RETIREMENT never crossed the mind of Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips as she remains hopeful of playing next season, possibly as early as round one.
The reigning NAB AFL Women's best and fairest is eight months into her rehabilitation for a torn ACL suffered in last season's Grand Final.
The 34-year-old is ramping up her training, having resumed change-of-direction running.
The final step is adding in contact work after the Christmas break as she aims at running out for the Crows' first game of the season against Brisbane at Hickey Park on February 8.
Phillips – a dual AFLW best and fairest and two-time premiership player – said hanging the boots up hadn't been an option, even on the toughest days of her recovery.
"I never thought about retiring throughout the rehab," Phillips said.
"There were some doubts, but I always wanted to see if I could get back on the field and give it everything I had.
"I didn't feel as if I was completely done playing."
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Phillips started her rehabilitation at the Michael Johnson Performance Centre in the US, while she was an assistant coach with the Dallas Wings in the WNBA, before returning to Adelaide this month to rejoin the Crows.
"All the things that I've done so far, (my body) has responded well," she said.
"It's building up my fitness, getting the miles into my legs, getting footy fit.
"If I can continue to pass the tests, hopefully I can be there for round one, that's the goal."
Phillips was in Dallas when her fellow Crows co-captain Chelsea Randall tore her ACL on the first day of pre-season training last month.
"She sent me a text saying, 'Hey mate, just let you know I've hurt my knee training, but don't worry, I don't think it's anything serious'," Phillips said.
"My initial gut (feeling) was I know how Chelsea is, she's so positive, so I had this little empty feeling, but I wrote back, 'I'm not panicking until I have to'.
"And then the next day was the confirmation.
"Just shattered for her, so close to the start of the season and at that point you know you'll be missing her completely on the field."
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Along with Phillips and Randall, Rhiannon Metcalfe, Chloe Scheer and Hannah Martin are currently recovering from torn ACLs.
Metcalfe and Scheer could play next season, while Martin has been ruled out for the season and is on the club's inactive list.