Emily Warner grew up kicking a ball around in the backyard with her brothers in country South Australia.
But until 12 months ago, she had never played competitive AFL.
Now she has capped off a stellar debut season in the Central West AFL (CWAFL) women’s competition by receiving the best and fairest award at last Friday’s presentation night at the Orange City Bowling Club.
She was joined by Dubbo Demons team mate Lauren Hazell, with the latter claiming the title of leading goal-scorer in the women’s competition.
“A bit of a surprise, that was probably the first feeling I guess,” said a very humble Warner.
“We’ve had some pretty tough matches with a few of the girls and particularly the Bathurst Bushrangers have some really handy players on their team, so I guess it’s a bit of an honour as well.
“We’ve always have pretty tough battles and it’s nice to that you’re both going for the ball, but you can walk off at the end and shake hands with everyone and know there’s that respect.”
There’s clearly a lot of respect for Warner.
She secured 25 votes for the best and fairest award, ahead of runners up Sarah Shakleton (Bathurst Bushrangers) and Brahe Reid (Cowra) on 12 and 11 votes, respectively.
Dubbo Demons president Nick Lowther said the league could do with more Emily Warners.
“She’s got unique skills inside the league and … she’s exactly the type of player you like to see,” Lowther said of the Coonamble resident, who travels to Dubbo for training and games.
“Passionate about her footy, committed at training and switched on on game day … An extraordinary result for her rookie year.”
Lowther said Hazell’s award was “an exceptional reward for her great season in front of goals”.
The sharp-shooter scored a massive 51 goals in 2017, making her the leading goal-scorer across the entire CWAFL for 2017. The leading male goal-kicker, the Bathurst Bushranger Tim Hunter, scored 35 goals.
“It was a really big night for our women’s team, and quite evident that our on-field success translated into awards success for Friday night,” Lowther said.
“I think now the women’s league is solid. It’s part of what we are, it is 50 per cent of our club, we take it as seriously as we take the men’s. It’s just as critical for us to get a premiership in the women’s as it is for the men’s and I think that’s our goal for 2018.”
“I think it’s great,” Warner said of the CWAFL Women’s.
“It’s only been going a few years and you can really notice how the standard improves throughout the year. They really seem to be working hard to build it further and I think it will only be onwards and upwards.”