Floor to ceiling glass framed a muted Port Phillip Bay outside, the waters in a rancorous mood. Inside, contrastingly calm and vibrant, the most impressive players of the AFLW stood congregated in small groups.
There was Steph Chiocci deep in discussion with Katie Brennan and Sarah Perkins. The awesome foursome of Courtney Gum, Daisy Pearce, Chloe Molloy and Chelsea Randall cradled their awards, Molloy in particular proud as punch to be recognised for her efforts as Best First Year Player by her heroes.
Gum, modest to a fault, professed her disbelief that she could be the Most Valuable Player in only her first season; a sanguine Pearce reassured her that it was the votes of confidence from the players themselves that reflected her value to the league.
MASSIVE congratulations to our superstar veteran Courtney Gum, who has taken out the @AFLPlayers MVP award!— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) March 26, 2018
The perfect way to cap an inspirational season from the first-year GIANT!
📰: https://t.co/3ESXu8rBEs | #NeverSurrender #AFLPAMVP18 pic.twitter.com/8ihf7A1K0i
“What makes Courtney so valuable [is] when the team’s in trouble or needs something somewhere on the field, Courtney was that [player].
"I think of the Bulldogs game on Emma Kearney, [she was] playing a role there. They needed something down back and it was Courtney who got sent to do it. I think every time she moved positions she had an immediate impact. I like that.”
The veteran recruit had earlier joked about playing another ten seasons, but when pressed, Gum freely admitted that at 36, she’d been assessing her ability to play on a yearly basis for the last 5 years already.
A member of the Giants’ “Dad’s Army” of sorts, Gum echoed skipper Amanda Farrugia by acknowledging the mosaic of experienced players that had walked into the club, transforming it beyond recognition from last year.
“We’ve come from so many different walks of life, Cora Staunton from Ireland, Perth girls [with] such a range of ages...it was kind of a perfect storm and we just gelled.
"Obviously, we didn’t get the silverware, but we came away with such an amazing experience across the board – a big improvement from last season.”
Molloy, the youngest winner, is a generation apart from the others and it was clear in the language she used to describe the others.
“These are kind of my heroes, to be voted by them it makes you blush a little like ‘Wow my heroes think that I’m pretty good’. It’s an amazing honour.”
Thank you to my peers for voting me in as the best first year player! Many stars born this season ⭐️ @courtney_gum being one, but this ledge took out the MVP Award. Plus how amazing to be standing next to Chelsea Randall & @DaisyPearce6, well deserved & congratulations ladies! pic.twitter.com/yQyDoZtAsD— Chloe Molloy (@chloemollloy) March 26, 2018
The age gap was further illustrated by her initial reaction to playing in the defensive half of the ground, drawing chuckles from her colleagues.
“No offence to the backline but you kind think ‘Oh I don’t really want to play in the backline; no one really kicks goals, no one really gets photos of the backline and there’s nothing you can chuck up on Instagram.’
“I was drafted as a forward but my coach was confident I was ready to take on anything. I just wanted to get out there, as long as it was on the field I was happy to play anywhere.”
Most Courageous in season 2018, Crows champ Chelsea Randall let her footy do the talking for the most part.
“[I’m] very humbled and honoured to be voted by the playing group this year, it means a lot to me… I’m a bit lost for words. [I just] wanted to play my role for the team”.
Well known for her leadership qualities, Daisy Pearce’s nod for Best Captain came as no surprise. The Melbourne marvel is already an iconic part of the game, but her praise was mostly for the other women who compete with her week after week.
“To have it acknowledged by your teammates first, the longer you’ve been a leader in the game you realise it’s initially about doing what you need to do to make yourself available, to lead by example & then it’s about opening yourself up to the group, having an interest in people & caring about them, building relationships...anything you can do to help you understand where they’re at.
“It’s different this year, last year was more of a learning experience, I’ve probably embraced it a bit more.
"Being captain you have to be the one that gets around to everybody, getting to know the other leaders on the team, using them as much as possible, leaning on them when you need leadership and advice… I guess delegation’s probably too strong a word, but sharing the load a bit with the other great leaders.
“Being named captain is one thing, leadership is something completely different, to have vice captains and other girls...Mel (Hickey) and Elise (O’Dea) have been a tremendous support for me as a player. They’re both two people that I take a lot of inspiration from.”