Claudia Gunjaca has been crowned Geelong’s VFLW best and fairest following a tight vote count on Friday night.
Gunjaca, who was acting captain for most of the second half of the season, finished just two votes clear of runner-up Paige Sheppard, with the two dominating the best and fairest count.
Sheppard had a strong start to the season, leading the vote count by 14 after six rounds, but Gunjaca was a regular among the top vote-getters, and had taken a one-vote lead by the end of Round 11.
The lead swapped again heading into finals with Sheppard again pulling one vote clear, but an eight-vote performance in the Preliminary Final win against Essendon saw Gunjaca take out the award.
And the winner is ... ?? Claudia Gunjaca! ??— Geelong Cats Womens (@catswomens) September 24, 2021
Congratulations to Claudia Gunjaca on winning the Cats VFLW best and fairest award, finishing just two votes clear of Paige Sheppard in a thrilling count, with Annabel Johnson coming in third.#GeelongStrong | @bendigobank pic.twitter.com/0yXTvU0Fi9
Gunjaca was recently recruited to the Cats' AFLW team, following her outstanding season in the VFLW, and previously won AFL Sydney's highest individual honour, the Mostyn Medal.
The 24-year-old thanked her teammates for making 2021 such a memorable season in her acceptance speech.
"You guys are the reason why we did so well this year, and I've probably had one of the most enjoyable years of my life, which is funny to say in a pandemic, but you guys made it so enjoyable," she said.
"I couldn’t thank you all enough for being a part of our team and the effort that everyone put in all year, but also the friendships that I made with every single one of you.”
Another of Geelong’s recent AFLW recruits, Annabel Johnson, finished in third place with 37 votes.
Becky Webster was just behind in fourth place with 36 votes from just five appearances, including a best-on-ground performance against the Southern Saints in Round 11, when she polled the maximum 10 votes.
Another of Geelong’s new recruits, Olivia Fuller, polled 10 votes in consecutive games against Collingwood – Round 14 and the Qualifying Final – after dominant performances in the ruck, and finished fifth in the count with 32.
Cats VFLW Best and Fairest Top 10
1. Claudia Gunjaca – 72 votes
2. Paige Sheppard – 70 votes
3. Annabel Johnson – 37 votes
4. Becky Webster – 34 votes
5. Olivia Fuller – 32 votes
6. Darcy Moloney – 29 votes
7. Sophie Van De Heuvel – 23 votes
8. Maddy Keryk – 21 votes
9. Olivia Barber – 20 votes
10. Laura Gardiner – 19 votes