“I’d been here a couple of years so thought it was about time I did something”.
Those were the words emerging defender Eleanor Brown used when accepting the Most Improved Player award at the Western Bulldogs’ 2021 AFLW Best and Fairest.
While the room erupted in laughter, the third-year Bulldog said there was actually a bit of truth behind her joke.
“I was kind of serious when I said that – I felt like I hadn’t done as much as I would’ve liked in the past two years in terms of my on-field impact in games, so I definitely came into this season wanting to do a bit more,” Brown told westernbulldogs.com.au.
“I think the first three games I started pretty slow, so I was just trying to bring a bit more confidence into my game in the second-half of the season - that was when I felt I started to play a bit better.
“This was the first year I’ve played every game, so it was good to feel a bit more comfortable in the team.”
Since arriving at the Kennel with pick number 10 in the 2018 AFLW National Draft, Brown has played 19 games in the red, white and blue.
But it was this season in particular – most notably from round four onwards – where she really started to find her feet.
From her last six games, Brown averaged 12.6 disposals, four marks and six tackles, while also finishing the season as the Club’s leading intercept marker (58).
She said her breakout season was mostly a result of extra training sessions with head coach Nathan Burke and her teammates.
“I felt like I had a lot of stuff – and still do have a lot of stuff – I wanted to work on, so ‘Burkey’ was huge in helping me figure out what to focus on,” Brown said.
“He put in so much extra time with me in terms of training and doing skills on non-training days, so he definitely made a big difference for me.”
Highlighting her rapid rise this season, Brown received a NAB Rising Star nomination in round nine for a 19-disposal, six-tackle and two-mark performance against Richmond.
To compliment her Most Improved award at Saturday’s formalities, she also stormed home to claim fourth spot in the Best and Fairest count.
“I think I finished 16th in the count last year, similar to my first year, so it was definitely a bit of a shock - I was hoping I would sneak into the top 10, but didn’t think I’d come fourth,” Brown said.
“(The Rising Star nomination) was a shock too – Richmond’s Katie Brennan kicked three goals on me, so I didn’t think I’d had a very good game.
“I knew I was eligible (for the Rising Star) – we sort of had a running joke amongst ourselves that it was my last chance to get it as it was the last game I was eligible.
“Luckily enough I just snuck in.”