THIS time last year, the Demons gathered via Zoom to reflect on a season that never ended.
Fast forward 12 months and there’s a lot to celebrate, with Melbourne’s players, coaches, staff and fans enjoying an in-person Best and Fairest night at the Half Acre in South Melbourne.
After a season full of challenges, take a look below at the club’s award winners, with four Dees recognised for their efforts in a ground-breaking 2021 season.
Trademark Player – Shelley Scott
The model player, the dream teammate and the most reliable of contributors.
It comes as no surprise that Shelley Scott has received Melbourne’s Trademark Player award, for a gallant 2021 campaign.
The 33-year-old, who won last year’s top prize, dealt with some incredible adversity throughout the season.
Despite being battered and bruised, copping injuries all over her body, Scott played all 11 games and was a focal point in the Dees’ forward line.
The former skipper is a leader through her actions, setting a lofty standard of professionalism for her teammates to follow on and off the field.
Averaging 12 disposals per game and slotting 10 goals for the year, Scott was a huge factor in Melbourne’s top-four finish, while managing to go about her business without any media hype once again.
Third Place – Lauren Pearce
The All Australian side’s most notable omission has been rightfully recognised at the Demons’ night of nights.
Lauren Pearce was the standout ruck in the competition this season and she has placed third in Melbourne’s Best and Fairest count.
Throughout a challenging campaign, she not only provided her on-ballers first use of the footy, but got her hands dirty at ground level as well.
Pearce averaged a team-high four clearances, while racking up 14 disposals per game, showing an ability to take the ball out of the ruck contest, which quickly became a weapon for the Demons.
The 28-year-old is another who played through pain, fronting up week-in, week-out, despite distress with her knee.
While Pearce may have been slightly hindered at stages, her form never wavered, and her ability to cover the ground at 184cm is second to none.
Winners – Tyla Hanks and Karen Paxman
For the first time in this club’s five-year history, two Demons have tied in first place for the Best and Fairest Award.
After polling 64 votes in 11 games, Tyla Hanks and Karen Paxman couldn’t be split, sharing the club’s highest honour for 2021.
And it’s a special moment for the pair of midfielders at opposite ends of their career.
For Hanks, well her third season at the top level caught the eye of the football world.
Winning the NAB AFLW Rising Star Award, the 21-year-old was recognised as the league’s best young talent, but she’s now more than that.
She’s a genuine star of the competition who has proven to be one of Melbourne’s most influential players.
In the past two years, Hanks spent most of her time forward of centre, averaging 9 disposals per game, but with increased midfield minutes and added responsibility as a leader of the side, she thrived this season.
Laying five tackles and collecting 19 touches a week, Hanks imposed herself on matches, with her balance, poise and efficiency shining above the rest.
Hanks’ improvement, along with contributions from Eden Zanker, Lily Mithen and Maddi Gay, took some pressure of Paxman, who was able to share the load this year.
Of course, Paxman has well and truly established herself in the league already, but the 32-year-old’s ability to continuously deliver at an elite standard shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Paxman was named in the All Australian side for the fifth time in as many seasons – one of only two players to hold that honour – while also placing fifth in the league’s Best and Fairest Award.
The hard-at-it on-baller, who captained two games in Daisy Pearce’s absence, averaged a career-high 23 disposals, getting off the leash week after week and leading her side into a Preliminary Final.
Paxman was the only veteran in Melbourne’s midfield this year, but her ability to help the youngsters around her stand taller made her a great asset to the team, with and without the footy.
Each player received a 0-10 vote from the coaching staff after every game of the season.