Izzy Huntington once feared she may never reach the heights she dreamed of – and many good judges tipped her for – as repeat knee injuries threatened her football career.
The young Western Bulldogs star, the dux of the 2017 AFLW draft class, can't change history but she went some way to fulfilling her huge promise in her third season at the top level this year.
Huntington, 21, was named in the Toyota AFLW All-Australian team for the first time on Monday, and on Tuesday night she was crowned as the competition's NAB AFLW Rising Star.
She came out on top with 33 votes, to finish ahead of St Kilda young guns Caitlin Greiser (30) and Georgia Patrikios (24), and Gold Coast's Kalinda Howarth (24).
"It's been fairly chaotic," Huntington told womens.afl.
"It's been really exciting for the League with all the awards being announced and, to be honest, when 'Burkey' (coach Nathan Burke) announced I was in the All-Australian team, it was enough of a shock.
"Now to receive this – I honestly really didn't expect it. I thought my time as a young player had passed, after a couple of knee reconstructions … it's very heartwarming."
Huntington's injury tale is well told, with an anterior cruciate ligament rupture on both knees, a broken right leg, cartilage damage and a knee sprain all in the past six years.
That sprain in December 2018 to her reconstructed right knee was actually a good result, given there were early fears she may have sustained a third ACL tear.
However, it still meant Huntington didn't return to the field until round five last year and she had played just five matches across her first two AFLW seasons.
Then, as former Bulldogs coach Paul Groves set her for a new positional assignment down back in the VFLW in 2019, cartilage damage ended the trial after just one quarter.
But Groves' replacement, St Kilda great Nathan Burke, also thought a move from the forward line into defence would suit Huntington and she was a force there this year.
She ended the AFLW season ranked equal-first for contested marks and second for intercept possessions and, most importantly, played five of the Dogs' six games.
"As someone who's gone through a lot of long-term injury, and I'm sure others can relate, it's one of the most daunting things," Huntington said.
"The idea you may never play at the level you did before, or reach any potential you might have, is pretty tough, so I was thrilled to get back, play in round one and get a few games under my belt.
"The main focus was just getting my body right and it's been a long journey but I've had an amazing support crew."
Huntington's future was always bright, even with all her injury setbacks.
She recorded a 98.10 ATAR score and is completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, with the goal of working in medicine.
But Huntington, who is in the Bulldogs' leadership group and their delegate in last year's pay discussions, first wants to make her mark in the AFLW.
"The individual accolades, they come and they're very heartwarming, but any player will tell you they'd much rather a premiership or team success than anything individual," she said.
"Hopefully, we can get many more wins on the board next year, because we were a bit disappointed with the season this year … and we want to rectify that in the coming season."
Huntington received the NAB AFLW Rising Star medal, a $20,000 personal investment folio and a dedicated personal banker, courtesy of NAB.