THE most exciting thing about winning the VFLW's Debbie Lee Rising Star Medal for Eliza West is the name on the medal.

West, 24, enjoyed a sparkling debut season for the Casey Demons after making the switch from basketball, playing 13 matches, averaging 22.3 disposals and 5.0 tackles, and kicking seven goals.

She ranked No.1 in the competition for contested possessions, No.2 for clearances and No.4 for total disposals.

It was a season that saw her promoted onto Melbourne's AFLW rookie list in June.

West starred in a three-season US college basketball stint for Utah State University, playing 93 matches and breaking the record for career assists with 457 before returning to Australia to play for Knox Raiders in WNBL1 and then making a gradual switch to Casey Fields.

The Mt Martha product knows all about the legend that is Lee.

"It's a huge honour, especially being the Debbie Lee award, she has been a huge part of women's football and to receive an award with her name on it just means a lot because of what she’s done for the game," West said.

"She has recently been inducted into the Australian Football Hall Of Fame and she is a huge leader and idol for women's sport, so to receive this award is pretty special."

West beat an impressive field to the Debbie Lee Rising Star Medal, including Williamstown best-and-fairest winner Ruby Tripodi, who played 14 excellent games in her second season; Essendon's Alana Barba, who lit up the finals series and was picked up by Gold Coast; Collingwood's Queensland recruit Marla Neal, who played 15 of 16 games for an undefeated team; and Southern Saint Gabriella De Angelis, who played all but one game in her second year.

West said the transition from basketball to football wasn't something she envisaged, but the support of the Demons made it so much easier to achieve.

"I grew up playing basketball and I did a bit of netball and touch football along the way, and when I got back from college last year I picked up football and I've been loving it ever since," she said.

"I've always loved football and watched it with my family and watched my brothers play, but I never thought of myself playing, but when this opportunity presented itself I thought I would love to give it a go – and it has been an amazing journey so far.

"(Casey coach) Pete (Mercoulia) has had a huge part in my development – we've done a lot of extra sessions before training because I've had to head off to basketball.

"To have people who are willing to put in the extra effort to help you get better is special and it just shows what a great club and community Casey is – as well as Melbourne – because everybody I've met so far has been exactly the same."

West has already started pre-season training with Melbourne but knows the hard work is still ahead of her.

"I'm just looking forward to bettering myself as a person and player, already training with the girls has been really amazing and I've learnt a lot from the coaches and the girls," she said.

"A lot of them have quite a bit of experience, so being around them in all the training sessions has just helped me so much so far … I’m just looking forward to getting stuck into pre-season and training hard and just seeing what happens with my football career."


2021: Eliza West (Casey Demons)
2019: Olivia Vesely (Southern Saints)
2018: Jayde Van Dyk (Hawthorn)
2017: Chloe Molloy (Diamond Creek)
2016: Sarah Hosking (Seaford)