Tom Mitchell wins 2018 AFL Brownlow Medal

Michael Ramsey

Hawthorn star Tom Mitchell has won the 2018 Brownlow Medal, prevailing over Collingwood's Steele Sidebottom to claim the AFL's greatest individual honour.

The gun onballer polled maximum votes in the first three rounds of the season on the way to a total of 28, claiming an unassailable lead after 21 rounds and outpolling Sidebottom (24) and Melbourne young gun Angus Brayshaw (21).

A comfortable favourite prior to Monday night's count, 26-year-old Mitchell is the sixth Hawthorn player to win the prestigious award.

Richmond star Dustin Martin had been viewed as a chance to finish strongly and become just the seventh player - and first since St Kilda great Robert Harvey in 1997-98 - to claim back-to-back Brownlows.

But it was Sidebottom who threatened to spring a major upset.

A $51 rank outsider who had never previously placed in the top 10, Sidebottom led the count after 17 rounds with Mitchell trailing by a solitary vote.

But Mitchell polled three votes against Carlton in round 18 and Fremantle in round 19, leaving his rivals in the dust.

Mitchell admitted during his acceptance speech that he had been lucky to escape with a fine for striking North Melbourne's Todd Goldstein off the ball in round five.

"I think Goldy actually looked after me a little bit in the post-game," Mitchell said.

"It probably didn't look great in the vision but there wasn't a lot of contact in it ... it was lucky for me that I didn't get suspended."

Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn polled 20 votes to finish equal-fourth with Carlton midfielder Patrick Cripps and Adelaide's Rory Laird tied Martin for sixth place.

Mitchell, who also won the AFL Players' Association most valuable player award, averaged a league-high 35.7 disposals and 7.9 clearances per game during the home-and-away season and ranked third for contested possessions.

The ball magnet tipped the 50-disposal mark twice, including a record 54-disposal outing against Collingwood in round one.

Mitchell said he had developed enormously under Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson since seeking a trade from Sydney at the end of 2016.

"He's had a massive influence on me since I've come across to Hawthorn," Mitchell said.

"He's instilled so much belief in me and I can't thank him enough for all he's done for me."

All-Australian duo Gawn and Brodie Grundy's outstanding seasons had led many to tip this could be the year the "midfielders medal" returned to a ruckman's hands.

Gawn failed to poll in the Demons' round four loss to Hawthorn despite having a whopping 66 hitouts while Grundy finished equal-10th with 17 votes.

Ineligible Fremantle star and 2015 Brownlow winner Nat Fyfe surged to an early lead with 14 votes after nine rounds.

But the star Docker went on to miss six games with a hamstring injury, having had his one-week ban for striking Collingwood's Levi Greenwood upheld by the AFL tribunal.