A FRESH start at footy was exactly what Millie Brown needed to renew her love for the game. After sitting on the sidelines throughout last season for mental health reasons, the talented 21-year-old is back in new colours for season seven.
"Coming back to preseason has been really good. It's been a big change again, for me, considering I did have the season off. But it's been really enjoyable, and I feel like I'm getting back into the groove of things now," Brown, who moved to the Western Bulldogs in the off-season, told womens.afl.
After being drafted as a father-daughter selection to Geelong with pick No.11 ahead of the 2020 season, Brown played every game that year before injury cruelled her second season, limiting her to just three games. When she did hit the park, however, Brown showed a real strength in defence, standing tall alongside the likes of Meg McDonald and Maddy McMahon.
That tough second year in the AFLW led Brown to step away and reassess whether she even wanted to be a footy player anymore.
"I just wasn't really enjoying my time anymore playing footy, I'd kind of lost a bit of the passion for it," Brown said.
"I was going through a bit of mental health stuff. Some anxiety and depression and that type of thing, which I know a lot of people experience but in that footy environment, I was finding that very challenging and very demanding and I kind of I wasn't really performing very well and being injured.
"I think I just needed to step away from it to decide whether it was something that I really wanted to do. Heading into it I didn't think he was going to be regretful because if I did think 'Oh damn, I wish I was playing', like that was my learning curve in itself, so I'm really pleased that it's coming out that way and I'm back."
In order to come back, however, Brown needed to move to a new club. Not being reminded of those negative feelings every time she walked in to train was key to her return to footy.
"I think it would have been really hard for me to go back into that environment where I wasn't feeling very good, but that isn't anything against the Cats… Just associating not very good feelings within myself there, I kind of just wanted to reset and refresh and try somewhere new," she said.
But now, living in Melbourne, "adapting to city life and trams" and training with the Bulldogs, Brown is better equipped than ever to make footy work in her life.
"I think I've been a lot better just with the mental side of things, it's time to be a bit proactive if I feel myself getting a bit burnt out, and the physios and everyone here have been looking out for me fantastically. So, I'm feeling pretty good," she said.