WHEN Georgia Breward received an invitation from Gold Coast late in 2018 to join their pre-season training, she thought it was a mistake.
Just six months earlier, an opponent fell across her left leg in the opening game of the NAB AFLW U18 Championships between NSW/ACT and TAS, buckling her knee backwards and snapping her ACL.
The injury required surgery, ruling the draft hopeful out for the remainder of the Championships, the entire QAFLW season, and dashing her hopes of being picked up that year.
And the young midfielder still couldn't run when the Suns contacted her.
"I emailed them back and said: I don't know if you are aware but I've actually torn my ACL," Breward said.
"I thought they may have forgotten about me because I live so far away (250km south of Gold Coast in Lawrence, NSW). But they reassured me that they knew about the injury and wanted to help me with it."
From then on, Breward had the full support of the Suns, who set her up with a comprehensive rehabilitation program.
"Being on the sidelines can be really tough mentally. Not knowing if you are doing too much, or not enough, it can be really stressful," she said.
"I didn't want any setbacks because I was on a tight schedule to get back and play (in 2019), so it was a relief when the Suns came in and helped me out."
And after months of physio, boxing and running, the tenacious onballer returned to the field for Coolangatta in the last round of the QAFLW in August.
"I wasn't too nervous about my knee because I'd trained for almost a year for this day. But running out there I definitely felt pressure to perform because it was my only chance to show the Suns that I could still play," Breward said.
"The first few minutes were a blur, but once I laid a decent tackle I felt fine and just wanted to get my hands on the ball again."
And just a half of footy was all it took to impress Gold Coast recruiters who took Breward with the club's final selection; pick No.91 in October's NAB AFL Women's Draft.
"It's been a frustrating year for Georgia but the professionalism she's shown in her rehab from her ACL injury has been on the next level," Gold Coast's AFLW senior coach David Lake said following the draft.
"She has an unbelievable commitment to making herself the best player she can be and I’m sure she'll make an early impact for us."
Brewer said that despite having good communication with the Suns, draft night was still a nerve-racking experience.
"When the (Suns') picks came out it became a bit of a joke within the family. Dad kept saying I would have to wait until pick number 91, so when it actually happened it was pretty funny," she said.
"I'm just so happy to be given a chance at all."
A gruelling rehab wasn't the only challenge facing the NSW product on her rise to the AFLW.
Growing up in the small town of Lawrence in New South Wales' Northern Rivers District, opportunities for girls to develop their football were limited.
Breward played in the local boys' competition until U16s, when her only option became a 250km trip up the Pacific Motorway to play with Coolangatta in the QAFLW.
"It was something I needed to do if I wanted to chase my dream and the high standard of footy in the QAFLW definitely improved my game," she said.
But girls' footy in Breward's hometown is growing. The North Coast League has recently added a women's division, including her home club the Grafton Tigers.
"I go down to training sessions sometimes because I think it's really important to help the competition grow," she said.
"I know how difficult it was for me not having that pathway when I first started and was made to play with the boys, so it's great to see so many more girls getting involved."