“It’s the luck of the Irish … I’m pretty chuffed!” Jackettes recruit Caitlin Boylan beamed upon being named the 2023 Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) women’s division 3 Best & Fairest Player, live on an RSN Xtra radio broadcast on September 20.
Boylan only arrived in Melbourne from Ireland in February, with the sole purpose of travelling around Australia.
Remarkably, until she attended an AJAX Footy Club pre-season training session, she had never before touched a Sherrin ball, let alone heard of the sport of Aussie Rules.
Adapting to footy with incredible ease, from her Gaelic football playing background, Boylan’s athleticism, strength and skill shone through from round one, all the way to the inaugural premiership triumph by the Jackettes on September 3.
In that women’s division 3 decider, which AJAX won by 27 points over Powerhouse, Boylan kicked the first goal and won the Best on Ground Medal.
In her Best & Fairest award acceptance speech, Boylan revealed that she’d spotted a recruitment notice placed by AJAX on the “Irish in Melbourne” Facebook site and thought that, as her backpackers hostel was just across from Albert Park, she’d pop into Jackettes training. She felt immediately welcomed by coach Joe Nankin.
“I’d never played with an egg-shaped ball before,” she recalled.
“And at the start of the season, I didn’t think I’d pick up the game, but it worked out alright for me.
“I fell in love with the team, the club and the sport.
“I’d like to give a big shout out to Joe and all the AJAX coaching staff for accepting me into the footy family and to the co-captains Justine Gabriel and Annelise Caplan … and my Irish teammate Kim Cobbe and also Lindi Nankin, for driving me to every single game.”
Boylan would still like to travel, but said when asked about playing another season for the Jackettes next year, “I’ll definitely be back … I just need to do some farm work [in the meantime] to get another [year’s visa extension].”
She earned the Best & Fairest award with 25 votes, three votes ahead of Whitefriars player Clare Fernandes, while fellow Jackette Julia Caplan was equal fourth with three other players on 13 votes.
Lindi Nankin, who scored 21 goals, won the women’s division 3 leading goalkicker award.
The VAFA Awards presentation night was scheduled to take place at Marvel Stadium’s function centre on September 27.