The theatre of the last few rounds of voting nearly produced one of the Brownlow Medal’s best feelgood stories, with 33-year-old Richmond star Richardson within sight of claiming the medal.
But despite being willed on by a significant section of the crowd gathered at Crown Casino for the count, Richardson just failed to peg back Cooney and Black after his 16th and arguably best AFL season.
Both Richardson and hot pre-Brownlow favourite Ablett paid a heavy price for missing matches late in the season through injury.
The count got off to an embarrassing start, with AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou mistakenly reading out the round two votes as those for round one.
He made it virtually through the votes before he was alerted to his error.
He corrected himself, finished reading the round two votes, then read out the round one votes next.
While the error did not have any effect on the overall count, it could have had some effect on in-play betting which was being conducted on the event tonight.
Retiring dual Brownlow Medallist Robert Harvey’s career was recognised with a tribute on the night – former St Kilda teammates and club identities forming a guard of honour for the 37-year-old.
Cooney admitted later it was “a little bit silly” not to have prepared an acceptance speech.
He telephoned his mother with the good news while she was driving to her nursing job and Cooney had to convince her he’d won.
also revealed he went to the bathroom with a few rounds of votes left
and was briefly locked out of the room as the live telecast resumed
from a commercial break.
Pre-count favourite Gary Ablett
congratulated Cooney and said not winning meant he could concentrate on
Saturday’s grand final against Hawthorn.
“He’s a worthy winner, he’s had a fantastic season and it’s well deserved,” Ablett said.
“I will look forward to this week now.”
Cooney was one of the top-10 favourites before the count and he polled three votes in round one.
He played all 25 games for the Bulldogs this season and managed six best-afield performances.
Last week, he made his first All-Australian team.
Cooney played through the finals series despite suffering from a fractured kneecap.
While he thanked many people on stage, he forgot coach Rodney Eade.
But Eade later heaped praise on Cooney and said he would cope well with the added exposure the award would bring.
“He’s one player who will be unaffected by winning the Brownlow,” Eade said.