Tag: best and fairest

Competitive Venning used to putting in the “extra effort”

WINNING your club’s best and fairest award over the league and state Under 19s MVP is no mean feat, but it’s exactly what West Adelaide midfielder Zoe Venning pulled off in 2021. The tenacious ball winner was part of a strong Westies side which surged to this year’s SANFL Women’s grand final, averaging 16.5 disposals, 4.7 tackles, and 2.1 clearances across 12 games.

Having previously played netball at a high level, the 17-year-old says she knew exactly what it would take to be able to put in the “extra effort” required to make such strides at senior level.

“I was quite high up with my netball so I was used to putting the extra effort in off the field,” Venning said. “I always did my running… I know what it takes to put in hard work so that wasn’t something I was inexperienced with, it was more the age gap because I had always played with girls my age.

“Moving to SANFLW and playing with older girls matured my level of training, being a bit more mature was the biggest challenge.”

Venning credited her footballing journey to her dad, who encouraged her to “give it a go” having already excelled in netball and basketball. After starting out with the Mitcham Hawks, she fell in love with the game and soon found team success closer to home.

“I got to where I am now through my dad,” she said. “I first played at Mitcham Hawks when I was 13 and I didn’t want to play at all but dad said ‘come on Zoe, give it a go’ and I really liked it. My first game I got a lot of it, kicking off my shin but I just loved it.

“My dad wanted to make a girl’s program where I live, so he started up the Blackwood Football Club girl’s program and I’ve played there ever since and every year we’ve won the premiership. It’s just been such a good culture, all my best friends play there so that’s really how I started footy.”

Having started out scrubbing the ball off her shin, Venning has since added some polish to her game but remains a tough sort of ball winner who thrives at the contest. When outlining her strengths, the versatile talent was quick to list “contested ball wins” atop the tree.

“I really back myself,” she said. “I don’t really get intimidated by who I’m (against). I control if I’m going to get the ball or not, I’m not an outside receiver.

“I also think my marking’s quite strong. As a midfielder I can take a strong mark and be a link-up player, even on the kick-outs.”

Zoe Venning on the move for West Adelaide | Image Credit: On The Ball Media

Venning’s strengths made her a lock for SANFLW Team of the Year honours, and she brought the same kind of vigour to her state representative duties. With averages of 23 disposals, seven tackles, and four clearances per her three National Championship games, she also earned Under 19 All Australian status.

Speaking amid April’s Victorian leg of the carnival, she had both individual and team goals in mind.

“It’s been a really good achievement and I’m really excited just to show people what I’ve got,” she said. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity for me and the team to really utilise the talent we have in SA because it’s our standalone year.

“I’m just looking forward to showing my teamwork with others and it’s not just me, I want everyone to do well. But I still want to show that I am a strong player and I’m here to get drafted.”

While finding her way onto an AFLW list is the end goal, Venning is also seeking to succeed in her current Year 12 studies and knows missing out may not be the “be all and end all”. She also has a strong source of inspiration to look up to at the next level.

“An inspiration is Rachelle Martin, who was in my Westies team,” she said. “She inspires me because she worked so hard to get where she is now, playing for the Crows. “She’s a really hard worker, really nice, always caring to her teammates and that’s mainly what inspires me to keep going. I see her work ethic and I want to be like that.”

Come July 27 at the 2021 AFLW Draft, Venning has the chance to join Martin at Adelaide.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Eastern Ranges

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Eastern Ranges, a team which managed to extract the best from a deep and diverse core of draft eligible prospects, while also blooding exciting talent for the future. We recap the Ranges’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.

Wins: 6
Losses: 2
Position: 2nd (2nd Metro)


The Ranges made a winning start to 2021, looking one of the form sides of the competition with strong wins in their first two outings. But after romping to a 114-point victory over Gippsland, Eastern was handed its first loss of the campaign to Geelong, before being pipped by Northern in what was a classic comeback. That Northern loss only seemed to spur the Ranges, as they went on to rack up two wins within the same week, and rounded out the regular season with a couple more. They would exact revenge against the Knights in the elimination final, before falling to Oakleigh one week short of the grand final.


Georgia Campbell | Ruck/Key Forward
1/09/2003 | 182cm

A real bolter in this year’s crop, Campbell quickly established herself as one of the premier talls of the competition with her dominant work for Eastern in the ruck. The 182cm prospect is as athletic as they come, able to thrive aerially but also compete at ground level and confidently run the ball forward. She doubled as an attacking threat and played a significant amount there for Vic Metro, gaining a tick for her versatility with impactful passages of play and great attack on the ball.

Bridget Deed | Midfielder
7/03/2003 | 167cm

Deed was not only one of Eastern’s most consistent performers, but one of the most reliable midfielders competition-wide in 2021. Her feats seemed to go under the radar each week, but the 18-year-old’s ball winning strength was important for her side. She collected over 20 disposals in six of 10 NAB League outings, proving a constant at the coalface before being tried in a few different roles among the Vic Metro setup.

Keeley Sherar | Midfielder
29/10/2003 | 170cm

Another of Eastern’s Vic Metro Under 19 representatives, Sherar quickly stamped herself as one to monitor with eye-catching moments in midfield. While she did not accumulate over 20 possessions in any game this season, Sherar also did not drop below 10 as a permanent fixture in the Ranges’ engine room. Her burst from congestion and ability to set Eastern on the front foot was great to watch, but she was another to be squeezed out of a very strong Metro midfield.


Mia Busch | Defender
18/05/2004 | 166cm

A very promising talent for next year, Busch took out Eastern’s best and fairest award in 2021 ahead of very strong draft eligible teammates. While she had a couple of quiet outings, the 17-year-old proved difficult to stop once she was on, providing relentless rebound and sound intercept ability across half-back. She finished the season on fire with averages of 23.5 disposals and five marks across her two finals appearances, while giving a glimpse into the future with some added midfield minutes.

Alyssia Pisano | Forward 
1/07/2005 | 161cm

A bright future lies ahead for Pisano, who at just 15-years-old topped the NAB League goalkicking charts in 2021 with 19 majors. The classy left-footer was held goalless just once this season, while finding the big sticks multiple times in six of her 10 outings. She proved a game-winning type, able to burn opponents with a great turn of speed and find a way to impact the scoreboard with innate finishing ability. She represented Vic Metro at Under 17 level and was easily up to the level already.

Grace Walsh | Key Defender
7/04/2004 | 175cm

Walsh is a developing tall who, like her fellow under-agers, has already taken up a key role in the Eastern Ranges side. At her best, the 17-year-old was able to shut down dangerous opposition forwards one-on-one, while providing aerial assistance down back and getting her team going on the rebound. Walsh played all 10 games in 2021, which should put her in good stead for more of the same next year.


The Ranges have a bunch of players who also went on to crack VFLW level, with standout top-ager Olivia Meagher (Collingwood) among them. Smooth moving leader El Chaston and fellow 2002-birth Jess Grace showed enough form to be selected for Hawthorn, along with 2003-born talents Ruby O’Dwyer, Tilly Hardy, and Isabelle Khoury. All proved pillars in the Ranges side, as did Vic Metro squad members Jorja Livingstone and Cadhla Schmidli. Georgia Wilson finished second in the goalkicking ranks to Pisano, as the likes of Scarlett Potter, Ava Campbell, and Laura Stone proved they were ones to watch for the future.

Draft Central’s 2021 AFLW season predictions

WITH the 2021 AFL Women’s season bouncing down tomorrow night, the Draft Central editors have penned their predictions for this year’s proceedings. Below are our favourites in the premiership race, the potential risers and sliders, leading goalkicker candidates, rising star contenders, and the competition best and fairest contenders.

>> SCROLL to see our full predictions

Among the trends, three of the four tipsters predicted grand final heartbreak for North Melbourne, with Fremantle the favourite choice for premiership glory. Carlton and Adelaide were also tipped for top two finishes, with the Crows also a popular selection in the riser category after their disappointing 2020 campaign. Melbourne and GWS will be out to prove the Draft Central crew wrong, selected twice each as this year’s most likely slider.

In terms of individual honours, Carlton midfielder Madison Prespakis was backed to take out consecutive best and fairest awards, with Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn and Collingwood gun Jaimee Lambert also in the conversation. Another in contention is North Melbourne’s Jasmine Garner, who was also a surprise leading goalkicker tip. Iconic Carlton high-flyer Tayla Harris was the most popular choice though, while Chloe Molloy could prove a shrewd pick as she looks to swing forward this year.

It was no surprise to see the 2020 number one pick, Ellie McKenzie backed most often for the rising star award, with other identified challengers including former Northern Knights teammate Jess Fitzgerald and fellow NAB League graduate Tyanna Smith. All three were taken within the top six selections and are primed for full seasons of first team football.

Outside of the nominated entires, Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers will almost inevitably feature highly in the league best and fairest count, while Karen Paxman is also a good shout depending on how Melbourne fare this time around. North skipper Emma Kearney is still considered by many to be the competition’s best player, while Adelaide ball magnets Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff (if cleared), Erin Phillips, Bri Davey, Monique Conti, and Dana Hooker could also be thereabouts. Do not be surprised to see young guns Alyce Parker and Olivia Purcell move into the elite category too, if they had not already.

2020 regular season leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser was surprisingly overlooked for the same award by our editors this time around, while dynamic Fremantle duo Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy. will be sure to trouble the scorers aplenty. Brisbane spearhead Jesse Wardlaw should be up there again alongside teammate Jess Wuetschner, while North’s Emma King will hope for an improved season in front of goal, Kalinda Howarth is always dangerous, and Kaitlyn Ashmore should not be forgotten either. Geelong’s Phoebe McWilliams is another in that boat, primed for a big season.


Michael Alvaro
AFL(W) Draft Editor

Premier: Carlton
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: GWS
B&F: Jaimee Lambert
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Jess Fitzgerald
Headline: Morrison makes a midseason splash as Cats push for finals

Taylah Melki
Managing Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Prespakis wins back-to-back best and fairest awards

Sophie Taylor
Senior Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: Carlton
Riser: Collingwood
Slider: GWS
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Jasmine Garner
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Dees dump doubters to make finals

Peter Williams
Chief Editor

Premier: Adelaide
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Ellie Blackburn
Leading goalkicker: Chloe Molloy
Rising star: Tyanna Smith
Headline: Triple treat for Crows as Adelaide wins third flag

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis is the clubhouse best and fairest favourite | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Prespakis, Morrison win TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest

CALDER Cannons captain, Madison Prespakis and Geelong Falcons midfielder, Nina Morrison have proven to be the Under 18 Girls dream duo. In July, they were awarded the joint Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the AFL Womens Under 18 Championships and have now won the joint TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest. Morrison was leading the count at the end of rounds four and six but Prespakis stormed home with seven votes from the last three rounds to tie the votes at 16 apiece.

Prespakis was named in the best in every game she played, showing why she was the hot favourite to take home the award leading into the night. Her Under 18 year was capped off in the most marvellous way, topping off her Calder Cannons Best and Fairest, Vic Metro MVP, Under 18 Championships MVP and All Australian selection with the TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest.

Morrison too had no shortage of highlights in her TAC Cup Girls season, being a premiership player in 2018. She was named in the best seven times in the nine games she played this season, and capped it off with a Grand Final win. The 18 year-old also shared the joint MVP of the AFL Women’s Championships with Prespakis and was named Vic Country’s MVP on top of that. She too was able to complement this with an All Australian selection.

The duo are touted to be the first two selections in the AFL Women’s Draft in October this year after sensational performances throughout the TAC Cup Girls competition and AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. 

Number crunching: VFLW – Round 11

THE Best and Fairest is by far one of the most coveted awards in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s. They say that personal awards should not matter in a team sport, but credit is due to the fantastic individuals who can lead their teams to finals or just show unmatched skill on the field. In the Round 11 edition of Number Crunching, we will try to predict the 2018 VFL Women’s Best and Fairest winner. This was done by tallying the amount of times a player was named either the first or second best by their coaches in each match. 

Leading the table is Darebin player, Nat Exon. Exon has made it into the top two six times out of the seven games she has played in. The midfielder has shown to be strong for Darebin, with an average of five tackles per game. Exon’s ability to command her midfield has led to four wins out of the seven games she has played.

Second to Exon is AFLW Best and Fairest winner, Emma Kearney. Despite only have played five games this season, Kearney’s style of play has proven her to be just as great as a player in the VFLW as she in the AFLW. With an average of 23 disposals per game, her ability to move the ball around does not go unnoticed. The Melbourne Uni star continues to make a statement on the field, with the drive to win Best and Fairest twice this year.

The third most likely to win the VFLW Best and Fairest is Collingwood’s Jaimee Lambert. With six goals already this season, Lambert is Collingwood’s second highest goal kicker. The midfielder’s skill doesn’t stop there with an average of five tackles per game. Lambert’s attacking style of play has proven to be very successful for Collingwood with six wins out of the eight games she has played for the Pies. Lambert is a quieter personality, but with Collingwood’s great season so far, she shouldn’t be overlooked for the Best and Fairest.

With the season only just over half completed, there is still plenty of chances for the list to change. In saying that, these players have shown great individual merit and therefore deserve to be acknowledged for that.

Top Prospects for VFLW Best and Fairest



Number of times

in top two club bests

Nat Exon

Darebin Falcons


Emma Kearney

Melbourne Uni


Jaimee Lambert



Lauren Pearce

Darebin Falcons


Sarah D’Arcy



Jessica Duffin



Richelle Cranston



Katherine Smith

Casey Demons


Maighan Fogas



Kristi Harvey



Courtney Ugle



Kate Gillespie-Jones



Jasmyn Hewett

NT Thunder


Naomi Ferres

Western Bulldogs


Kayla Ripari

Southern Saints


Maddy Collier