MELBOURNE will celebrate its night of nights on Saturday 9th December crowning its best and fairest for the 2023 NAB AFLW season.
As we prepare to close out the year that was, we’ve taken a look at some of the top-performing Demons of the season and who is in contention to take out the highest club honour.
In just her third season at the top level, Tahlia Gillard has broken into the league as an upcoming star of the defensive 50. She’s improved with each week at the contest and on the rebound.
The 19-year-old has managed to shut down some of the best forwards in the league, averaging 5.6 intercepts and 5.2 spoils, with her consistency earning her an inaugural selection in the All-Australian squad.
As vice-captain, Tyla Hanks’ impressive performances were a constant for the team in 2023, using her footy smarts, natural talent and silky skills to cement herself as one of the competition’s best midfielders.
Statistically, she continued to reach new milestones, averaging a career-high 21.7 disposals, 5.6 clearances, 4.4 score involvements and 3.7 inside 50s. The midfielder finished the season with 12 votes in the league best and fairest count, an equal club-high.
She might fly under the radar externally, but Shelley Heath is a highly celebrated Demon at the club for her versatility, strength and determination.
Often tasked with locking down the opposition’s most influential players, this year has seen her talent showcased across both the backline and midfield, while also impacting in front of goals, kicking two during Round 1.
This season has seen Kate Hore take on the new title of captain, embracing the responsibility and allowing it to push her game to another level.
The crafty forward became the second player in league history to kick 20 goals in a home-and-season, earning her the title of leading goal-kicker alongside Eden Zanker. She also led the league for average score involvements with 6.5 a game.
Most recently, she became a three-time All-Australian forward and received the honour of All-Australian captain to go alongside her AFL Players' Association's Best Captain title.
In just her second season at the club, Blaithin Mackin has further adapted into the sport, having only come across from Gaelic football last year.
The speedy winger has been persistent in her develop of the AFL craft, her natural agility and creative skill an asset to the side. Her best performance came in Round 8 where she registered 21 disposals, six marks and four tackles.
A stalwart for the Demon line-up since the inaugural season, Lily Mithen has continued to be a pillar of strength for the team in 2023.
The energetic and determined utility was impressive in the contest, her versatility an important quality for the side during integral games throughout the season. She averaged 16.6 disposals and kicked a career-high total of four goals.
No one does it quite like Lauren Pearce and in 2023 she continued her talented ways in the red and blue. Known for her impressive ruck craft, with the ability to follow up at ground-level, Pearce averaged 18.5 hitouts and 3.2 clearances a game, often seen changing the momentum of a game with a single tap.
Despite missing one match in the middle of the season, Pearce’s impact across the year will no doubt put her in good stead for this year’s top honour.
A fiery midfielder who consistently steps up under pressure is Olivia Purcell, whose 2023 has been another testament to her talent.
The bullish Demon is as competitive as they come, attacking the contest with an unmatched will to win. This season has seen her average 21.9 disposals, 4.5 tackles, 4.2 clearances and a career-high 4.6 score involvements.
Experienced Demon Eden Zanker produced a career-best campaign in 2023. The tall forward came into the season with perfected forward craft and a strength in the aerial contest, averaging close to four marks a game.
She wrote herself into the history books as the first AFLW player to kick 20 goals in a home-and-away season and was named the league’s leading goal-kicker alongside Kate Hore. She topped off her year with an inaugural All-Australian selection.