2021 NAB League Awards: Morrish tied, Prespakis goes back-to-back

THE 2021 NAB League Awards were held in a virtual event on Thursday night; with teams of the year and best and fairest honours announced for the boys and girls competitions. While the female talent pool managed to crown a premier and has already been through the draft, the male cohort had its season scrapped before finals with only combines and November’s draft left to complete.

Geelong draftee and Calder Cannons graduate Georgie Prespakis was the headline act, taking out consecutive NAB League Girls Best and Fairest honours. It means the last three awards all belong to the same family, as elder sister Madison Prespakis took home the coveted medal in 2018. The 18-year-old, who was just 16 at the time of her maiden win in 2019, polled 21 votes across nine games including seven best-on-ground performances. She averaged an even 23 disposals and 8.7 tackles in 2021, leading the Cannons to a positive record before having her name called at pick two in the AFLW Draft. Prespakis’ second triumph saw her lead stretched out to seven votes from the next-highest poller, 16-year-old Northern Knights ball magnet Ava Jordan. Somewhat akin to Prespakis with her curly locks and uncanny knack for finding the footy, Jordan enjoyed a remarkable debut season with the former reigning premier.

Though the girl’s count crowned a runaway victor, the Morrish Medal winners could not be split as Flynn Lakey (Calder Cannons) and Josh Rentsch (GWV Rebels) tied on 12 votes. Rising above a star-studded field, the pair was also rewarded with Team of the Year recognition. Renstch, a 197cm forward-ruck out of Greater Western Victoria, captained the Rebels this season and booted 14 goals in eight games – including a bag of five against Eastern Ranges in Round 5. The 100kg bigman is a powerful unit and bases his game off Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins. Calder’s Lakey is one who has flown under the radar in 2021, proving a consistent figure in his side’s engine room with averages of 23.3 disposals and 6.1 tackles across nine outings. A small midfielder, his greatest component is the handball, with slick and clean distribution bringing others into the game. Geelong Falcons coach Paul Corrigan took home the sole other individual honour of the night, adjudged Coach of the Year in 2021. Having come into the Falcons’ program alongside talent lead Tom Lonergan, his wealth of experience served well as the Geelong region achieved great team success. The Falcons came runner up in the girl’s season and had four players drafted, while the boys showed marked improvement to finish with a 5-6 record.

Both teams of the year countered in form within and outside of the NAB League competitions throughout 2021, making for selection squeezes on every line. Needless to say, both squads of 24 were star-studded with 17 AFLW draftees among the girl’s side and plenty of future hopefuls among the boy’s allotment. In a surprise to no one, Prespakis slotted in at the heart of the girl’s team which is captained by number one pick, Charlie Rowbottom. Geelong Falcons standout Tess Craven rounds out the midfield mix alongside Calder ruck Tahlia Gillard. Top 10 selections Ella Friend (half-back), Annie Lee (centre half-back), and Stella Reid (half-forward) also feature, along with three bottom-agers – Montana Ham, Paige Scott, and Charlotte Baskaran – eligible to be drafted in 2022. The boy’s team is captained by Vic Metro skipper Josh Ward, who contributes to a formidable centre bounce trio alongside pick one contender Nick Daicos and top 10 candidate Ben Hobbs. The standout pure ruck of the draft, Toby Conway takes up said starting role, with exciting Dandenong Stingrays tall Mac Andrew and Western Bulldogs father-son prospect Sam Darcy taking up key forward posts. The elite talent doesn’t stop there, with top five fancies Finn Callaghan (wing) and Josh Gibcus (centre half-back) names which jump off the sheet, while the likes of Josh Rachele (forward pocket), Tyler Sonsie (half-forward), and Josh Sinn (half-back) also earned berths. Meanwhile, tied Morrish Medal winners Lakey and Rentsch come in among the six-man interchange.

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