Meghan McDonald has made history after claiming the inaugural Geelong Cats AFLW Best & Fairest.

McDonald polled 182 votes to take out the award ahead of second placed Olivia Purcell on 168 votes, and Renee Garing and Maddy McMahon who tied in third place on 157 votes.

The 27-year-old defender arrived at GMHBA Stadium after four games of AFLW experience at the Western Bulldogs in 2017. A Darebin Falcons product, McDonald was a member of the Falcons’ premiership sides of 2016 and 2017 and enjoyed a standout year in the VFLW in 2018.

McDonald played all eight games for the Cats across the 2019 season, demonstrating consistency and composure week in, week out.

McDonald was the Cats leading disposal winner with 126 across the season, including a 22-disposal performance in round 6 against Fremantle at GMHBA Stadium. She also earned AFLW All-Australian honours earlier this week, named at full-back in the 2019 team.

Runner-up Purcell enjoyed a breakout first season in the AFLW, the 18-year-old earning a Rising Star nomination in round 5 after an outstanding performance against the Lions. The Geelong local collected 20 disposals, 10 tackles and a goal in the win.

Cross-coders, Garing and McMahon tied on votes for third place after equally strong seasons. Garing, a former netballer, was a standout in the Cats round 2 clash with the Western Bulldogs where she laid 14 tackles. The skilled midfielder continued to apply the same level of pressure throughout the season, with a season total 64 tackles.

McMahon, a former basketballer, backed up her strong VFLW campaign last season with a consistent AFLW debut. A reliable pillar in the Cats backline alongside McDonald, McMahon was one of the leading intercept markers in AFLW.

Voting system

AFLW head coach rates each player out of 15 points and assistant coaches provide a combined rating for each player worth 15 points, making 30 points the most possible in any round.

AFLW Best & Fairest Top 10

1. Meg McDonald (182)
2. Olivia Purcell (168)
3. Renee Garing (157)
3. Maddy McMahon (157)
5. Maddy Keryk (143)
6. Bec Goring (137)
7. Danielle Orr (133)
8. Julia Crockett-Grills (126)
9. Denby Taylor (124)
10. Jordan Ivey (121)

The ‘Hoops’ Award: Melissa Hickey 

Geelong captain Melissa Hickey was awarded the ‘Hoops’ Award, for her contribution to the club and her respect for the hoops across the season.

Hickey’s leadership both on and off-field has inspired her teammates across the Cats’ inaugural season. She has consistently lived the values of the club, demonstrated unwavering support for her teammates and been influential in bringing the group together off-field.

The ‘Hoops’ award is voted by players, AFLW staff and coaches and is awarded to the player making a values-based contribution to the club, in line with the criteria for the men’s Tom Harley award.

Community Champion Award: Kate Darby

Kate Darby was awarded the AFLW Community Champion Award for her ongoing involvement in the community. Darby has been a leader in the community space for the past two years as a Healthy Heroes ambassador, Footy Colours Day ambassador for the Fight Cancer Foundation and GenU Big Day Out volunteer.

Kate has participated in school visits, Barwon Health Ward Walks at University Hospital and has been actively involved in promoting and developing grass roots football in the region through participation in the 2018 and 2019 Community Camps, Country Days and Junior Club visits.

The AFLW Community Champion is awarded by the club’s community team for the work done in the Cats community programs and outside the club.