Kiara Bowers has added a third Fremantle AFLW Fairest and Best award to her name after she was announced as Freo’s most outstanding AFLW player in 2021 in an awards ceremony on Sunday at Crown Perth.
The award goes with a long list of accolades for Bowers from this season – a co-winner of the competition’s AFLW Best and Fairest, the winner of the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year and being named Vice Captain of the All Australian Team.
On the night she was also announced as the recipient of Fremantle’s AFLW Players Award for the third consecutive year for best reflecting the values set by the playing group at the start of the season.
Bowers topped the voting tally of 180 votes from nine home and away games and one final, ahead of runner-up Stephanie Cain (140) and third-placed Janelle Cuthbertson (116).
Senior coach Trent Cooper and assistant coaches Craig Thomas, Lisa Webb, Amy Lavell and Garrick Ibbotson all allocated a maximum of five votes to each player per game, meaning a player can earn a maximum of 25 votes for a dominant performance.
Bowers polled 20 votes or more in four games, highlighted by her 24 votes against Carlton.
Bowers said she was humbled to be a three-time winner.
“It’s incredible. I’m not one to float my own boat but I know the hard work that goes into it. It is really good to get the reward,” Bowers said.
“I want team success that’s what I’m chasing. (What drives me is) I’m not good at sitting around, so if I have a spare minute, I do a workout.
“I’m not going and getting the ball myself, half the time they’re giving it to me or blocking for me. There’s no way I could be these awards without them.
“To the girls, I honestly love youse and I spend a lot of time away from Dell (partner Adele) and (son) Nate and you guys make it enjoyable.
Senior coach Trent Cooper said it was no surprise to see Bowers win the Fairest and Best for a third time.
“It can take some mystique out of the night when Kiara is in your team! She had another phenomenal year,” Cooper said.
“We’re always looking for continuous improvement from our players and for Kiara to find that improvement from an outstanding year last year, it makes her thoroughly deserving as a Fairest and Best winner once again.
“It’s clear how much she did for the team and how much she means to the team.”
Cooper also praised runner-up Cain and third-placed Cuthbertson.
Cain starred in a season where she returned from an ACL injury from round one of the 2020 season.
Cuthbertson earned All Australian honours as a key defender in just her second AFLW season - and third year of playing football - all while playing with a broken rib for the second half of the season.
“We probably didn’t expect either Steph or Janelle to be this high at the start of the year,” Cooper said.
“For Steph, we were hoping she would hit this type of form by the end of next season. It’s rare someone can come back from such a significant injury and then have their best year ever.
“It’s a real luxury as a coach to have a magnet that you just set and know they’re going to perform that role every week, particularly in such a difficult position like the wing. Steph is really developing her leadership as well and we’re very fortunate to have her wearing the purple.
“For Janelle, it’s only her third year of football and her improvement’s just been rapid. To do so while carrying a significant injury as well, it shows the courage she’s got.
“We’re rapt with what she did and she’s also extremely popular with her teammates, they know how much she puts into her work and how much she tries to improve.
“She’s getting the rewards for that and, as a club, we’re getting the rewards for it as well.”
In other awards on the night, Ange Stannett was announced as the 2021 Best Clubwoman for consistently putting the needs of the team first.
The skilful Sarah Verrier won the Best First Year Player award after impressing in a number of roles in her debut season.
Cooper was also thrilled to see Stannett and Verrier acknowledged on the night.
“Ange is just so giving of her time to the club and players and she displays the positive attitude that we would love everyone to have all the time. Everything she does is with a smile and to the best of her abilities. It’s infectious amongst the group and she’s thoroughly deserving of the Best Clubwoman award,” Cooper said.
“Sarah came in as a first year, she had some difficulties with injury in the pre-season and we weren’t sure how much football she’d be able to play.
“She was played out of position as a forward for most of the year, just because our backline was going well.
“She was really polished, has great composure and this is only the start of her career, we think if she can build she’ll have a bigger impact in the years going forward.”
Bowers became the third player to win club champion award at least three times at Fremantle, joining Matthew Pavlich (6), Peter Bell (3) and Nat Fyfe (3).