Manly skipper Matt Orford held off fast-finishing Melbourne pair Billy Slater and Cameron Smith to secure his first National Rugby League Player of the Year award, the Dally M medal.
In a thrilling finale to the medal count, three players remained in contention heading into the final round of the year.
But it was Orford, who led the race when voting went behind closed doors after round 16, who prevailed after steering the Sea Eagles to an easy victory over Penrith last weekend.
Storm fullback Slater paid a massive price for his one-game ban midway through the year, his flurry of punches to the head of St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale costing him any chance of victory.
Slater was stripped of three Dally M points as a result of the suspension, while the ban also denied him the opportunity to secure any additional points as he watched the Storm's round 20 loss to the New Zealand Warriors from the sidelines.
Orford's win comes as welcome recognition for a fine season after he was again overlooked for NSW jumper in this year's State of Origin series.