With St Kilda's next Best & Fairest set to be crowned this coming Thursday, there are several players well in the hunt for the club's most coveted honour.
Attention has unsurprisingly fallen on Georgia Patrikios following her decorated second season, but with head-turning campaigns from numerous Saints, the result could land any way.
Could Tyanna Smith's fabulous debut year be rewarded with top honours, or could the leadership of co-captains Rhi Watt, Cat Phillips, Hannah Priest or Kate Shierlaw come out on top?
Then there's the likes of Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Jayde Van Dyk, whose consistency could see a high number of votes swing their way.
Here are the Saints in the running for this year's Best & Fairest.
Season averages: 24 disposals, five tackles, four clearances, three inside-50s
Best game: Round 8 v Collingwood, 29 disposals, nine clearances 529 metres gained
Key stat: First for St Kilda's disposals, metres gained, inside-50s and clearances, second for contested possessions, equal-second for rebound-50s
At just 20 years old and 15 games into her AFLW career, it’s staggering to think that Georgia Patrikios could very well be a two-time Best & Fairest.
The midfield ace’s impact was profound in every match, with her clinical and classy skills helping her side navigate its way both to victory and through difficult games against polished opposition.
Patrikios improved upon the club’s individual disposals record four times throughout the year (Round 1, Round 2, Round 8 and Round 9), ending the year on top of St Kilda’s disposals, clearances and metres gained metrics.
Her stunning season came complete with a year with a string of league-wide accolades, including selection in the All-Australian and 22Under22 sides and a nomination for the AFLW Players' Association MVP .
Room is fast running out in her trophy cabinet following her decorated campaign, but there might be just enough space to squeeze in a second Best & Fairest award.
Season averages: 15 disposals, eight tackles, seven contested possessions, three clearances
Best game: Round 4 v Geelong, 16 disposals, 13 tackles, eight score involvements
Key stat: First for St Kilda's tackles, second for clearances and inside-50s, third for contested possessions and metres gained
Winning a Best & Fairest in your maiden AFLW season may seem like a far-fetched prospect (despite four Saints doing so last year), but it certainly isn’t out of the question for Tyanna Smith.
A seamless addition to the Saints’ young engine room, the pick No. 6 from the 2020 Women’s Draft dazzled across all nine games with her lightning pace, clean skills and uncompromising pressure.
Smith's physicality and crunching tackles acted as an excellent foil to her clean disposal, which earned her numerous plaudits by season's end.
The 18-year-old was the second Saint nominated for the NAB Rising Star in 2021 following a terrific display under lights against Geelong, before earning a nomination for the AFLW Players’ Association Most Valuable Player.
Damaging on the inside and close to uncatchable on the outside, there’s no reason why Smith’s super season will go by unrewarded at this year’s Best & Fairest.
Season averages: 12 disposals, eight contested possessions, eight hit-outs, four intercepts, two clearances
Best game: Round 4 v Geelong, 16 contested possessions, 13 hit-outs, five cleearances
Key stat: First for St Kilda's contested possessions, second for contested marks, third for intercepts and equal-third for clearances
She’s the heart and soul of the Saints, but Rhi Watt was much more than that in Season 2021.
The spiritual leader and co-captain assumed whatever role her team needed her to fulfil, with her selfless approach and team-first mentality helping her side on countless occasions throughout the year.
Blanket jobs in defence on high-profile key forwards paired excellently with her industrious performances in the ruck; the latter of which were integral in setting the tone for St Kilda’s young midfield.
Watt’s all-encompassing season saw her top the Saints’ contested possessions and hit-outs tallies, while top-three placings in intercepts and clearances counts serve as further confirmation that Watt did it all in 2021.
With such a prominent season to her name, there shouldn’t be any surprise in the skipper featuring particularly well in Thursday night’s Best & Fairest.
Season averages: 13 disposals, six rebound-50s, six intercepts
Best game: Round 5 v Adelaide, 20 disposals, eight intercepts, six rebound-50s
Key stat: First for St Kilda's intercepts and rebound-50s, second for marks
The glue that held the side together both on and off the field, newly appointed co-captain Hannah Priest exceeded all expectations in her maiden season at the helm.
Priest was a reliable force across St Kilda's defensive half, guiding her side out of trouble countless times through her leadership and cool head under the pump.
The AFLW Team of the Year inductee was at her best when the Saints’ backs were against the ropes, with her displays against accomplished opposition holding her in high regard across the competition.
Priest barely took so much as a backwards step – even through the Saints’ tough run – throughout the year to round out her brilliant season as a leader.
A maiden Best & Fairest honour would be fitting reward for her impressive strides forward.
Season averages: 15 disposals, five tackles, three marks
Best game: Round 7 v GWS, 17 disposals, 12 tackles, four clearances
Key stat: Second for St Kilda’s disposals, third for tackles, equal-third for marks
Consistent and competitive, Cat Phillips was a constant presence as the red, white and black embarked on its second season.
While the co-captain’s highlights reel from 2021 wasn’t crammed full of eye-catching or freakish moments, her diligent year was instead built on determined, team-first acts which punctuated every St Kilda outing.
A gritty 12-tackle performance over GWS in deplorable conditions was the perfect example, while strong efforts against the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne were cut from the same cloth.
Not one to shirk away from digging the heels in, Phillips regularly charted well on the Saints’ stat sheet (second for total disposals) and was her side’s leading distributor between the arcs.
With another reliable season under her belt, the St Kilda leader – not too dissimilar from her on-field efforts – is well poised to keep chipping away at the leaderboard and subsequently poll well at this year’s Best & Fairest.
Season averages: 15 disposals, five intercepts, two rebound-50s
Best game: Round 5 v Adelaide, 24 disposals, seven intercepts, five rebound-50s
Key stat: Second for St Kilda's metres gained, equal-second for intercepts and rebound-50s, third for disposals
'Consistency' was the most fitting word that described Tilly Lucas-Rodd's second season in red, white and black, and it’s a trait that gives her every chance in receiving the club’s most coveted honour.
Whether it be through her attack on the contest, dependability in driving the Saints out of danger or output on game-day, the gritty defender refused to back down, even in light of successive defeats.
Despite her role across half-back and as a pinch-hit force through the centre, the vice-captain finished the year second for St Kilda’s rebound-50s, intercepts and metres gained and – incredibly – third for total disposals
After finishing last year’s Best & Fairest in the top-10, a bolt up the rankings this time around is just about a certainty in 2021.
Season averages: Nine disposals, four marks, three score involvements, two inside-50s
Best game: Round 2 v North Melbourne, 13 disposals, eight marks, four contested marks
Key stat: First for St Kilda's marks and contested marks, second for goals and score involvements, third for inside-50s
Kate Shierlaw was one of the most eye-raising prospects to come from 2021, with the co-captain's aerial prowess and presence inside-50 elevating St Kilda's forward line on numerous occasions.
An explosive start to the season through her contested marking earned significant praise from coach Peta Searle, which helped her finish runner-up to Caitlin Greiser in the club’s goalkicking tally.
Her impact was crucial in the Saints hitting the scoreboard, whether it be through her forward entries (third for the club), score involvements (second) or six majors (second).
Shierlaw’s impact higher up the ground was a glittering feature for the Saints, as was her ability to piece together tide-turning patches of play which ticked her side into the next gear.
While several of the key forward’s goals were among some of her side’s most impressive highlights from the season just gone, a high standing in Thursday’s Best & Fairest count would no doubt be the best of the lot.
Jayde Van Dyk
Season averages: 10 disposals, five tackles, two rebound-50s, two marks
Best game: Round 5 v Adelaide, 15 disposals, 10 intercepts, three rebound-50s
Key stat: Equal-second for intercept possessions
Every Best & Fairest count needs its surprise bolter, and Jayde Van Dyk is a sure-fire candidate to do just that.
While numerous backline plaudits fell the way of Hannah Priest and Tilly Lucas-Rodd throughout the year, the well-regarded trade recruit was just as unflinching in her defensive roles throughout the year.
A prominent interceptor (equal-second for the Saints) and terrific one-on-one player, Van Dyk was crucial in both quelling opposition dangers and stemming the flow of enemy onslaughts in all nine games of the year.
While the No. 1 ranking may be a bridge too far for the first-year Saint, it will come as no surprise when her unwavering campaign is recognised on Thursday night.
Every Saint by the numbers
|No.||Player||Games (2020)||Goals (2020)||Averages (2020)||Best game|
|1||Molly McDonald||5||1||11 disposals, four intercepts, two inside-50s||Round 9 v West Coast, 14 disposals, five inside-50s, one goal|
|2||Ali Brown||5||0||Eight disposals, two marks, two tackles||Round 5 v Adelaide, nine disposals, four marks, two hit-outs|
|3||Alice Burke||4||0||Seven disposals, four tackles, three contested possessions||Round 7 v GWS, 15 disposals, 12 tackles, two clearances|
|4||Claudia Whitfort||7||2||11 disposals, seven contested possessions, two tackles, two clearances||Round 2 v North Melbourne, 12 disposals, 10 contested possessions, one goal|
|5||Darcy Guttridge||9||4||Eight disposals, three contested possessions, two score involvements||Round 9 v West Coast, 18 disposals, five marks, one goal|
|6||Tyanna Smith||9||3||14 disposals, seven tackles, seven contested possessions, three clearances||Round 4 v Geelong, 16 disposals, 13 tackles, 303 metres gained|
|7||Rhi Watt||9||0||12 disposals, eight hit-outs, eight contested possessions, three marks, two clearances||Round 4 v Geelong, 16 disposals, 13 hit-outs, 11 contested possessions|
|8||Bianca Jakobsson||7||0||Eight disposals, three intercepts, two rebound-50s||Round 4 v Geelong, 13 disposals, seven intercepts, four inside-50s|
|9||Kate McCarthy||6||1||Six disposals, two score involvements, one inside-50||Round 2 v North Melbourne, 10 disposals, four contested possessions|
|10||Jacqui Vogt||8||3||Five disposals, three tackles, two inside-50s||Round 9 v West Coast, 11 disposals, six inside-50s, four tackles|
|11||Isabella Shannon||7||1||Five disposals, two tackles, two marks||Round 9 v West Coast, eight disposals, four score involvements, three inside-50s|
|12||Kate Shierlaw||9||6||Nine disposals, four marks, two contested marks||Round 2 v North Melbourne, 13 disposals, eight marks, four contested marks|
|13||Renee Saulitis||3||0||Five disposals, one mark, one inside-50||Round 1 v Western Bulldogs, seven disposals, two marks, one clearance|
|14||Hannah Priest||9||0||13 disposals, six rebound-50s, six intercepts||Round 5 v Adelaide, 20 disposals, eight intercepts, six rebound-50s|
|15||Nat Exon||5||1||Seven disposals, five contested possessions, three tackles||Round 4 v Geelong, 11 disposals, six tackles, two clearances|
|16||Poppy Kelly||3||0||17 hit-outs, seven disposals, four tackles||Round 7 v GWS, 22 hit-outs, seven contested possessions, six tackles|
|17||Caitlin Greiser||9||9||Seven disposals, three marks, three score involvements, one goal||Round 9 v West Coast, 16 disposals, 10 marks, two goals|
|18||Tilly Lucas-Rodd||9||0||15 disposals, five intercepts, two rebound-50s||Round 5 v Adelaide, 24 disposals, seven intercepts, five rebound-50s|
|19||Jessica Matin||3||4||Seven disposals, two score involvements, one goal||Round 9 v West Coast, 11 disposals, five score involvements, three goals|
|20||Rebecca Ott||1||0||Six disposals, two marks, two rebound-50s||Round 4 v Geelong, six disposals, two marks, two rebound-50s|
|21||Georgia Patrikios||9||2||24 disposals, five tackles, four clearances, 360 metres gained||Round 7 v GWS, 27 disposals, 10 tackles, five clearances|
|22||Tamara Luke||5||1||Six hit-outs, four disposals, two tackles||Round 6 v Melbourne, six hit-outs, two clearances, one goal|
|24||Clara Fitzpatrick (inactive list)||-||-||-|
|25||Rosie Dillon||9||0||12 disposals, six tackles, two clearances||Round 3 v Carlton, 14 disposals, nine tackles, six clearances|
|27||Nicola Xenos (inactive list)||-||-||-|
|28||Nadia von Bertouch||5||0||Eight disposals, two rebound-50s, two intercepts||Round 1 v Western Bulldogs, eight disposals, three tackles, two rebound-50s|
|29||Tarni White||9||0||11 disposals, four intercepts, three tackles, two rebound-50s||Round 1 v Western Bulldogs, 20 disposals, nine intercepts, seven marks|
|34||Tahlia Meyer||7||0||10 disposals, two marks, one inside-50||Round 4 v Geelong, 14 disposals, fives score involvements, four tackles|
|35||Cat Phillips||9||0||15 disposals, six contested possessions, five tackles||Round 7 v GWS, 15 disposals, 12 tackles, three intercepts|
|36||Jayde Van Dyk||9||0||10 disposals, five intercepts, two rebound-50s||Round 5 v Adelaide, 15 disposals, 10 intercepts, six marks|