Adelaide’s Erin Phillips has won the inaugural AFLW best and fairest award, capping off a stellar season for the premiership star.
Phillips, an Olympic basketball silver medallist, came home from the United States to pursue her football dream.
She made the transition to the game look easy, with her skill, strength and fitness setting her apart.
Her father was a successful premiership player in the SANFL.
“Football’s always been in my blood, as soon as I was born I wanted to play footy, my poor father I never let him sit down, he’d come home from training and I’d be like ‘let’s kick the footy’,” Phillips said.
Phillips, who moved back to Adelaide with her wife Tracey Gahan and their then-eight-week-old twins in tow, said she would return to the US to pick up her basketball career.
On Monday, Phillips was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) by her peers, and added to her swag of individual awards with goal of the year, for her bomb from outside 50 that bounced once over the line.
She was also named vice-captain of the All-Australian team.
The gala evening was held at Docklands, with players walking a coral carpet and featured a performance by singer Megan Washington.
Players’ plus ones included partners, siblings, parents and even a grandmother.
AFLW benefactor and trailblazer Susan Alberti and Victorian Sports Minister John Eren were amongst the crowd, along with the AFL executive and club presidents.
Goal kicker Darcy Vescio takes mark of the year
Carlton’s marquee player Darcy Vescio was awarded mark of the year for her effort against the Bulldogs, coming from nowhere to pluck the ball out of the pack in the goal square with one hand.
Vescio also won the leading goal kicker award with 14 goals for the season, including a captivating four-goal haul in the competition’s first ever match in front of a packed Princes Park.
“It’s been absolutely amazing, everything that’s happened has exceeded our expectations,” Vescio said.
“I spent a lot of time in the backyard [playing footy], my brothers were always supportive, my parents never put limitations on me even though I was a girl.”
Adelaide’s Ebony Marinoff capped off a winning year for her team, taking away the AFLW rising star award, given to the best player under 21.
The former netballer and surf lifesaver said she was “lost of words”, thanked the club and the league and vowed she would go back and play local footy over the winter.
“[I’ll be] developing my football and I can’t wait to be back in 2018,” she said.
The league also announced the All-Australian side for 2017, with Melbourne’s Daisy Pearce named captain.
“It’s a huge honour just to be selected in this team, not only to be amongst these superstars but also from what has been such a wonderful competition and so many great players across the league … but to be named captain is something I’m very proud of as well,” she said.
Female players ‘an inspiration’
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the influence of the women’s game had gone beyond sport, calling the players an “inspiration”.
“The best example I can give of the impact of you the players on this country is a text message I received from a female friend last week,” he said.
“It said: ‘I’m out buying footy boots and mouth guards this morning from a big brand sports shop, the guy helping with the kids’ sizes asked me if it was for my daughter or my son and my heart pretty much exploded with happiness’.
“There are thousands of these stories and you should all be proud of the impact you’ve had on so many people, particularly on so many women and on girls across the country.”
Last year, 350 new women’s teams were created and the league is expecting that to increase dramatically again this year off the back of the success of the inaugural season.
Half a million people tuned in to watch the grand final on Saturday.
This season saw the top two teams go straight through to a decider after the final round of home and away matches.
After the Crows defeated Brisbane in the grand final over the weekend, conversation quickly turned to the idea of a finals series – a plan that had the backing of many players including perhaps the most high-profile of them all, Pearce.
The head of football operations at the AFL, Simon Lethlean, said the league was open to introducing a finals series.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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