TONIGHT marks the 2023 SANFL Women’s awards night with the latest league best and fairest to be crowned at Adelaide Oval. Reigning best and fairest winner Jessica Bates moved to Collingwood VFLW over the off-season, and in fact only two past, winners are eligible to win the state league’s most prestigious honour in 2023.
Norwood’s Najwa Allen played seven games for the Redlegs this season before heading off to Adelaide Crows duties, having won the award back in 2019 which catapulted her into the tri-colours at AFL Women’s level. The more realistic possibility is West Adelaide’s Lauren Young who only missed one game this season after winning in 2021. Young missed the entire 2022 SANFLW season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
In this article we take a look at the contenders for the league best and fairest and our predictions:
1st Piper Window (Glenelg)
Expect the top-age talent to get off to a blistering start and hold pace for others to catch her, with multiple best on grounds in the first couple of months. Her second half of the season was not as dominant, but she can certainly catch the eye and still pick up a few votes, though Glenelg’s finish at times might see the winning side collect more. A genuine contender regardless. Glenelg skipper Ellie Kellock is Window’s biggest threat for votes at the Bays, though Sarah Goodwin and Matilda Scholz had some massive games when Window was on fire too.
2nd Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)
On sheer numbers alone, Venning could arguably be the favourite, but there are two question marks here, and it is whether or not the likes of Young and Iilish Ross will steal votes off Venning, as well as whether or not the Bloods’ season – which only yielded two wins and a draw – will work against her. She is likely to pick up a vote here or there during the second half of the season, but votes often go to the winning sides and with Young a known vote-getter, it will be tricky. A deserving winner if she does get it though.
3rd Jess Edwards (North Adelaide)
A natural vote-getter who is always thereabouts in the count, she has a massive opportunity to take the majority of the Roosters votes in 2023. For the most part she was the ray of consistency, with the two big threats being ruck Isabelle Starmer and full-back Kristi Harvey. Given it is predominantly a midfielder’s award, expect Edwards to be favoured for votes, but like Venning, the threes and twos may end up with the winning side more often than not.
Kate Harris (Sturt)
For quite a few of the clubs, it will be fascinating to see how the umpires vote, but Harris played 11 of a possible 12 games in the regular season and like Edwards was consistent each and every week. Early on, she was the standout, though then will have to share votes with the likes of Isobel Kuiper who could also be in this conversation. Though Kuiper entered the season late, no doubt she will rack up some serious numbers, it will just be whether she can forgo the start and catch up.
Lana Schwerdt (Norwood)
One of the highest frees for, Schwerdt is a sneaky chance to collect a lot of votes for the Redlegs, particularly when they were up and about. She will likely have Tahlita Buethke for company on the leaderboard, but it could come down to umpire preference over inside and outside midfield votes. She cracks in and is a favourite of the coaches, as well as umpires, so do not be surprised if she is there at the pointy end. An even spread for the Redlegs though which makes it tricky.
Shineah Goody (WWT Eagles)
It is hard to see the bottom two sides attracting too many ‘three votes’ which always makes it tricky, but few could deny that when up and going, Goody is easily among the best players on the ground. She might grab the odd one-vote in losses and go maximum in wins, with the 2023 count expected to be an even one which makes it possible for the lower ranked teams. All class and umpires will love that.
Caitlin Wendland (Central District)
A dark horse in the count largely because Central District has so many potential vote-getters, a winner from the Bulldogs will need to be heavily fancied throughout the season. Wendland has enjoyed a terrific year, and played all 12 games which is important. She was among the best more often than not, and with back-to-back runner-up and skipper Shelby Smith ineligible, it makes Wendland the most likely from the blue, red and white.
Soriah Moon (South Adelaide)
Could a ruck win the award? If so, Moon is possibly the best chance. She played all 12 games and was largely dominant for the most part. South won the majority of its matches which means votes will go the Panthers way, but the evenness of the squad makes it tricky to predict. Brooke Boileau, Senna Gulden, Caitlin Couch and Taylah Levy just a few of the threats for votes.
SANFLW BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER AWARD:
Round 1: Piper Window (Glenelg)
Round 2: Monique Bessen (Sturt)
Round 3: Caitlin Wendland (Central District)
Round 4: Laitiah Huynh (Central District)
Round 5: Madisyn Freeman (Glenelg)
Round 6: India Rasheed (Sturt)
Round 7: Elaine Grigg (Central District)
Round 8: Charlotte Riggs (Central District)
Round 9: Asha Dufour (West Adelaide)
Round 10: Marlie Fiegert (WWT Eagles)
Round 11: Brooke Boileau (South Adelaide)
Round 12: Molly Brooksby (Norwood)
A few of the potential Breakthrough Players are contenders for the league best and fairest, and could repeat the feat from past Breakthrough Player award winner Lauren Young. It is also why Shineah Goody was ineligible to be nominated as the 2022 Breakthrough Player. Prior to Goody winning (Round 8 nominee) the past two winners in Young and Hannah Ewings were both Round 1 nominees which gives a great case for Window.
The Glenelg onballer would be the favourite for the award based on her season, though it is an even spread across the board, with Wendland and Boileau in particular having remarkably consistent seasons. Another contender could be Central District’s Elaine Grigg who improved massively in 2023.