Fans Players

‘Emily’s always searching for an edge’

Brisbane midfielder Emily Bates has claimed the 2022 AFL Players’ AFLW MVP award, proudly presented by Snaffle. Lions coach Craig Starcevich said earning her peers’ respect by taking out the playervoted award was just desserts for the consistency she has shown in her time in the competition.

The fact that Emily Bates has managed two All-Australian berths, an AFLW premiership and a club best and fairest with minimal fanfare seemingly aligns with the Brisbane vice-captain’s disposition – one that doesn’t demand fanfare and is driven by action.

While the Lions’ campaign ended in a heartbreaking Preliminary Final loss to the Demons, Bates stood tall throughout and capped an outstanding season by being voted the AFLPA’s Most Valuable Player by her peers.

The inaugural Lion made AFLW history in 2022 as one of the first players to notch 50 AFLW games and she did so in trademark fashion – averaging 21.7 disposals, 10.6 contested possessions, 5.6 clearances and 6.9 tackles on her way to the milestone.

The award now accompanies an AFL Coaches Association AFLW Champion Player of the Year award which she was presented last month and the AFLW best and fairest award she received on Tuesday night.

For Lions AFLW Senior Coach Craig Starcevich, the flowing accolades are overdue for Bates, who has slid under the radar as one of the premier midfielders of the competition.

“We’re very proud as a footy club because when Emily started in the competition, she was already accomplished, but, perhaps, in the shadows of some of the bigger names and Victorian-based midfielders who were in the competition from the get-go,” Starcevich said.

“Now that she’s in her mid-20s, had five or so pre-seasons, played 53 games – she’s now got real status in the comp. I think the awards that she’s getting this season are now starting to cement her right at the top, which is fantastic for her.”

Despite her impressive resume, Bates took her preparations to new heights in a bid to find another level for AFLW 6.0.

“She’s constantly looking for better ways and she’s never got complacent. She’s always searching for an edge or looking to improve herself,” Starcevich said.

Starcevich credits Bates’ one-percenters along with the connection the Lions’ midfield group have cultivated over the years, as well as an enhanced self-belief for the AFLPA MVP-winners’ success.

“She’s always been one of the better midfielders in the competition, but I think the time that the group’s had together over the last three years – it’s been a pretty stable inside mid group, so that’s part of it and they’ve all got better – Emily included,” he said.

“I think Emily probably came into this year off the back of a really strong Grand Final performance (last season), she was starting to believe a little bit more in her own self and her own status in the competition.”

As a leader, Bates lets her actions do the talking.

“She’s not a demonstrative leader with words, she’s more of a lead by example – training work ethic, holding high standards. She’ll say something when it needs to be said,” Starcevich explained.

“Emily’s great strength is that she’ll show you the way through her actions.”