Brisbane Lions vice-captain Emily Bates has capped off a sterling season, taking out the AFLW best and fairest award in a thrilling count, finishing one vote ahead of Anne Hatchard.
It’s Bates’ second major individual win for the season, having already been crowned AFLCA champion player of the year.
With just one round remaining, Bates and Hatchard were tied in first place with 18 votes, with Ebony Marinoff and Hayley Miller in equal second with 15.
Bates polled her sixth and final three votes in round 10 to finish on 21, while Hatchard had to contend with two in her last game. Fellow Crow Marinoff finished third with 18 votes.
In an emotional and entertaining speech, Bates acknowledged her father, who introduced her to football at his own club Yeronga, and who passed away when she was 15.
“I’ve always idolised the players who have won this award in the past, Erin (Phillips), (Emma) Kearney, Maddy (Prespakis) and (Bri) Davey and (Kiara) Bowers last year,” Bates said in her press conference.
“I’d be doing running sessions and thinking about Erin – ‘would she give up now? No, she wouldn’t’.
“I’ve always had these girls as inspirations. So the fact I was even in the conversation earlier this week was astounding to me, and the fact that I’ve won it is even more astounding.
“It’s pretty cool, but I don’t think it will sink in for a little while.”
Bates also paid tribute to the closeness of the Brisbane playing group, referencing her teammates dropping everything to help her during the recent Queensland floods.
“Sisterhood is definitely what it feels like at the Lions and I love these girls like sisters,” she said.
“That’s what feels like has driven our success, that love for each other and care.”
Collingwood’s Brit Bonnici had jumped out to an early lead after the first three rounds, polling eight of a possible nine votes to sit one ahead Ash Riddell and two clear of Kiara Bowers, Hatchard and Miller.
Fremantle’s condensed period of games, coupled with some strong form from their stars, saw Miller take the lead outright halfway through the count, two ahead of teammate Bowers and Hatchard.
The count tightened up considerably with three rounds remaining. Miller was hanging on in first position with 15 votes, ahead of Bates (13) and a backlog of stars on 12 votes in Bonnici, Hatchard, Marinoff and Riddell.
Bates made her move in round eight, polling her fifth straight three-vote match to overtake Hatchard and Miller on 15.
Bates, 26, was Brisbane’s first ever draft pick in the inaugural NAB AFLW Draft in 2016, and with this year’s selection, is now a three-time All-Australian midfielder.
Story – AFLW