The AFL's best and brightest swapped footy shorts for dapper suits on Monday night at the annual Brownlow Medal in Melbourne. Some of the biggest names in the game walked the red carpet with their wives and girlfriends - as well as mothers and sisters - and there were some notable storylines that emerged.
The Brisbane Lions opted to stay in Queensland as they prepare for Saturday's grand final showdown with Collingwood at the MCG. But that didn't mean fans were robbed of any star power at the AFL's night of nights.
Former Collingwood player and coach Nathan Buckley made his red carpet debut with new girlfriend Brodie Ryan - marking their first appearance at a Brownlow Medal together. Buckley made numerous Brownlow appearances with ex-wife Tania, but Monday night was the first time he had someone else on his arm.
Buckley and Tania, who were once the glamour couple of the AFL, separated in 2020 after 18 years of marriage. Speaking to Hamish McLachlan in an interview with News Corp earlier this month, Buckley said: “I’ve learnt things about myself in the last five years that I didn’t know. I’ve unpacked a lot.”
When asked what was the driving force behind the change, the 51-year-old revealed: “The most traumatic thing that’s happened to me recently was my marriage breaking down. The two most important things to me were family and footy. That was pretty much me. And when the family element started breaking down, my immediate family, I leant on football even more than I had before.
“It wasn’t just kicks, marks and handballs – it was the people in the footy club, and I think because they saw me vulnerable and imperfect, I actually think that deepened the connection. They realised that I needed them, potentially for the first time in our respective relationships."
Buckley said he has moved on from the hurt of his split with Tania and is happy in his new relationship with Melbourne business manager Ryan. Nathan and Tania have teenage sons Jett and Ayce together.
Toby Greene and partner share wonderful baby news
Another notable addition to the Brownlow red carpet was Georgia Stirton's baby bump. On Monday night, the partner of GWS star Toby Greene shared the news that they're expecting.
The wonderful news comes after Greene was left shattered over the Giants' one-point loss to Collingwood in the preliminary final. The GWS star was in tears in the dressing rooms after the game as he was consoled by Stirton and other family members.
“It’s hard to reflect on the season when you get that close. That one hurts. That one really hurts,” Greene told Channel 7. “It’s a tough changeroom at the moment, but we’ll come together. We’ll come back stronger. You put yourself out there, you get that close, that’s what happens.
“It was an awesome year, but once you get this close you want to go on and win it. We felt like we were good enough too, but hats off to Collingwood they were tough tonight. Flip of a coin, really, in the end and it just hurts.”
Former West Coast captain Ben Cousins was also in attendance with sister Melanie. It marked the first time the fallen star had attended a Brownlow ceremony in Melbourne since 2005 when he won the medal.
Lachie Neale wins Brownlow Medal amid controversy
Meanwhile, Lachie Neale won his second Brownlow Medal after pipping Marcus Bontempelli and Nick Daicos - albeit in controversial circumstances. Neale won with 31 votes ahead of Western Bulldogs captain Bontempelli (29) and Collingwood young gun Daicos (28).
But many were left questioning a number of dubious votes from the umpires - most notably the decision to give Neale three votes in a round nine game against GWS in which he only had seven kicks. Josh Kelly had 41 disposals and Stephen Coniglio 38, while Charlie Cameron kicked seven goals. Yet Neale got the three votes for his 20 disposals, despite not receiving any coach's votes for the game.
Check out some of the best looks from the 2023 Brownlow Medal red carpet:
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