580 days is how long Western Bulldogs utility Aurora Smith spent sidelined between her first and second AFLW game.
Suffering an ACL injury minutes into her debut against Adelaide in season six, Smith returned to the action over the weekend in the Hampson-Hardeman Cup.
Speaking to skipper Ellie Blackburn about her rehab journey, Smith said a ‘rollercoaster’ was the best way to describe it.
“When you have such a long-term injury, it’s such a rollercoaster,” Smith said.
“You have days where you hit a PB and it’s so exciting and great to have your teammates around you – when I look back at my rehab, those (moments) are the things that are really special, but at the same time there’s moments where it’s difficult.
“There’s periods where you don’t see much progress, but you just know that you can get through it and I did.
“After the surgery I just remember lying in bed for a really long time. I didn’t really have much motivation. I’ve never had a major injury before or surgery before so that was scary and tough.”
On the night of Smith’s graduation from the rehab program, the team surprised her with a handmade banner – courtesy of Sarah Hartwig – to signify the milestone.
“That night was extremely special – being able to run through the banner and everything. It’s not a reflection on me finishing my rehab, it’s more a reflection of everyone who has helped me,” she said.
“That’s why I’m so grateful – all the teammates and all the staff around me, that’s what made it so special.”
The 19-year-old finished her second AFLW match with 12 disposals, four tackles and one clearance from 79% time on ground.
She said as the game progressed, she began to feel more settled.
“I was nervous, but not as nervous as I expected to be,” Smith said.
“I remember I started on the bench but kind of wanted to start on the ground because I was just so nervous. I just wanted to get to the first contest.
“The day was actually quite nice. I remember I got my first touch – Lynchy handballed it over to me and then I handballed it to you (Ellie). It was really good.
“I think once I did that, I felt more comfortable and settled.
“I think the most pleasing thing about the game was that I didn’t really think about my knee at all. I was just focusing on what I can do to help this team win.”
The Bulldogs will take on Gold Coast at Heritage Bank Stadium this Sunday afternoon in round four.