By Alice Barker
Since the age of give, Emily Bates has called Leyshon Park home.
She played her first game for the club when she was 11, giving the Devils an insight as to what was to come in her footy career.
Now, 12 years later, Bates has risen to the top of the QAFLW having claimed the competition’s top honour, the 2019 QAFLW Bond University Best and Fairest.
It’s a reminder just how far hard work and loyalty, two traits Bates exudes, will take you.
“It was quite a nerve-racking finish to be honest, but I think they’re the best vote counts, when it comes right down to the end,” Emily told aflq.com.au.
“[I’m] just so, so shocked but also so honoured to win this award.
“I’ve been to quite a few of these nights and seen so many of my good friends win these awards who I respect so much, so it means a lot to finally get one.”
Emily made a strong start on the leader board but throughout the night jostled with teammate Jordan Zanchetta and Bond University’s Kalinda Howarth.
It was her three-vote performance in the Devils’ Round 13 game against University of Queensland that moved her to the top and eventually saw her take out the votes, prevailing by a single vote.
“I always dreamed of winning this award, just because of who has won in the past and what it means to me,” said Emily.
“I always, as a junior watched the senior footy and admired all those players and wished that one day I could be where they are.
“So, I think to finally win it, it does mean a lot to me.”
Emily was the second pick in the 2016 AFL Women’s draft and made her debut in the Lions’ inaugural game against Melbourne in the opening round of the 2017 AFL Women’s season.
She was nominated by her teammates for the 2017 AFLW Players’ Most Valuable Player Award, was named Brisbane’s Best and Fairest and was also listed in the All-Australian team.
Emily is clearly a popular choice amongst her teammates, but without her dedication to her footy teams and clubs she wouldn’t gain this recognition.
“Loyalty means a lot to me and growing up at the club I loved everything about [it],” said Emily.
“Honestly, the club does feel like home and I can’t imagine playing anywhere else.
“The group of girls we have, they make you feel comfortable, they’re really supportive of me and all the AFLW players when we come back.”
Even with so many feathers in her cap, Emily remains humble saying the victory would be sweeter if both her and long-term teammate Jordan Zanchetta won the credit together.
“Playing with her, she’s like another sister, I’ve played with her since I was 14, so the connection we have on the field is like I have with no other player,” said Emily.
“I think a dream would be for us to tie and both win the award, but it was still close.”