Baird becomes the NTFL’s youngest leading lady

Janet Baird with Colleen Gwynne

Palmerston Magpies’ Janet Baird has capped off a remarkable season taking home the 2018/19 Gwynne Medal for being the best and fairest player in the Women’s Premier League. 

At just 19-years-old she needed only 13 games to claim an impressive 23 votes for victory, holding off one of last season’s winners and Waratah captain, Lisa Roberts (21 votes) and dynamic PINT midfielder, Katie Streader (17 votes). 

Baird’s accolade is her first of this proportion and makes her the youngest-ever winner of the NTFL’s top female prize and comes with two return airfares to Melbourne and two tickets to the 2019 Toyota AFL Grand Final thanks to Virgin Australia and the AFL. 

From a big Palmerston-affiliated family, Baird started playing NTFL as a 14-year-old and has now amassed 83 games for the Magpies.

She made her Women’s Premier League debut back in season 2016/17, playing just the one game. In 2017/18 she played 17 games and became one of the competition’s most consistent performers. Last year she picked up the Women’s Rising Star award for her effort and polled strongly in the Gwynne Medal count to finish in equal-fourth with 16 votes.

Baird played 13 games during the most-recent home and away season, mostly as a defender who generated plenty of run off the halfback line and was also one of the best players in the competition for being able to turn defence into a scoring opportunity for her team. 

She kicked 14 goals too, proving her versatility and willingness to play in whatever position needed filling. 

Baird was one of the quickest players out of the blocks, setting her intentions from early. In the first five rounds she polled in three games, collecting seven votes to sit in second place. Ahead of her was Darwin Buffettes’ speedster, Machaelia Roberts who had been awarded three best on ground performances and nine votes to lead all comers. 

Southern Districts’ newest recruit, Tayla Thorn also sat in second place with seven votes while Lisa Roberts was next best with six. 

Thorn continued to push on, her fortunes rising along with the Crocs’ winning performances but by Round 9 Baird had jumped to the lead off the back of two three-vote performances. It was the midway point of the season and she had 14 votes, one more than Thorn (13) and two more than Lisa Roberts (12). Streader had also come into the picture by then, picking up seven votes in four games to  sit on 10 votes overall.

While Baird missed out on playing in Rounds 10, 11 and 12 Lisa Roberts kept accumulating votes and with when the Tahs met the Magpies in Round 11 she was accorded three votes that saw her take the lead.  A vote her way in each of Round 12 and 13 further cemented her lead and propelled her to 17 votes overall.

Meanwhile, Baird and Machaelia Roberts sat in second place on 14 votes and Thorn on 13. 

Not much changed in Round 14 but in Round 15 Baird was recognised for her standout performance against Southern Districts and collected three votes to join Lisa Roberts at the top of the leaderboard. 

In Round 16 the reading of the votes saw a nervous tension spread across the room. Baird picked up three more votes in Palmerston’s big win over Tracy Village while Lisa Roberts got two for her effort against Nightcliff. That meant Baird moved one vote ahead.

A third-in-a-row best on ground performance for Baird in Round 17 and another two votes to Lisa Roberts made Baird’s lead two votes, with Roberts’ 21 votes equaling her Gwynne Medal-winning tally from last season. Streader also picked up three votes in Round 17 to move onto 14 and into fourth spot, just behind Thorn who was up to 16 votes. 

But going into the final round it was a two-woman race, with only Baird and Roberts able to win it. 

In Round 18 Waratah enjoyed a hard-fought victory over the Darwin Buffettes, and just like last season where Roberts was unable to poll against the Buffettes, she wasn’t able to again this season and finished on the 21 votes. And Baird didn’t add to her tally either, despite Palmerston’s huge 110-point victory. 

Streader, on the other hand, collected three votes for her effort against St Mary’s, thus catapulting herself into outright third place on 17 votes.   

Baird is the third Palmerston player to claim the top honour since the senior women’s competition joined the NTFL. She follows in the footsteps of Rhiannon Busch who won it as a 21-year-old in the 2009/10 season, and Michaeline Brown who won it in 2013/14. 

Gwynne Medal leading vote-getters:

1st – Janet Baird – Palmerston – 23 votes
2nd – Lisa Roberts – Waratah – 21 votes
3rd – Katie Streader – PINT – 17 votes
4th – Tayla Thorn – Southern Districts – 16 votes
5th – Tabitha May – Palmerston – 15 votes

Darwin Buffaloes top 3
56 total votes

1st – Machaelia Roberts – 14 votes 
2nd – Kylie Duggan – 8 votes 
3rd – Bianca Stokes – 6 votes

Nightcliff top 3
28 total votes

1st – Emma-Lou Wolsey – 8 votes
2nd – Jamie Lee Puautjimi – 5 votes
2nd – Shantel Miskin-Ripia – 5 votes

Palmerston top 4
61 total votes

1st – Janet Baird – 23 votes
2nd – Tabitha May – 15 votes
3rd – Natasha Medbury – 9 votes
3rd – Freda Puruntatameri – 9 votes

PINT top 3
48 total votes

1st – Katie Streader – 17 votes
2nd – Samantha Barnett – 12 votes
3rd – Cassie Henderson – 5 votes

Southern Districts top 3
61 total votes

1st – Tayla Thorn – 16 votes
2nd – Lateesha Jeffrey – 9 votes
2nd – Ebony Miller – 9 votes

St Mary’s top 6
33 total votes

1st – Danielle Ponter – 6 votes
2nd – Kate Campbell-Brogan – 3 votes
2nd – Ailish Considine – 3 votes
2nd – Laelia Dunn – 3 votes
2nd – Sara Maxsted – 3 votes
2nd – Tuesday Turner – 3 votes

Tracy Village top 2
36 total votes

1st – Kristy Irvine – 9 votes 
2nd – Bonnie McDougall – 4 votes

Wanderers top 3
30 total votes

1st – Morgan Johnston – 9 votes
2nd – Lauren Motlop – 8 votes
3rd – Arthurina Moreen – 5 votes

Waratah top 3
67 total votes

1st – Lisa Roberts – 21 votes 
2nd – Madeline Gault – 9 votes
3rd – Lisa Miceli – 7 votes

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