Wright, Paterno share top award

Emily Paterno. (Shawn Smits)

Tara Murray

Two of the biggest names in the Essendon District Football League women’s premier division have shared the league best and fairest.

Hillside’s Emily Paterno and Westmeadows Gemma Wright both polled 15 votes to share the award in what was a close count.

Paterno started the season on fire, with four successive best on ground performances, with Wright coming home strong in the back half of the season.

Both polled votes in the final round to finish one vote clear of Keilor’s Kaitlyn O’Keefe.

Paterno, who finished second in the goalkicking and was named in the team of the year, was quick to praise everyone at Hillside.

Paterno started her career at the Sharks before going on to play VFL. She returned to the Sharks in 2019.

“Congratulations to Gemma Wright, who I share this award with, you had a fantastic season and you really deserve this one,” she said in a video on the league’s social media page.

“While this is recognised as an individual award, I don’t see it that way.

“I would firstly like to thank all my teammates down at Hillside, I was lucky enough to run out alongside a champion team every single week and all their work up and round the ground is what has afforded me this opportunity.“

Paterno thanked her coaches for making her a better player and also praised the club’s volunteers.

“You guys are honestly the heart and soul of every footy team, the reason why we are able to get out on the park every weekend and do what we love.”

Wright was a standout for the Tigers in her first season, having joined the club for the cancelled 2020 season. As well as playing in the senior side, she coached the club’s second women’s side this year.

The league best and fairest win is her first after finishing in the placings twice before. She was third in the best and fairest in 2017 and runner-up in Northern Football League best and fairest in 2018, both times behind her twin sister, Sarah.

Gemma Wright also has a VFLW Carlton best and fairest to her name.

A post on the Westmeadows Facebook page said Wright had fitted in with the team and had become a leader and mentor to the playing group.

“Her wealth of football experience and knowledge assisted in both of our women’s teams placing in ladder positions to have a real crack at a premiership.”

Wright was also named in the EDFL premier division team of the year.

Players from every team were selected in the team of the year, with Oak Park and Keilor having four players selected each.

Kaitlyn O’Keefe was named captain of the side and Maribyrnong Park’s Charlie Fenech was named coach of the year.

In the premier men’s competition, Aberfeldie ruck Nick Meese was awarded the Reynolds medal.

Meese, in his first season at the club after stepping down from the VFL, finished on 14 to finish one vote clear of Thomas Baravi

It’s the second straight season Baravi has finished second in that award.