TWO SERIOUS injuries in the space of two years haven't dampened Queenslander Tahlia Hickie's draft ambitions.
The 19-year-old ruck missed the entire 2018 season – when she was a member of the NAB AFLW Academy – with a serious ankle injury, before sitting out part of this year after tearing the medial collateral ligament in her knee.
An aneurysmal bone cyst was eventually discovered in Hickie's ankle after she was suffering pain while running in the 2018 pre-season.
The cyst is a benign, blood-filled lesion which can cause swelling and pain in the affected area.
"I went to see the physio and she pressed on the sore part, and I jumped. She said I wasn't supposed to react like that when it was touched but thought it may have been a stress fracture from a big training load," Hickie told womens.afl.
"I went and got an x-ray, they could see something but couldn't quite work out what it was. So I got other scans and jumped around from physio to doctor to surgeon until I got to the right person.
"I ended up having a bone graft, so they scooped out what was in my foot and put in donor bone into the little hole and had to heal from there."
Upon her return to footy, Hickie was playing for Brisbane as a club academy player in a QW Winter Series match against Gold Coast when she injured her knee.
The amount of rehab began to take its toll.
"My knee was actually quite quick compared to my ankle, but I still had to take everything slowly," Hickie said.
"The ankle was such a rare thing, people initially didn't know how to handle it. It was a slow progression. When I finally moved on to something new (rehab or a form of exercise), you were still doing that one thing for so long.
"I just wanted to get back to footy."
Hickie is the middle of three children, with both an older and younger brother, but wasn't initially drawn to footy despite her siblings playing the game.
"I used to get really frustrated kicking the ball with my brothers, I could never do it, so I didn't enjoy it," she said.
"I played a mixed bag of sports. I went from gymnastics as a little girl, to netball, swimming, diving and Oztag (a version of touch rugby), which I still play in the off-season where I can.
"In terms of diving, I started as a little kid, so I had no fear. I spent a year in an NTID (national talent identification) program, but training 30 hours a week, getting to school late and finishing early was too much for me.
"I went back to my local club and had heaps of fun. I got to travel to heaps of places around Australia with my teammates, but I literally grew out of it. I got too tall."
Hickie now stands at 180cm, after making the decision to take up footy at 14.
"I literally woke up one day and told my mum I wanted to play footy, that was it. I tried to tell Mum I'd just play with the boys and she said I had to find a girls' team," she said.
"I started playing at Coorparoo football club in Brisbane. When I was 17, I was playing both seniors in the QAFLW and then juniors when I wasn't needed.
"I still struggle a bit with the forward line, because it's something I've been taught later on, but the ruck is where I've always played, it's where I feel most natural.
"I really enjoy the ruck taps, jumping up, being the one who starts the game. It makes it a bit more nerve-racking, but it gives you a bit of hype."