Hayley Miller has been crowned Fremantle’s AFLW Fairest and Best for the 2022 season after a commanding win at the count held on Saturday night at Crown Perth.
The Fremantle captain was also announced as the Player of the Finals as she polled 191 votes from 12 games to finish 37 votes ahead of runner-up Ebony Antonio.
The fight for second was much closer, with Antonio earning her third top-two finish on 154 votes, ahead of Ange Stannett (148) and second-year player Sarah Verrier (143) in fourth.
Gabby O’Sullivan rounded out the top five on 141 votes after making the switch from the forward line to the midfield.
Stannett was recognised for her team and Club-first attitude, winning the Players and Best Clubwoman Awards.
Young defender Jess Low won the Best First Year Player Award after her 10th place finish in the count. Low was Senior Coach Trent Cooper’s go-to player to limit the opposition’s best players, taking on of some of the best in the game with roles on Darcy Vescio, Katie Brennan, Chloe Molloy, Cora Staunton, Niamh Kelly, Ash Riddell and Ash Woodland.
Votes were cast by Cooper and four assistant coaches on a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 basis, with 25 votes recognising a rare dominant performance.
While Kiara Bowers earned the most votes in a game with 24 in round three against Richmond, Miller was rewarded for her consistency with 15 votes or more in nine of her 12 appearances.
Miller’s win ends Bowers’ three-year run of winning the award, and she joins Bowers, Antonio and Dana Hooker as Fremantle’s fourth AFLW Club champion.
Cooper said Miller was a clear winner of the award for good reason.
“Hayley is a thoroughly deserving winner of our Fairest and Best, she had an amazing season this year, which was duly recognised by her being named Vice Captain of the All Australian team,” Cooper said.
“She was really dominant in most games that she played and her consistency went to another level this year.
“In the off-season, Hayley really wanted to get her game to another level. She’s been a very good player for her previous five seasons but she worked hard in the pre-season, both on her game and on the physical side to get her body able to produce four quarter efforts at an elite level.
“Then she’s taken her kicking and running patterns to another level to win lots of the ball and use it so effectively.”
As well as being Fremantle’s lead midfielder, Miller also made an impact up forward with 10 goals – the most for Fremantle alongside Antonio.
“The other thing that she added this year was her forward craft” Cooper said.
“She worked hard on that during the pre-season to lead our goalkicking with Ebony with 10 goals. That made Fremantle an attacking threat.”
Cooper also praised Antonio and Stannett for their outstanding seasons, with Fremantle receiving a boost ahead of Season 7 with Antonio committing to a two-year contract extension.
“Ebony was back to her best and was again used in a variety of positions being equally effective across all three lines,” Cooper said.
“Her ability to play well in the big moments of games can’t be underestimated, both in the impact on the result and also on her teammates, who trust that she’ll stand up at the right time.
“Ange thoroughly deserved to finish in the top three. We really value players who play specific roles and that was evidenced by our defenders performing well across the board this year.
“She had such a consistent year, playing well on so many good opponents while providing us with rebound out of the back half.”
Cooper had particular praise for the 19-year-old Verrier, whose elite skills were an asset in a variety of roles.
“Sarah Verrier is a player that we rated very highly in the draft. This year, she announced herself and she’s going to be a really good player for Fremantle for a long time,” Cooper said.
“We’re also proud to see Aine Tighe and Jess Low in the top 10. Aine’s debut year has been the most anticipated and we saw the reasons why. She had a really solid year and was already filling gaps along three different lines for us in her first year which was amazing.
“With Jess, I don’t think anyone in the competition had as many top-rated scalps as she had this year. We’re stoked with her first year in the system and look forward to her developing further in Season 7.”
THE TOP 10
Hayley Miller 191
Ebony Antonio 154
Ange Stannett 148
Sarah Verrier 143
Gabby O’Sullivan 141
Kiara Bowers 134
Emma O’Driscoll 131
Steph Cain 129
Aine Tighe 127
Jess Low 124