2023 – AFL fans recognised for their passion and dedication

AFL’s most devoted fans have been recognised with the 2023 AFL Fans Association Awards, in the 9th year of the awards.

The winners are:

  • Fan of the Year: Leanne Saunders - Collingwood
  • Supporter Group of the Year: Tassie Saints 

AFL Fans Association President Ron Issko says, “Both winners are extremely deserving and exemplify the dedication of AFL fans all over Australia. The quality of nominations was the best we have received since we commenced the awards in 2015.” 

“This year’s winners are incredible,” Ron says. “Leanne’s passion and dedication is just amazing, and The Tassie Saints are very worthy Supporter Group winners. 

Fan of the Year: Leanne Saunders - Collingwood Cheer Squad 

Leanne is a tireless worker, often coordinating as leader of the Collingwood Cheer Squad. 

She is a coordinator at the Holden Centre, working for no remittance and providing many hours per week organising, creating and travelling to various venues in a volunteer capacity. Leanne attends all games (including interstate) to have the ‘Banner Run-Throughs’ organized and ready and she is always a proud and loud voice supporting the official ‘Cheer Squad’. 

Leanne is a very passionate supporter and often blends the cheer squads from the various teams to create friendly-combined photos to demonstrate collegiality within the league. She is to be commended for this initiative and has made many friends across the leagues’ cheer-squads. 

Her support of the Collingwood Football Club is massive and she supports the AFLW, the VFL Men’s and Women’s teams and this year, the Magpie Netballers as well. 

Leanne works as a receptionist at a Hospital in Melbourne, gives much to her community and still finds time to be a wonderful family member and mother of three children. 

Fan of the Year: Leanne Saunders - Collingwood

Supporter Group of the Year - Tassie Saints Supporter Group 

Tassie Saints are a great example of what a supporter group should be, nothing is ever too much trouble, and they are the friendliest and most welcoming group; they do us, the club and themselves proud. 

For approximately 20 years, there were three different Supporter Groups operating in Tasmania - North West, Launceston and Hobart. At the beginning of the 2019 AFL Season, the St Kilda Football Club approached the groups and suggested they merge to become the Tasmanian Saints Supporter Group. 

Ree Smith, Co-ordinator of the Group, arranges annual footy trips to Melbourne, where they work closely with the Club and host members, providing some unique inner sanctum experiences such as attending training, photos and signatures of favourite players, helping the cheer squad make and hold the banner and organising invitations to special functions and events. 

The Tassie Saints have raised close to $20,000 to sponsor both AFL and AFLW players since 2019 and currently sponsor Jimmy Webster, Marcus Windhager and Nat Exon. In return, 20 Tasmanians get to experience the Trevor Barker Award night. 

Ree says “we have also raised funds to have a plaque on one of the seats in the Danny Frawley Centre grandstand. We hold raffles, competitions, functions and events to help raise these funds. We also have our own Footy Tipping Competition”. 

When St Kilda played in Tasmania, the supporter group put on pre and post-game functions and arranged for guest speakers from the Club. Members are selected to help the cheer squad with the banner, junior members to form a guard of honour and one very lucky junior member to be the junior mascot. 

The Supporter Group has five Committee members, who are based across Tasmania. The Launceston Saints have chosen to still operate as a supporter group; their focus is raising funds for local charities, such as the Launceston Benevolent Society and Launceston Winter Relief. 

The aim of the Tasmanian Supporter Group is to make Tasmanian members feel connected to the St Kilda Football Club. Ree says “you can see that we achieve that aim by providing opportunities for Tasmanian members and supporters to have access to inner sanctum experiences, sponsor players and raise funds for the Club. 

Over the years, previous AFL Fans Association award winners have come from across the country, representing a variety of our clubs and demonstrating their passion and dedication to the game we all love. Our awards are important to fans as we believe in celebrating and recognising fans who support their clubs and the importance of fans to the game.

AFLFA membership is free, and fans are encouraged to join at www.aflfans.org.au 

To speak to our winners, please contact: AFLFA President Ron Issko Email: media@aflfans.org.au