AMANDA Farrugia, who announced her shock retirement on the eve of pre-season, has been one of the faces of women's football in New South Wales in recent years.
The 34-year-old captained Greater Western Sydney for the first three seasons in the NAB AFLW competition, but was a dominant player in the AFL Sydney competition in seasons prior.
A Sydney local, Farrugia picked up the game with Macquarie University in her mid-20s as a way of keeping fit, winning three Mostyn medals along the way as the best and fairest player in AFL Sydney’s Premier Division.
Farrugia is possibly the best-associated AFLW player with the Giants. Her face is the one on advertising around her home state and she has been a fan favourite for many.
The lively midfielder's enthusiasm and willingness to stop and have a chat with supporters – particularly young girls – has put her in high regard in a competition still finding its feet.
Known as "Fridge" after a teammate misheard Farrugia's surname at one of the Giants' first ever training sessions, she's even attracted her own "Fridge Army", complete with one fan who dresses up in a cardboard fridge with a functioning door.
"From an external perspective it might not seem the best timing, but for me, it was the right time, both from a personal perspective and point of view, and for the team," Farrugia told SEN.
"It was a very long year. People forget that AFLW might be the football they watch us play, but we're also toiling away at our club football teams during the off-season, so to speak.
"I've essentially played about 30 games of football this year. I've expended a lot of energy in it and, unfortunately, I'm feeling very weary.
"I don't take my job lightly and I want to make sure I can give 100 per cent when I play AFLW, and at the moment I just don't feel like my motivation is there. It's a shame, but I think it's the right decision for me personally, and the team."
This is what @aflwomens is all about. Sitting at the cricket, Amanda Farrugia is asked for an autograph by a young fan. She goes one better and writes her a letter. #begiant pic.twitter.com/Fe5SPLBC3E— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) December 8, 2018
Driven, articulate and a strong leader, Farrugia has been a vital part of GWS' fledgling AFLW team, setting the standards for others to follow.
It's been a rough few years for the Giants, finishing dead last in 2017 (whereupon the club changed coaches from Tim Schmidt to Alan McConnell), making a shock bid for the 2018 Grand Final before finishing fourth, and third in the weaker Conference B in 2019.
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All up, the Giants have won six of a possible 21 games, drawing an additional two, and Farrugia has been a constant throughout that time, playing every match either in the midfield or coming out of defence.
An emotional McConnell spoke warmly of the impact Farrugia has had on the club.
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"I think what's abundantly clear is: inaugural AFLW player at the Giants, inaugural captain, the face of this footy club and, probably to be honest, the face of women's footy in New South Wales and in many respects, one of the faces of the women's game (nationally)," McConnell said.
"It's a pretty amazing resume, to be honest. The club's lucky to have had you involved.
"If you think you're getting rid of her, you're not, because there's no chance this is the end. It's just the start of something different. Right now isn't the time to work out what something different looks like.
"I've said many times that high performance isn't for everybody, and it's sometimes a much braver decision to know when to walk away than it is to say you want to jump on.
"We are eternally grateful for what [Farrugia has] done for our footy club."