For the first time in AFLW history, the two best players in the competition couldn't be split with Collingwood co-captain Brianna Davey and Fremantle star Kiara Bowers tying for the league's best and fairest with 15 votes apiece.
Davey didn't poll in round one but then polled the maximum three votes in every game between rounds two and six, while Bowers polled consistently and landed a vote in round nine to force the tie.
"To be honest I wasn't (expecting it) - it's very overwhelming, and quite emotional. I'm just stoked - so very happy," Davey told reporters.
"Kiara's been an absolute force in this comp and she has been for years.
"Injuries plagued her (in the past) and I (have had injuries) as well so I can relate.
"... It's an honour to be able to wear a medal like this and alongside a player like her is the cherry on top."
Early leader and Western Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn and GWS young gun Alyce Parker had 14 votes apiece, while Melbourne gun Karen Paxman finished on 13.
Davey, 26, was named captain of the All-Australian team earlier in the night, recognising a season where she averaged 23.1 disposals and booted six goals.
Meanwhile Bowers named vice-captain after averaging 21.2 disposals and 10.3 tackles per game.
The Docker came close to being ineligible for the award after she was suspended for a dangerous tackle on Melbourne's Eden Zanker but had her one-match ban overturned at the AFL tribunal.
The 29-year-old's story is also one of resilience.
Bowers was one of Fremantle's first signings but missed the first two AFLW seasons through knee injuries before coming to the fore, finishing second behind Maddison Prespakis in last year's best and fairest.
"To Freo, the club, obviously, you got me in and then I didn't play for two years," Bowers said.
"You could've flicked me off pretty easy but you stuck with me and then you knew that I was going to be an alright player - so I appreciate all the time and effort you guys put into me."
Last week, Davey won the AFL Players Association most valuable player award with Bowers runner-up, while Bowers claimed the AFL Coaches Association champion player of the year award in March.
Earlier in the night, Melbourne young gun Tyla Hanks was named the 2021 AFLW Rising Star.
Hanks won the award with 48 votes, ahead of Richmond's Ellie McKenzie (32), West Coast's Mikayla Bowen (22), St Kilda's Tyanna Smith (19) and Brisbane's Nat Grider (10).
Australian Associated Press