By Lance Jenkinson
With the way Monique Conti plays her football for the Western Bulldogs in the AFL Women’s, you could be excused for thinking she is a seasoned veteran.
Remarkably, Conti is still only 19 years of age after the completion of her second season.
In two years in the AFLW, the Maribyrnong College graduate has evolved from one of the western suburbs most promising sporting talents to the pride of the west.
In her rookie season with the Bulldogs in 2018, Conti was a rising star nominee, played in the club’s first premiership and was best-on-ground in a grand final win over the Brisbane Lions.
Conti experienced no sophomore season blues in 2019.
Individually, she easily topped her achievements from her rookie season, earning All-Australian honours for the first time, named the Bulldogs best young player for a second year running and securing the club’s best-and-fairest.
Conti took out the Bulldogs highest honour with 161 votes, finishing 5.5 votes ahead of star onballer Ellie Blackburn (155.5) and hard-at-it forward Aisling Utri (136).
The best aspect of Conti’s game is that no part of the football ground is foreign to her.
Wherever Bulldogs coach Paul Groves puts the utility, she seems to thrive.
Conti has been used as a speedy midfielder, a forward 50 goal sneak or even a brave half back willing to step into the path of an opposition forward.
She averaged 18 disposals per game this season, 11 of which were contested. Her work at the coal face yielded four clearances a game.
Conti has achieved all of these accolades while maintaining her status as a cross-code star.
She is still part of the Melbourne Boomers team in the Women’s National Basketball League.
Conti has certainly come a long way from the young girl who was held back from playing football at first.
In an interview with Star Weekly in 2015, she said: “I begged my parents to let me play football. At first mum didn’t want me to play, but then she said I could if I ran really fast, so that’s what I did”.
If rumours of star forward Katie Brennan leaving the Bulldogs for expansion side Richmond next year are proven true, Conti has what it takes to be the face of the Bulldogs next season and beyond.
2019 Western Bulldogs AFLW best-and-fairest awards
Best-and-fairest: Monique Conti
Runner up: Ellie Blackburn
Third place: Aisling Utri
Coaches Award: Isabel Huntington
Community Award: Libby Birch
Most Improved: Kim Rennie
Players’ Player: Kirsty Lamb/Aisling Utri
Trainers Award: Lauren Spark
Best Young Player: Monique Conti