The second AFLW season is alive and well, and returning in year two is the Leesa Catto Media MVP award.
The award is Girls Play Footy’s acknowledgement of the best individual player over the course of the AFLW season, and this year we have kept the voting in-house to ensure that every game is watched and thoroughly analysed by the delegated voters.
It was created to honour the great Leesa Catto, a true pioneer of women’s football media coverage, who volunteered as the Victorian Women’s Football League’s Media Manager for eight years and paved the way for the likes of us to do what we do today.
Adelaide’s Erin Phillips was the winner of last year’s count, winning with 27 votes ahead of Karen Paxman (26 votes), Daisy Pearce (24 votes), Brianna Davey (23) and Ebony Marinoff (23).
The voting process involves four members of the Girls Play Footy team submitting votes on a weekly basis, adjudging their best five players for every game and awarding votes in a 5-4-3-2-1 format.
Those votes are then tallied up and made into a revised 5-4-3-2-1 for every match, essentially using four people’s take on a game to determine one set of votes.
A new addition this year is the Team of the Week, which will honour the players who had excellent individual matches in the prior weekend’s matches during the home and away season.
The Team of the Week is decided by a number of factors, particularly the player’s impact on the match and its result, and obviously their individual performance.
Just in the first week, it is already proving to be an extremely difficult task; so difficult that the likes of Nicola Stevens, Emily Bates, Ebony Marinoff, Courtney Gum and Britt Tully missed out despite their impressive outings.
These are the Leesa Catto Media MVP votes for round one, as well as the first AFLW Team of the Week for season 2018.
Back pocket: Chloe Molloy (Collingwood)
Key stats: 20 disposals (18 kicks, 2 handballs), 80% DE, 3 marks, 4 rebound 50s
The second Victorian pick in the 2017 AFLW Draft wasted little time making a name for herself in the league, but it was Chloe Molloy’s defensive work that will likely earn her the round one Rising Star nomination on top of five Media MVP votes in her debut match. She was used all over the field, but mostly in defence during the second half, and it’s likely the Magpies would’ve been blown out had it not been for her remarkable performance.
Full-back: Leah Kaslar (Brisbane)
Key stats: 14 disposals (6 kicks, 8 handballs), 71.4% DE, 3 marks, 3 tackles
Leah Kaslar’s stat line is impressive for a key defender, but what’s more important is the stat line of her direct opponent Sarah Perkins: 1 kick, 1 mark, 0 goals. Kaslar completely negated Perkins for the entire match, putting on a masterful defensive display to help her side to an impressive victory in the Grand Final rematch.
Back pocket: Brianna Davey (Carlton)
Key stats: 16 disposals (7 kicks, 9 handballs), 62.5% DE, 4 marks, 3 rebound 50s
Carlton’s defensive unit was forced to work overtime in round one, and Brianna Davey was again at the forefront. While many lost their heads in the tenacity of the contest, Davey was the calm head that was able to extract the ball in defence and secure key defensive clearances.
Half-back flank: Daisy Pearce (Melbourne)
Key stats: 19 disposals (14 kicks, 5 handballs), 15 contested possessions, 68.5% DE, 4 marks, 7 clearances, 6 tackles, 3 one-percenters, 5 inside 50s
It looked like Melbourne might be undone by GWS until Daisy Pearce arrived in sensational fashion in the second half. While she performed well in the midfield during the first half, she went to another level when she was dropped into defence, taking crucial marks and getting the Demons out of trouble when it looked like GWS might run over the top of them.
Centre half-back: Kate Lutkins (Brisbane)
Key stats: 15 disposals (10 kicks, 5 handballs), 60% DE, 5 marks
Kate Lutkins was a cool head and smooth user in Brisbane’s backline, winning her one-on-one as well as being effective as the team’s most prominent defensive clearance player. Her 15 disposals from the backline is sensational, adding another element to her game this season.
Half-back flank: Elise O’Dea (Melbourne)
Key stats: 17 disposals (14 kicks, 3 handballs), 64.% DE, 7 marks, 4 rebounds 50s, 5 inside 60s, 5 tackles
While Melbourne struggled to unlock GWS’s defence at times, it took the smarts of Elise O’Dea to change the game. She was responsible for setting up the goals that ended two separate GWS goal streaks, and was just as good down back. Her four rebound 50s and five inside 50s were equal first of all players in round one for both statistics, a rather stunning achievement.
Centre: Emma Kearney (Western Bulldogs)
Key stats: 18 disposals (11 kicks, 7 handballs), 72.2% DE, 6 marks, 8 clearances, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Emma Kearney was back to her old self to start the season, retaining the mantle as the competition’s best clearance player. Eight clearances and four inside 50s show just how good she is around stoppages, and with the return of Katie Brennan, Kearney’s game will receive the finishing touches from the forward line this year.
Half-forward flank: Chelsea Randall (Adelaide)
Key stats: 18 disposals (14 kicks, 4 handballs), 11 contested possessions 72.2% DE, 4 marks, 3 rebound 50s, 5 tackles, 4 one-percenters, 1 goal
Chelsea Randall wasn’t alone in fighting a losing battle against Brisbane, but she was by far the side’s best performer. She was everywhere on the park, earning intercept marks and doing the little things off the ball, even kicking a goal to cap things off. Randall is back at her prime after most of the 2016 season off, and with 15 months of more consistent football and training under her belt, we are going to see exactly what she is capable of this season.
Centre half-forward: Sabrina Frederick-Traub (Brisbane)
Key stats: 14 disposals (11 kicks, 3 handballs), 11 contested possessions, 50% DE, 10 marks, 7 contested marks, 5 one-percenters
Sabrina Frederick-Traub created a little bit of history on the weekend, clunking an unbelievable 7 contested marks in her side’s victory over Adelaide. For context, only one AFLM player was able to take more contested marks in a game last season (Callum Sinclair, 8), and that was in a game played with two fifths more playing time than the AFLW. Had she converted any of her three missed shots, it would’ve been an even more memorable day out.
Half-forward flank: Shelley Scott (Melbourne)
Key stats: 12 disposals (6 kicks, 6 handballs), 66.7% DE, 7 tackles, 2 goals
Shelley Scott has earned the mantle as the competition’s number one goal sneak through the first AFLW season and now the first round of season two. She was on hand to convert two opportunities against GWS, and her defensive pressure in the forward 50 was nothing short of sensational.
Forward pocket: Richelle Cranston (Melbourne)
Key stats: 8 disposals (8 kicks), 3 goals
Richelle Cranston was responsible for the most remarkable individual performance in a quarter we have seen to date, and that includes Erin Phillips’ heroics in round seven of last year. In the final quarter alone, she kicked two goals – including the go-ahead goal with a minute left on the clock – and was responsible for one other. Her other goal was reward for the effort she has put in to build her fitness base, as “Rocky” gathered the ball and converted cooly at full speed under pressure.
Full-forward: Katie Brennan (Western Bulldogs)
Key stats: 12 disposals (11 kicks, 1 handball), 58.3% DE, 6 marks, 3 tackles, 3 goals
The difference Katie Brennan makes to the Western Bulldogs’ forward line cannot be understated. She was rated in our AFLW Top 50 Players as the highest ranked forward, and she showed exactly why in her return match after missing most of last season through injury. Just as impressive as her three goals was her effectiveness when used up the ground and even in the defensive 50.
Forward pocket: Phoebe McWilliams (GWS)
Key stats: 10 disposals (7 kicks, 3 handballs), 9 contested possessions, 80% DE, 5 tackles, 3 goals
Whenever a key moment arose in the enthralling contest between Melbourne and GWS, Phoebe McWilliams was at the centre of it. Though two of her goals were gifts from opposition free kicks straight in front, McWilliams was a key target for the Giants going forward, and is clearly rolling her excellent AFLW form in 2017 over to 2018.
Ruck: Erin McKinnon (GWS)
Key stats: 8 disposals (5 kick, 3 handballs), 75% DE, 21 hit-outs, 4 one-percenters
The one knock on Erin McKinnon’s game last year was that she did not get as involved around the grounds as other rucks, despite winning the second most hit-outs. Against Melbourne, she showed more willingness to do the work at ground level, and though her direct opponent Erin Hoare won the hit-out battle 22-21, McKinnon was much more effective with her taps, and GWS recorded the most clearances of all teams in the first round as a result.
Ruck-rover: Jamie Stanton (Brisbane)
Key stats: 21 disposals (13 kicks, 8 handballs), 11 contested possessions, 71.4% DE, 3 rebound 50s, 4 inside 50s, 3 one-percenters
Jamie Stanton stepped up against Adelaide, taking on the task of being the team’s number one ball user and executing. Her huge disposal count is made most impressive by her excellent disposal efficiency, and her three rebound 50s and four inside 50s show just how hard she was willing to work around the ground.
Rover: Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs)
Key stats: 23 disposals (20 kicks, 3 handballs), 52.2% DE, 7 marks, 3 clearances, 3 rebound 50s, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal
She’s a superstar, Ellie Blackburn. There’s no other way to sum it up. Whether she was winning possessions and bombing the ball forward or getting involved in the Bulldogs’ slick chains of ball movement, Blackburn was at the forefront of everything the Dogs did on the weekend. She was also able to record a long-range goal which seemed to take a millennium to cross the goal line.
Interchange: Emma Zielke (Brisbane)
Key stats: 18 disposals (10 kicks, 8 handballs), 66.7% DE, 4 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s
What you see is what you get with Emma Zielke – when the big games arrive, so does she. She again played the role of the midfield general, putting the ball on a platter for her teammates and doing the hard stuff in the clinches. She is arguably the competition’s most consistent performer, and we predict she’ll be a regular name in these teams.
Interchange: Ally Anderson (Brisbane)
Key stats: 15 disposals (7 kicks, 8 handballs), 66.7% DE, 5 marks, 12 tackles
Ally Anderson is already staking a claim for the most improved player from 2017. The emergence of Anderson gives Lions fans plenty to be excited about, as another midfielder who can have an impact is just what they need to go the extra step this season. Her performance was reminiscent of Ebony Marinoff last year, racking up disposals as well as an incredible tackles count.
Interchange: Tayla Harris (Carlton)
Key stats: 10 disposals (7 kicks, 3 handballs), 60% DE, 5 marks, 3 contested marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 goal
The AFLW season opener wasn’t too pleasant on the eye, but Tayla Harris’ performance was. Though plenty of the match was dour, Harris stepped up to take crucial contested marks in the forward line, and she was also able to setup a goal as well as convert one of her own, both of which proved to be the difference in the close struggle. Carlton’s forward structure will allow her to be more of a focal point, which bodes well for her and her new team.
Interchange: Jessica Wuetschner (Brisbane)
Key stats: 10 disposals (8 kicks, 2 handballs), 80% DE, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 2 goals
Jess Wuetschner gave us a little bit of everything against Adelaide, from giving away a 50 metre penalty and a certain goal to taking a courageous mark in the forward 50 and kicking two essential goals. She is still one of the game’s criminally underrated players, and we rate her as the competition’s best mid-sized lead-up forward behind Darcy Vescio.
Interchange: Jacinda Barclay (GWS)
Key stats: 14 disposals (8 kicks, 6 handballs), 64.3% DE, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 2 goals
Jacinda Barclay just never seems fazed. Her two goals were as cool as you can get, and her continued prominence in the GWS forward line is not to be understated. Like many of her GWS teammates, Barclay is underrated in this league, but she continues to prove that if you don’t body her up closely, she is a very damaging lead-up forward option.