked my way into it in the middle of the year,” Mattingly said.
“I’m lucky enough to play in a team that’s quite handy, the last couple of seasons undefeated with a few flags and I just moved to the town and jumped on board halfway through.
“I’ve got a lot to thank the footy club for and (coach) Paul (Newman) personally for, just for allowing me to play with a lot of freedom, probably too much freedom at some stages, but he backs me in at all times and I’ve got a lot to thank him for.”
Echuca's Walker also polled three votes four times, while third-placed Seymour coach Jason Cole got three votes three times all within the first six rounds, having him lead the count at that stage.
Most unlucky in the count was outgoing Tatura coach Jamason Daniels; the star Bulldog polled in seven of his first nine games and led after round nine with 13 votes, before a posterior cruciate ligament injury kept him sidelined until round 16.
A clearly hobbled Daniels played the last three games of the regular season, but did not pick up another vote, finishing fourth.
Benalla's David Mennen shared fourth with Daniels, while Anthony Andronaco (Shepparton), Zac Keogh (Seymour) and Brett Mahoney (Mansfield) each polled 12 votes to finish in a share of sixth.
Pre-count fancies Kyle Mueller (Kyabram) and Nick Fothergill (Tatura) each attracted votes, but not as many three-vote efforts as expected, finishing with 11 and eight votes respectively.
It was a big night for Kyabram's Mattingly, also leaving with the MVP and Shepparton News awards.
Shepparton Swan Rob Osborne won the Abikhair Medal in a canter, his 24 votes enough to win the count by a staggering 10 votes.
Osborne polled votes in a remarkable 13 games including four three-voters, Seymour's Rhys Clarke finishing second with 14 votes with four three-vote performances of his own.
Euroa's Klay Giovannini also finished in a tie for second, while Seymour's Max McLean finished fourth with 13 votes.
It was quite a performance from the grand final-bound Lions, with four players in the top 10, Clarke and McLean joined by Joel Durham (fifth) and Michael Bradbury (ninth).
The Magpies also had a strong representation in the top 10 with James Chittick and Craig Bamford finishing equal fifth and equal seventh respectively.
Euroa's Ashley Hobbs won the MVP award, with Osborne finishing second.
Kyabram's Mitch Gugliotti's enormous season earned him the Pattison Medal as under-18 league best-and-fairest.
Gugliotti staggeringly had seven three-vote games, finishing with 25 votes and a four-vote gap to second place.
Echuca's Mitch Wales was second with 21 votes including five three-vote games, sharing the runner-up spot with Mooroopna's Dom Gugliotti, who polled 13 votes in the last six rounds of the season to vault into contention.
Echuca's Jackson Stewart was fourth with 19 votes with Seymour's Dylan Cook fifth with 17.
* = ineligible
Nathan Marrone (Rochester) 21*
Mick Mattingly (Kyabram) 19
Andrew Walker (Echuca) 18
Jason Cole (Seymour) 14
Jamason Daniels (Tatura) 13
David Mennen (Benalla) 13
Anthony Andronaco (Shepparton) 12
Brett Mahoney (Mansfield) 12