The VFL/W Awards Night was held as a virtual event on Thursday, October 7.
Individual winners were named across five different, named for some of the great of VIctorian football. Two life memberships were also awarded, while the VFL and VFLW Teams of the Year were also selected.
The J.J. Liston for the best and fairest of the men’s competition was not awarded, as the AFL announced alongside the cancellation of the finals series.
The Inner Sanctum has the full wrap of the competition’s red carpet night.
Rohenna Young Medal (VFLW Leading Goalkicker)
Collingwood’s Imogen Barnett took home the Rohenna Young Medal as the VFLW’s leading goalkicker, finishing the home and away season with 20 majors.
It’s been a short, sharp rise from the VAFA for the key forward, drafted to Collingwood’s AFLW side in the 2021 draft.
Barnett spoke on how less time as a ruck gave her prime opportunity to make the most of her strong leading and overhead marking game.
“I played predominantly forward for most of my football career. It’s a little bit of a surprise, I didn’t think I’d go into the season and win this award, but very happy I did,” she told AFL.com.
“It’s a lot higher standard, there’s a lot more expected of you in terms of training. It was a little bit of a change from Saturday local footy. I’ve loved the challenge.”
As the AFLW season came to a close, Barnett found herself surrounded by her now teammates in the attacking end.
The players she idolised became her role models and colleagues, and helped her to get to the level which will see her join them at Victoria Park in 2022.
“Sophie Alexander… and Chloe Molloy are huge leaders up forward, and have given me plenty of tips and tricks,” Barnett said.
“We’ve achieved so much over the past 18 months, and we unfortunately won’t able to get the reward that all we wanted.”
Barnett was also named at full-forward in the VFLW Team of the Year.
The award is named for legendary VWFL sharpshooter Rohenna Young, a four time All-Australian and seven time Victorian state representative.
Frosty Miller Medal (VFL Leading Goalkicker)
In his club’s only season in the VFL, the Aspley Hornets’ Matt Hammelmann took home the Frosty Miller.
Hammelmann kicked a monstrous 44 goals in 10 matches, including kicking bags of six goals in four different matches across the year.
After being delisted by the Brisbane Lions at the end of 2017, Hammelmann joined the Redland Bombers and won the NEAFL leading goalkicker award in 2019 with 60 goals in 18 matches.
He spoke to AFL.com after being presented with the award on the jump from the NEAFL to the VFL.
“For me, the levels were quite similar. We played the Lions and Suns throughout the year, and I’ve played them over the past few years,” he said.
“We weren’t sure how competitive we’d be [in the VFL], and how we’d go against a competitive VFL side like Port Melbourne. To come out and kick 11 goals in the first quarter was incredible.”
With Aspley returning to the QAFL in 2022, questions remain over where Hammelmann will play next season.
Lambert-Pearce Medal (VFLW Best and Fairest)
After an incredible season and guiding her side to a preliminary final debut, Essendon captain Georgia Nanscawen was awarded the Lambert-Pearce Medal as the VFLW’s best and fairest.
She joins elite company to win the award in the VFLW era including Daisy Pearce, Lauren Pearce, Katie Brennan and Jess Duffin. Nanscawen is the only current holder of the award in the VFLW competition to not hold a position on an AFLW list.
After making the jump from professional hockey, earning 205 caps with Hockeyroos, she spent one year with North Melbourne in the AFLW before being delisted.
Nanscawen spoke to AFL.com in near disbelief after receiving the competition’s highest honour.
“That’s certainly not what I was expecting,” she laughed, as she was presented the medal by her parents.
Nanscawen enjoyed a career-best season with the Bombers. A hard as nails inside midfielder, she averaged 23.5 disposals and 10.5 tackles.
The best and fairest is even more impressive given that she missed two regular season games in the middle of the year after sustaining a lower leg injury against Hawthorn.
The 29-year-old spoke to The Inner Sanctum at the start of the season on how she plays her best when she takes a step back from taking the game so seriously.
“A big thing from me going into my first season at Essendon was that I wanted to relax a bit more and take the pressure off myself,” she said.
“I think that was something that always being in that elite hockey environment, I always put so much pressure on myself. I never played my best when that was placed on me.
“A real focus at Essendon was just to enjoy myself, to love playing sport again and I think that’s why I had quite a good season [in 2019]. I want to continue that.”
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Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal (VFL Rising Star)
Williamstown’s Charlie Dean was awarded the Fothergill-Round-Mitchell Medal after being judged the best young player in the VFL.
The medal is named for the only three players to win both the J.J. Liston Medal and the Brownlow Medal as the best players in the VFL/VFA and AFL/VFL competitions: Des Fothergill, Barry Round, and Sam Mitchell.
After missing out on draft night in 2019, Dean took his strong form with the Sandringham Dragons and successfully made the step up to VFL level.
He made a name for himself as an intercepting defender after playing as a key forward across his time with the Dragons. In 2021, he averaged 15.1 disposals and 7.3 marks, taking advantage of the smarts he built in his under 18s and reading the play behind the ball.
Dean becomes the fourth Seagull to win the award, following in the footsteps of Adam Marcon, Jackson Barling, Paul Dooley, and Julian Shanks.
Coach Justin Plapp sung his young charge’s praises, complimenting his reliability and drive to compete.
“When you talk about someone who is striving to be the best he can and reach his goals, you talk about sacrifice, you talk about hard work and diligence around every part of his football,” Plapp told the Williamstown website.
“I couldn’t find a kid who has worked so hard in all those areas more than Charlie. For where he’s going as a young man, I couldn’t be more excited for him and more respectful of what he’s put into his football.
“Everything about what your teammate needs from you as a player, he absolutely pushes that to the limit. He was able to be resilient, competitive when he needed to be and his desperate acts at times in games was a real highlight.”
The past 14 winners of the Medal have gone on to join AFL lists, including reigning Demons premiership players Michael Hibberd and Bayley Fritsch.
Debbie Lee Medal (VFLW Rising Star)
A tough midfielder with eyes for the goals, Casey’s Eliza West has been awarded the Debbie Lee Medal as the VFLW’s best young player.
She made the switch to Aussie rules after playing college basketball in the US, and it’s paying dividends in just 12 short months.
West was offered an AFLW rookie contract with Melbourne before the VFLW finals series, a testament both to her athletic talent and adaptability to the game.
The midfielder averaged 22.3 disposals, five tackles, and kicked seven goals across 13 matches. She was the Demons’ leading disposal winner in the elimination final loss to Essendon, showing off her cool head under extra intensity.
Teammate Ally Kirkwood spoke to The Inner Sanctum before the finals series on how far West has come.
“Eliza came brand new into the club, and she’s got herself drafted, which is really exciting,” she said.
“[She’s] been absolutely instrumental in helping it all come together with a new playing group.”
St Kilda’s Olivia Vesely and Jayde Van Dyk were the two previous winners of the award, named for St. Albans Spurs founder and AFL Hall of Fame inductee Debbie Lee.
Ann Rulton and Alex Gillon Volunteers of the Year
Volunteers across the VFL and VFLW were both recognised for the remarkable service they’ve showed to their clubs.
Essendon staffer Mark Lanham was awarded the Ann Rulton Volunteer of the Year award. The facilities manager is often described as the ‘heart and soul’ of the VFLW program, and has been involved with Essendon for over 10 years.
“I’m overwhelmed [to win the award]. It’s a real honour,” Lanham told AFL.com.
“I’m so passionate about this VFLW program. I love working for the girls and being there every week. It’s just a pleasure to be around them and the staff are fantastic as well.
“It’s about the people. The people here are just amazing and really good to me. The club have been fantastic to me. They’ve looked after me. I love what I do. Sometimes it’s hard coming in when there’s flooding going on [at the NEC Hangar] years ago and the CEO rings me at six o’clock on a Saturday morning.
“I only play a small part in the VFLW. We’re a great team, we work so well together, there are no egos, and everyone does what they’ve got to do. That’s what I love about it, and that’s what makes you keep coming back every day to work; to see these great people.”
Frankston’s John Davis was then awarded the Alex Gillon Volunteer of the Year award, after an outstanding 37 years of service with the club he loves.
A carpenter by trade, Davis has been responsible for repairs across the clubrooms and various areas of Skybus Stadium for the better part of four decades, also helping run the canteen on game days.
Davis has also served on the club’s board for parts of his time there.
“It’s probably one of the best times of my life, other than being married and having kids and grandkids,” he said.
“There’s so many volunteers in the VFL and VFA… to win this award is something that I never, ever dreamt about. I’m so proud.
“I can’t thank Adrian [Lloyd] and the board for nominating me enough. It’s one of the loveliest awards in the VFL to win… it’s a big thank you to you and everyone else. It’s made my year… my last 37 years, actually!”
VFL Life Members
CEO of the Werribee Football Club, Mark Penaluna and retired Williamstown ruckman Nick Meese were awarded VFL life membership.
Penaluna has been with the Tigers for 18 years, joining the club after acting as a voluntary administrator at Port Melbourne before being appointed General Manager of the Western Region Football League.
He is currently the longest serving CEO of a VFL club, recently helping to secure additional funding for COVID-affected football clubs and pushing the $11.75 million redevelopment of Avalon Airport Oval.
Meese played 162 games with both the North Bullants and Williamstown, crossing over to Downer Oval in 2014.
He quickly forged a name for himself as one of the best ruckmen in the competition, often flying close on the radars of media and AFL recruiters alike.
Though he never earned a call-up to the top level, his accolades at VFL level speak for themselves. He won Williamstown’s best and fairest in 2017, is a seven-time VFL Team of the Year member, and was a crucial part of the club’s 2015 flag.
2021 VFLW Team of the Year
|FB:||Victoria Blackwood (Darebin)||Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood)|
|HB:||Molly Eastman (North Melbourne)||Lucy Burke (Southern Saints)||Alice Burke (Southern Saints)|
|C:||Airlie Runnalls (North Melbourne)||Georgia Nanscawen (Essendon, C)||Laura Gardiner (Geelong)|
|HF:||Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne)||Tara Bohanna (Southern Saints)||Alana Barba (Essendon)|
|FF:||Imogen Milford (Casey)||Imogen Barnett (Collingwood)|
|R:||Olivia Fuller (Geelong)||Eliza West (Casey)||Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne)|
|Int:||Aimee Whelan (Williamstown)|
Jorja Borg (Carlton)
|Claudia Gunjaca (Geelong)|
Matilda Zander (Collingwood)
|Caitlin Bunker (Collingwood)|
Coach of the Year: Chloe MacMillan (Collingwood)
2021 VFL Team of the Year
|FB:||Charlie Dean (Williamstown)||Jack Leslie (Williamstown)||Damian Mascitti (Box Hill)|
|HB:||Harvey Hooper (Port Melbourne)||Jack Maibaum (Coburg)||James Peatling (GWS)|
|C:||Eli Templeton (Port Melbourne)||Jai Newcombe (Box Hill)||Nathan Freeman (Frankston)|
|HF:||Jackson McLachlan (Geelong)||Peter McEvoy (Coburg, C)||James Parsons (Carlton)|
|FF:||Ben Crocker (Carlton)||Matt Hammelmann (Aspley)||Vincent Adduci (Box Hill)|
|R:||Matt Lobbe (Werribee)||Jacob Dawson (Southport)||Robbie McComb (Footscray)|
|Int:||Matt Hanson (Werribee)|
Billy Gowers (Southport)
|Tom Wilson (Northern Bullants)|
Flynn Appleby (North Melbourne)
|James Munro (Casey)|
Marcus Lentini (Coburg)
Coach of the Year: Stewart Edge (Footscray)
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