TONIGHT marks the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) night of nights, with the best and brightest stars from the top state league across the country rewarded for their efforts throughout the 2022 season. From the league best and fairest to the SANFLW Team of the Year, there will be plenty of outstanding contributions recognised at tonight’s ceremony. In this article, we run through a few names to remember for the overall league best and fairest and the Rising Star award.
SANFLW Best and Fairest
It would be a surprise to not see Bulldogs captain Shelby Smith at least in the running for the overall award. The midfielder was again a ray of consistency – even in losses – so one would expect she will poll very well this season. The big question mark will be whether or not the Bulldogs won enough game for her to convert into three-vote performances, but expect her to be right up in the pointy end of the count.
Though unlikely to win, someone who might poll a few extra votes is match-winner Georgia McKee, who one would expect would at least get the three votes from her three-goal last quarter against West Adelaide to haul the Centrals overall the line. Another is ruck Isabelle Starmer who should push Smith in terms of the consistency over the journey. The big question mark will be how the umpires see the ruck impact up against the midfielder impact. A couple of surprise packets could be Caitlen Teague and Laitiah Huynh, both who would catch the eye of the umpires at different points.
Considering Jessica Bates leads all-comers in an array of stats from disposals to tackles and clearances, one would expect her to be the favourite for the overall award, especially if the statistics have something to say about it. The big question mark for the clear dominant ball-winner taking home the medal will be the level of competition at the Bays. There is a reason they reached the preliminary final, and will have a lot of players potentially stealing a few votes off her.
Captain Ellie Kellock is impossible to miss at her best, and though she spent more time forward and even missed a game with injury, she will undoubtedly poll quite a few votes. Rising Star candidate Sarah Goodwin will also pull in quite a few votes, but is unlikely to win due to missing too many games with the AFLW Under 18 Championships, and then injury in the last round. The Bays will also have a host of players who will pick up between one and five votes with the likes of Piper Window, Chelsea Packer, Caitlyn Swanson and Matilda Scholz all likely to take some votes off Bates.
Another team that will split the votes due to its ridiculous depth, North Adelaide may well have the most players poll, and therefore might struggle for a winner. Expect the Roosters to be the team that has like three players in the Top 10, but effectively take votes off each other. In terms of a favourite, Jessica Edwards had a really consistent season returning to the SANFLW and given she played the most games of the top-end Roosters, she would be a strong candidate. The other two are full-back and co-captain Kristi Harvey and AFLW Draft star Hannah Ewings. The former will have to overcome the challenge of a defender getting votes, whilst the latter missed a fair bit of footy which will mean she will need quite a few three-voters to get there. It would not be a complete shock to see her win it however.
As for other strong candidates, where do you start? Katelyn Pope has had a really magnificent season for the Roosters and clearly catches the eye, Jade De Melo could be a surprise packet given she could poll more votes than many think with her forward craft, and then there’s Erica Greet who is another clever running winger, but there are no shortage of candidates from the Roosters.
The Redlegs have had some standout performers this year and expect Jade Halfpenny to come out firing, potentially leading the competition after four or five rounds. She was best on ground in a number of games back-to-back early in the year, but the issue may be when Norwood was beaten, it was beaten badly. The Redlegs will still share the votes around though, and Halfpenny is a really good chance given her ability to impact through midfield and up forward.
It is likely that Halfpenny will need to build a lead and hold on, with her second half of the season, whilst still very solid, was not to the easily-three-votes territory. Teammates such as Lana Schwerdt, Sachi Syme and Tesharna Maher took over in the midfield, whilst Alison Ferrall might poll a few early, but being a defender, and then missing the last few games due to injury will mean she won’t be taking it home. Morgan Johnston might be a player who steals a few votes off the midfield, whilst Alana Lishmund’s second half of the season was very good to win the leading goalkicker, but Halfpenny should still be the favourite from the Redlegs.
South Adelaide is a side that has a genuine one-out chance and that comes in the form of forward-turned-midfielder Jess Waterhouse. She has all the traits that catch the eye for umpires and fans alike, consistently kicked goals in the first half of the season, and then rolled seamlessly into the midfield. Though there were a number of South prospects who had good seasons, Waterhouse is a player who hardly played a bad game and could do enough to claim the win.
Waterhouse does have a few challengers from her club, with Nicole Campbell perhaps being the biggest threat. The midfielder continually cracked in and won plenty of the ball at the source, then rolled to the outside and had an impact there. Gypsy Schirmer is hard to miss with her dash out of defence, while Shae Archbold will poll well in the early rounds given her sheer impact on the scoreboard.
The Double Blues might be the hardest team to predict, because they seemed to have a different player as the best every other week, so trying to work out which way the umpires might go is a genuine mystery. Isobel Kuiper did not play as many games as some others but will likely poll well when she did, with Kiera Mueller and Alex Ballard also likely to earn votes when they were in. Given a number of players did not play as many games as some others across the league, it will likely be an even spread.
Before departing for the AFLW duties, Jasmyn Hewett was sensational in the ruck and would pick up a few top votes, but missed too much of the season to likely follow through. Zoe Prowse also is hard to miss with her athleticism, but again was not a constant fixture due to AFLW duties, while someone like a Georgia Bevan could be a real dark horse given she has had a full season and might be someone the umpires love for her creativity and defensive pressure.
Despite finishing on the bottom of the ladder, the Westies had a number of consistent performers each and every week, headlined by Beatrice Devlyn who should do as well as she could. Given West Adelaide only won the one game, the likelihood of gaining many threes or even twos will hurt, but the West Australian certainly had an impact and it would be hard to discount her from polling the most in the side.
Zoe Venning is a player who only missed one game and consistently racked up the ball through the midfield, so expect her to battle Devlyn for the top Blood. Jess Macolino only played the seven games but might poll a vote here or there, whilst the defence of Madison Russell and Madelyn Zacher might surprise with a vote or two themselves.
Shineah Goody would go close to taking out the overall count given her ridiculous season, but a few quiet games mid-season, then the AFLW Under 18 Championships absence means she will have to make up a fair bit of ground. Alongside her, Jessica Sedunary is one to watch from a top Eagle perspective, putting together a well-rounded season, whilst McKenzie Dowrick was a spearhead up forward and will pick up some impressive three-votes.
In terms of surprise packets, Abbey Dowrick might come in and steal some votes from the games she played, while Renee Forth earlier in the year, and then the likes of Ella Little and Annie Falkenberg might be in the umpire’s favour at different points throughout the season.
A top three of Jess Waterhouse, Jess Bates and Shelby Smith is our tip, though anything can happen on the night.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER AWARD
The last two years the player who earned a Round 1 Rising Star nomination has gone onto win it, in North Adelaide’s Hannah Ewings, and West Adelaide’s Lauren Young. In 2022, that player was Sarah Goodwin, who is likely to be favourite for the award given she had so many outstanding performances. She was probably a touch more consistent over the entire course of the season than Shineah Goody, though both would be deserving winners.
Given so many of the teenage nominations missed time due to the AFLW Under 18 Championships, an older player might be a chance. Jade Halfpenny would be the pick of those players above top-age draft eligibility, with the Norwood talent being nominated in Round 2.
R1: Sarah Goodwin (Glenelg)
R2: Jade Halfpenny (Norwood)
R3: Georgia McKee (Central District)
R4: Lana Schwerdt (Norwood)
R5: Shae Archbold (South Adelaide)
R6: Laitiah Huynh (Central District)
R7: Brianna Arthur (North Adelaide)
R8: Shineah Goody (WWT Eagles)
R9: Jemma Whitington-Charity (WWT Eagles)
R10: Tesharna Maher (Norwood)
R11: Caitlin Wendland (Central District)
R12: Ella Boag (Glenelg)
Sarah Goodwin from Shineah Goody and Jade Halfpenny.