Best and fairest, All-Australian team and Rising Star, goal and mark of year
Best and fairest, All-Australian team and Rising Star, goal and mark of year

Forever together: Historic result in AFLW’s premier award

For the first time in AFLW history, there has been a tie for the league's best-and-fairest player.

After a thrilling vote count that came down to the final round, Collingwood's Brianna Davey and Fremantle's Kiara Bowers have taken out the W-Award with 15 votes apiece.

The vote count, held at various locations across Australia including Melbourne's Crown Palladium and Perth's Optus Stadium, was nailbiting and stunningly with two rounds left in the count, only one vote separated Davey and Bowers.

 

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Western Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn led the count early, standing clear on nine votes after three rounds following three best-on-ground-performances.

Blackburn was set a challenge for 2021 to become a league-leader by Dogs' coach Nathan Burke and she heeded his advice and sat ahead of Bowers and Davey.

But then came the Davey charge.

Davey had three best-on-ground performances from Round 2-4, which put in her touch with Blackburn, before another three-vote performance in Round 5 then put in the outright lead on 12 votes.

 

 

 

Davey further extended her lead in Round 6 with another maximum vote to sit on 15, but when she failed to poll in Round 7, and Bowers put on a show for Fremantle, Davey's lead was whittled to just one vote.

Then came Round 8, and neither of the leaders polled any votes, which meant heading into Round 9, five players were still in the running for the medal. Davey was on 15, Bowers on 14, Melbourne's Karen Paxman was sitting on 12, while Britt Bonnici and Monique Conti were tied on 12.

 

 

In the final round, while Davey failed to poll after her side went down to Adelaide, Bowers polled one vote in her side's one-point loss to North Melbourne to finish equal with her Collingwood counterpart.

The pair finished one point ahead of Greater Western Sydney's Alyce Parker and Blackburn who each polled 14 votes.

Davey, a 26-year-old midfielder for the Magpies, was a young girl when she wrote to then AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou asking for a women's league and now she stands in its history books.

 

 

 

She had an exceptional season, averaging a career-high 23.8 disposals, 11.6 contested possessions, 4.8 clearances and 3.4 inside-50s. She also kicked six goals - the highest of her five seasons.

Davey said COVID had made the build-up to season 2021 strange, and thanked her partner Tilly for encouraging her during pre-season.

"I didn't think I'd be up there tonight, I'm very overwhelmed," the former Matilda's goalkeeper said.

"I hope that by the time I finish this game that we leave it in a better place (for the next generation of footballers) … hopefully it's a league they can really aspire to be in."

 

 

 

Fremantle's tackle-hardy Bowers had been the early hot favourite to take out the award, and she'd taken out the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year gong after the 29-year-old averaged 21.1 disposals, 318.5m gained, an incredible 11 tackles and 6.5 clearances for the season.

Bowers revealed that juggling her football with her "day-job" in construction meant she started most of her days at 5am, which took its toll, and she thanked her partner, Adele and their young son Nate for their support.

In March, Bowers was nearly ruled out of contention for the medal after being charged with rough conduct and offered a one-match suspension, which she successfully had downgraded at the tribunal.

She also took out the AFLCA player of the year and finished a close second in the AFLPA Most Valuable Player count.

 

 

 

 

 

Five-star veterans do it again

Two veterans of the AFLW competition have been given an incredible fifth consecutive All-Australian nod, while six new faces appear in the 2021 AFL Women's All-Australian team, which was unveiled at the W-Awards on Tuesday night.

After last year's W-Awards were held in isolation at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year they were held at locations across the country, including Melbourne's Crown Palladium, Perth's Optus Stadium and Adelaide's Adelaide Oval.

The premiership-winning Brisbane Lions - still celebrating their 18-point defeat of the Crows in Saturday's decider - gathered at The Gabba for the ceremony and saw their near-impenetrable defender Kate Lutkins - fresh off a Grand Final best-on-ground honour - be awarded her third All-Australian.

North Melbourne captain Emma Kearney and Melbourne's dogged midfielder Karen Paxman were both named in this year's side, which makes them the only players to have been given All-Australian honours in every year since the league's inaugural 2017 season.

Preliminary finalists Collingwood led the way with four players named in the team, including Brittany Bonnici and Ruby Schleicher who both received their first All-Australian nod.

The four other new faces were St Kilda's Georgia Patrikios, Carlton's Breann Moody, Richmond's Katie Brennan and Fremantle's Janelle Cuthbertson.

Crow Erin Phillips, who is expected to undergo arthroscopic surgery on her left knee this week, was honoured with her third All-Australian nod, this season named among the full forwards, where she's kicked 14.9 for the entire season, her career-best haul.

The only two teams to not feature any All-Australians were West Coast and Gold Coast.

Collingwood's co-captain Brianna Davey, who was given her second All-Australian nod after a career-best 23.8 disposal season, was named captain of the side.

Fremantle's prolific midfielder Kiara Bowers was named vice-captain.

Seven players retained their spots from last year's 2020 team - Sarah Allan (Adelaide Crows), Kate Lutkins (Brisbane Lions), Emma Kearney (North Melbourne), Kiara Bowers (Fremantle), Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne), Karen Paxman (Melbourne), Alyce Parker (Greater Western Sydney).

 

 

 

The 2021 All-Australian team

FB: Sarah Allan (Adelaide) Meg McDonald (Geelong)

HB: Ruby Schleicher (Collingwood) Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) Janelle Cuthbertson (Fremantle)

C: Monique Conti (Richmond) Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) Georgia Patrikios (St. Kilda)

HF: Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) Katie Brennan (Richmond) Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs)

FF: Erin Phillips (Adelaide) Chloe Molloy (Collingwood)

RU: Breann Moody (Carlton) Bri Davey (Collingwood) Alyce Parker (GWS Giants)

I/C: Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) Britt Bonnici (Collingwood) DarcyVescio (Carlton) Karen Paxman (Melbourne) Emma Kearney (North Melbourne)

 

Other honours presented at the W-Awards saw Brisbane's goalkicking grand final star Courtney Hodder was named as the winner of the 2021 Goal of the Year for a running shot, which also required her to collect up her own soccer effort, which stunned spectators in Round 9 against Melbourne.

Adelaide forward Danielle Ponter took out Mark of the Year for a Round 8 screamer right in front of goal, where she leapt above a pack of Western Bulldogs and even managed to turn her back to her opponent mid-air.

 

THE MARK OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

A. Tayla Harris (Carlton) - Round 2 v Western Bulldogs

B. Danielle Ponter (Adelaide Crows) - Round 8 v Western Bulldogs

C. Ellie McKenzie (Richmond) - Round 9 v Western Bulldogs

THE GOAL OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

A. Courtney Hodder (Brisbane Lions) - Round 9 v Melbourne

B. Jess Fitzgerald (Western Bulldogs) - Round 3 v Geelong

C. Chloe Molloy (Collingwood) - Round 6 v Western Bulldogs

 

 

Shooting star: Tyla Hanks

Melbourne's tenacious midfielder Tyla Hanks has been named as the AFLW's Rising Star for 2021.

The 21-year-old debuted for the Dees in 2019, and played 16 games before finally securing her first-ever Rising Star nomination, which came in Round 2 after a 19-disposal in her side's defeat of Richmond at Casey Fields.

She only got better from there, continuing her spectacular third season in the red-and-blue, where she cemented her place in the midfield.

Hanks' standout game this season came in Round 7 against Adelaide, when she had a career-best 25 touches (11 of those contested), 371m gained (career-best), five tackles and kicked 1.1 (her first goal since 2019).

The influence of the 157cm ball-getter has been seen off-field this year too, having been voted into the side's leadership group alongside five teammates this year, despite being only 20 at the time of her elevation.

At the time that Hanks was announced in the Demon's leadership group (which has operated underneath captain Daisy Pearce and vice-captain Karen Paxman), coach Mick Stinear said: "The time is right to invest in our future leaders and our leadership group this year reflects that … (these) players possess leadership qualities and have established themselves as consistent performers on and off the field."

 

 

Award caps off Hodder's comeback journey

Lions excitement machine Courtney Hodder has taken out this year's AFLW Goal of the Year on a night where only one premiership-winning Brisbane player made the All-Australian squad.

Hodder's sensational goal came in Round 9 against Melbourne when she beat two defenders, collected the rolling ball and booted it from 40m out.

The 21-year-old has become one of the most dangerous small forwards in the AFLW, in what is just her first year playing in the competition.

The West Australian product has bounced back from a serious leg injury to not only nab the Goal of the Year but was also pivotal in steering Brisbane to their first ever premiership win last weekend.

"I can't believe we even won a Grand Final," Hodder said after Saturday's win.

"The AFLW just welcomed me with open arms. I've loved every moment of it.

"It was a hard couple of years for me when I was injured.

"I put in a lot of work behind the scenes and to win a grand final is a credit to me."

Hodder's achievement comes as Brisbane key defender Kate Lutkins was the only Lion to be named among the AFLW's best players despite the club winning the premiership.

Three other Brisbane players - Dakota Davidson, Sophie Conway and Catherine Svarc - were named in the top 40 squad but missed the cut to be named as part of the best 21 players in the competition.

Brisbane did manage to dominate the AFL Association's AFLW 22Under22 side with Hodder, Davidson and Natalie Grider named on Tuesday.

Hodder said it was a bright future at the club.

"The talent here is just amazing and hopefully we can hold on to all of our team," she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Forever together: Historic result in AFLW's premier award