Neve O’Connor and Kristy McClaer wrote their names on the latest chapter of the RMIT Women’s Football Academy history books as they claimed the inaugural Best & Fairest Awards for the Seniors and Reserves respectively at Friday’s Presentation Night.
Cheered on by a crowd of nearly seventy from both the Redbacks community and their friends, family and partners, O’Connor and McClaer accepted the glass trophies after outstanding seasons in defence.
O’Connor polled 91 votes to finish clear of vice-captain Thomay Nicolaou and third-placed Tahlia Ingram, a tally made all the more impressive considering she missed four matches. Her intercept marking, damaging kicking and football smarts made her one of the Redbacks’ most crucial match day pieces.
“I just loved playing in the backline,” she said following her acceptance of the award, “especially watching how much we improved as a team this year by the end of the season.”
McClaer’s Best & Fairest victory put a triumphant finish to possibly the Academy’s greatest fairytale of its first season. In the first half of her first season of Australian Rules, the 38-year old mother of three was in and out of the Reserves playing as a forward. Her move to the backline at half-time of the Reserves’ Round 8 match against South Melbourne proved the making of her. For the second half of the season, McClaer’s poise and efficiency as a defender were simply unerring. She finished the count on 24 votes (the Reserves had just the one coach voting as opposed to the Seniors with two).
“I’m so honoured, I really didn’t expect it,” confessed McClaer.