How an AFL superstar helped Prespakis shake the tag

IT WAS all about a change of attitude for Madison Prespakis.

After bursting onto the scene to immediately establish herself as one of the AFLW's most talented players in her debut season, the Carlton teenager knew the opposition would be coming for her in 2020.

She'd held conversations with Blues coach Daniel Harford about that reality, prepared for increased physical attention at training and even had chats with the co-captain of Carlton's men's side, Patrick Cripps, about how to deal with the prospect of a tag.

Carlton men's co-captain Patrick Cripps. Picture: AFL Photos

Ultimately, it came down to her mindset. As she contemplated how to turn what would otherwise be considered a negative into a positive, she stopped referring to her opponents as taggers. Instead, they'd now be known as her buddies.

"I just took it as though I had someone running beside me as a buddy the whole time," Prespakis told womens.afl after she was crowned the League's best and fairest on Tuesday night.

"I tried turning it into a positive, rather than just keep drowning on it. Otherwise it would have been a long season.

"It's great that teams look at me that way. It does get hard sometimes, but turning it into a positive makes it easier."

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That optimistic outlook certainly paid dividends. Prespakis averaged 21.3 disposals, three tackles and more than a goal per game this season – taking her performances to another level on her way to being crowned the League's best player earlier this week.

She polled best on ground votes in five of six home and away matches to win the award ahead of her more experienced counterparts in Kiara Bowers and Emma Kearney, becoming the first teenager to ever claim the AFLW's best and fairest.

It followed the young midfielder claiming her second Carlton club champion award in as many years the night before.

"Going into the season, I knew that I was going to cop that attention and that it was going to be pretty hard," Prespakis said.

"If anything, I knew there was going to be a very firm tag. I knew that I'd have that buddy running with me.

"It was hard at times. Sometimes I thought, 'pick on someone else' or 'why me?' But at the same time, I take it as a compliment. For other teams to be looking at shutting me down, it's a sign of the way they see you threatening them."

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Cripps had become someone Prespakis had regularly turned to throughout the year, with the experienced Carlton skipper lending advice to the Blues youngster at different stages during the season.

It was therefore no surprise that after winning the AFLW's highest individual honour on Tuesday night, a message from Cripps was waiting for Prespakis on her phone.

"He sent me a couple of messages during the year and he congratulated me the other night as well," Prespakis said.

"He was really proud. His messages were basically around certain things that can help me get around dealing with a tag. Anything he says to me, I'll definitely take it on board because his advice definitely helped.

"To have a player like him, from my own club, watch my football and support us … it's incredible. I know that he was proud the other night and he sent me a nice message as well."