FREMANTLE won't be tempted to rush Kiara Bowers for the start of the NAB AFL Women's season, but first-year coach Trent Cooper is already excited seeing the forgotten star boost her teammates at training.
A marquee signing for the Dockers before their inaugural campaign, Bowers missed both AFLW seasons due to a painstaking comeback from her third ACL rupture in her right knee.
But the star 27-year-old midfielder – a five-time WAWFL best and fairest – has turned heads this pre-season and is set to add some dynamism to the Dockers' engine room when she eventually pulls on the purple.
"It's exciting for Fremantle fans and for everyone. I've never seen her play," Cooper told AFL.com.au.
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"I'd heard how good she was and just the lift she will give the group when she's out there … because she trains flat out – you'd like her to do a few drills at 50 per cent, but you just have to pull her out because she can't go 50 per cent.
"It's probably touch-and-go (whether she plays in round one), and we're not going to take any risks, so we'll just take the progression as it comes.
"She knows the boxes she needs to tick off, but the medical staff will make sure she doesn't come back too early and we won't be tempted to risk her," he said.
She's been out for a long time, so our expectations aren't too high either … but she will give the girls a great lift if she does come back
Bowers, nicknamed 'Turbo', has kept herself in excellent condition during her stint on the sidelines, and turned heads in November when she powered home to win Fremantle's 2km time trial.
Despite being unable to play to date, Bowers' standing among her teammates was illustrated when she was voted into the leadership group for the 2019 campaign, which starts for Fremantle against Melbourne on February 3 at Casey Fields in Melbourne's outer-south-east.
Bowers will once again support skipper Kara Donnellan, who has played on her in the WAWFL and knows what to expect when she finally gets back on the field.
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"I've known 'Turbo' for a long time and she's been through the ringer in terms of the injuries she's had to overcome," Donnellan told AFL.com.au.
"Anyone else would probably have quit after the first hiccup. To her credit, the work ethic and resilience she shows are contagious.
"She's been fantastic on the track. I was so excited to have her out there day one and I already had money on her winning the 2km time trial, to be honest," she said.
"It just shows the type of character she has and the person she is. We know what she can provide to the team and the talent she's got. The rest of the competition doesn't, so that's exciting to know."