Essendon VFLW captain Georgia Nanscawen has made history, becoming the Bombers’ first-ever Lambert-Pearce medallist as the league-wide best and fairest.
Nanscawen polled 17 votes in tonight’s virtual count of the 2021 VFL and VFLW Awards, finishing ahead of Collingwood's Caitlin Bunker (14) and Hawthorn's Tamara Luke (11) to claim the VFLW’s highest individual honour.
It capped a remarkable evening for the 29-year-old, who was also named captain of the 2021 rebel VFLW Team of the Year.
A former Hockeyroo and Olympian who played 205 international matches before crossing to the AFLW with North Melbourne, Nanscawen was a force in her second season at the Bombers and first as skipper, following a 2019 campaign that saw her win the club’s best and fairest.
The hard-nosed midfielder averaged 23 disposals and 11 tackles across 15 games, dominating in the Bombers’ maiden finals series that led to a preliminary final.
Nanscawen credited the environment at Essendon and her family for allowing her to flourish.
“I’m pretty speechless and wasn’t expecting this. I’m certainly very honoured and super grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given,” Nanscawen said.
“From the day I walked in at Essendon, I certainly felt at home. For most of my sporting life, I’ve been in that high-stress, high-pressure environment, but when I came to Essendon, I just felt at ease that I was able to just enjoy myself and enjoy sport. You play your best in any sport when you’re feeling valued and comfortable, and I’ve certainly been very happy at Essendon.
“Being head coach for a few years, Brendan Major has really taught me a lot about football. I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life, but he’s one of the rare ones who most people would fight hard for and want to make proud.
“My teammates add to that vibe that we have at Essendon that makes it really enjoyable to come in each day and not want to go anywhere else.
“I’m very lucky to have such a supportive family and parents. Whether it’s been sport or life in general, or they’ve ever wanted is for me to be happy and enjoy what I’m doing.”
Essendon VFLW head coach Brendan Major said Nanscawen was reaping the rewards of her tireless work behind the scenes.
“It's huge. She’s put in several years of really hard work on her game and leadership, and it’s it culminated in a really good season. To win the league best and fairest, even after missing several games through injury, is a fantastic effort,” Major said.
“She’s so well respected among her peers. Everyone understands and appreciates the work that goes into making her the player she is. She’s a consummate professional and it’s shown on the field.”
With the Bombers poised to enter the AFLW competition in the 2022/23 season, Nanscawen has made no secret of her desire to return to the national women’s competition and be part of the club’s inaugural AFLW side.
She said she had already committed to the 2022 VFLW season with Essendon.
“It’s only been my third season of football. I came to North Melbourne extremely fresh and hadn’t even played a full season in Perth in the local league. I was thrown into the deep end and obviously gave it my best shot, but with the team North had, it was hard to find a way in there,” Nanscawen said.
“I’ve found my place at Essendon. I think the coaching staff and playing group put a lot of faith in me and make me feel really valued. I still think I’m learning. I have a very young relative football age, so I still feel I can get a lot better. With the announcement of Essendon having an AFLW licence, there’s certainly the potential to give it another crack. If that happens down the track, that would be quite exciting.
“For a couple of years, I’ve been forward in saying Essendon is where I’d like to be and where I want to be. I don’t see myself going anywhere else. If the opportunity to play with Essendon at AFLW level is there, that would be wonderful, but for now we’ve got another season of VFLW to focus on and hopefully go one or two steps better than what we did this year. Essendon’s my home and we’ll see what happens.”
Nanscawen’s feats weren’t the only calls for celebration for Essendon, with club employee Mark Lanham named the Ann Rulton and Alex Gillon Volunteer of the Year (VFL/VFLW volunteer of the year), and young star Alana Barba also named in the rebel VFLW Team of the Year.