VFLW Senior Coach Luke O'Shannessy has given us the rundown on each of last night's winners.
Here's what he had to say.
Winner: Akayla Peterson
"Akayla joined us late in the 2021 pre-season after relocating from Cairns. Coming from a high-performance netball background, she hit the ground running and had an immediate impact with her athleticism allowing her to run rings around any opposition and clean ball handling enabling her to be one of the cleanest players around the contest.
"Akayla showed great versatility which saw her play on a wing and regularly having multiple involvements in our end-to-end ball movement, as a leading forward playing high and providing that critical link between our back half and forward half or deep and hitting the scoreboard regularly, and as a midfielder being able to extract the ball from the contest with ease and get us moving forward.
"Akayla unfortunately missed several games midway through the regular season with some niggling overuse injuries and has managed to win this award off 10 home and away matches which just goes to show the calibre of player she is currently and what her future holds in the game."
Runner up: Maddie Guerin
"We consider ourselves very fortunate to have had access to Maddie so early on in our VFLW regular season, all part of her return to AFLW plan after a serious knee injury. To have someone of her calibre as a member of a very young side is invaluable.
"Maddie played predominantly down back as a rebounding half-back in her early games and was crucial to our ball movement from our back-half to our forward-half. Her explosiveness was evident around the contest, where we would often see a nimble side-step followed by break-neck speed that was simply unstoppable and often culminating with one of the most penetrating kicks in the game at either level.
"In the latter part of her VFLW season, Maddie would split her time back/mid and was able to have a major impact around the stoppages which was perfectly evidenced in round 11 against Casey where she was able to turn the momentum of the game in our favour through some pivotal clearances and forward-half pressure. Averaging 22.5 disposals across her 6 games this season, it is no surprise to see her feature so prominently in the 2021 awards."
Third place: Jen Lew
"Jen is a true competitor. Combine this with the combative way that she plays her football, and the result is one of the most consistent players you will find playing at this level. We played her back, mid and forward knowing exactly what we were going to get each and every game which is a rare commodity in sport and something a coach can and will bank every day of the week.
"Unfortunately, Jen missed more than half of the regular season through a nagging Achilles injury, so to place third overall in the clubs best & fairest is testament to her on field output in the 6 games that she played this season."
Best First Year player: Paige Trudgeon
"Paige has put together a fantastic 2021 season and a busy one at that after being elevated to the AFLW list following a successful VFLW pre-season and AFLW train-on period. All of this was achieved in only Paige's 2nd full season of football and 1st at VFLW level.
"Paige played 13 of a possible 14 games throughout the regular season, spending the first handful of games as a key-forward, and showed a rare capacity to compete both in the air and on the ground, often evidenced by the way she could bring the ball to ground and still beat one or more opponents to secure possession.
"For the back 2/3rds of the season Paige would move down back as a key-defender, taking the oppositions best tall forward who would often be a known performer at AFLW level and handling these mountainous tasks with an understated aplomb. Paige showed a level of competitiveness not often attributed to young developing key position players which was most evident through her average of 5.3 tackles per game, regularly netting 7,8 & 9 in a single performance.
"It is quite clear to anyone that watched her performances this season that Paige has a very bright future in the game, and I think as the year went on, a quiet confidence in this fact started to develop within Paige herself. The body of work that Paige has put together this season, finishing marginally outside the top 3 in the 2021 Best & Fairest voting and so early in her footballing journey is why Paige is awarded the 2021 Best First Year Player."
Coaches Award: Steph Lawrence
"Steph came to Carlton as a mobile leading forward with an innate goal sense, a unique ability to mark the football even when out of position and wide range of kick types that made her quite deadly in front of goals and difficult to play on. For a few reasons, that undoubtedly frustrated Steph early in the season, she wasn't able to demonstrate that ability as often as she might have liked.
"However, it was her persistence, determination, work ethic and willingness to take on the necessary feedback in the face of these challenges that underpinned her individual development across the season and resulted in her becoming the leading goal kicker for Carlton and equal 6th for the league. This wasn't just through the afore mentioned abilities but because Steph added layers to her game that perhaps she didn't previously possess, such as her forward-half pressure acts enabling her to win her own football and apply scoreboard pressure.
"This was evidenced in part through her tackle numbers which jumped from 2 per game across the first half of the season to nearly 4 in the 2nd half, including a personal best of 9 against Casey in round 11. It is this ability to change her game so drastically over the course of a single season that Steph wins the 2021 Coaches Award."
Most Valuable Bluebagger: Jen Lew
"Jen is the most experienced and one of the most respected members of the 2021 squad and rightly voted a key member of the leadership group as VC. Unfortunately, Jen missed more than half of the regular season through injury, and I know that frustrated her more than anyone because she was unable to lead and impact the group the way she normally would.
"This forced Jen to find new and improved ways to lead and add value to the group as a non-playing squad member which she did quite successfully even if she didn't feel it at the time. Ironically, I believe this only enhanced her value to the playing group and the club and therefore a very worthy winner of the 2021 Most Valuable Bluebagger award."
Best Club person: Ally Bild
"Not only was Ally our 2021 captain showing great on-field and off-field leadership as part of her role, but I believe she is one of the hardest working members of the 2021 squad. Ally always has the team front of mind in everything she does.
"Balancing leadership and a team first mindset with your own individual on-field performance is no mean feat and whilst I know it presented Ally with regular challenges to overcome throughout the season, I believe she managed to succeed overall and have a very successful season as a leader and player.
"Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the players and staff have voted Ally the 2021 Best Club Person."