Firefighting footballer sets league alight with elite award
"EYE-CATCHING'' Ipswich Eagles footballer Sophie Crawford was "absolutely surprised'' to be named best and fairest in this year's QFAW Division 2 North league.
It was her first season playing Aussie rules after an eight-year break from team sports.
However, the consistent midfield performer said being an Ipswich firefighter helped her handle the rigours of contact sport.
"The fitness does for sure,'' she said.
"It's something I'm constantly doing at work. I'm used to that sort of fatigue.''
Crawford polled 15 votes from seven games. Umpires nominated the best players each match.
"It was my first season so pretty happy with that,'' she said.
The Eagles newcomer was thrilled to see midfield teammate Leah Sibbick finish runner-up with 12 votes from her seven matches.
"She's a ripper,'' Crawford said, enjoying a break before considering her footballing future.
Making new friends after coming to Queensland two years ago and "to try something different'' were among reasons Crawford joined the Eagles this season.
"It was good fun. It was a really good team to be a part of,'' she said, having previously lived at Albury-Wodonga.
"So pretty happy to share it with the girls.''
After winning last year's historic grand final, the Eagles women were beaten by main rivals Hinterland 4.6-30 to 2.2-14 in the recent preliminary final.
Hinterland went on to beat Noosa in the QFAW Division 2 grand final.
As an Eagles newcomer, Crawford was impressed how the team fought hard until the end.
"They were trying to hold on to the title from last year,'' the Raceview-based speedster said.
"It was a pretty new team this year . . . but we all gelled pretty well.
"We're all really good mates. It was pretty pleasing to see where we got, as far as we did anyway.''
After the Eagles upstaged Hinterland in the lead-up to the finals, Crawford was one of the players heavily targeted in the return contest.
"She did really well, the girl that played on me,'' Crawford said.
Eagles women's head coach Clint Bateman was thrilled to see two of his most dependable players acknowledged in the latest awards.
"Especially in a team that played so well and ended up winning a lot of games,'' he said.
"But at the same time, it's no surprise.
"Sophie was definitely an exciting talent.
"She catches the eye. She runs, jumps kicks a lot of the footy and Leah just reads the play so well and helps us positionly and is always involved.
"They are both standout players.''
Meanwhile, club president Bateman said the Eagles men's and women's teams would likely start their pre-seasons in late November after a shorter than usual competition due to COVID disruptions.
"The players only played half a season so the bodies weren't put through the normal gruel, 16-game season so it should be okay to start pre-season as normal,'' he said.
"Just a few weeks of fitness and some running and stuff and then players will get a running program and a strength conditioning program to do over the Christmas holidays and then back into it in January.''
The Eagles have their club presentation night this weekend after which the 2021 coaches will be confirmed.