IT WAS the freak accident that gave West Coast midfielder Emma Swanson a greater perspective on the game she loves.
Playing for Greater Western Sydney, the 24-year-old smashed into a goal post less than a minute into the round two clash with North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos earlier this year.
Swanson tore ligaments in her left shoulder and underwent a full latarjet shoulder reconstruction that ruled her out for the rest of the season.
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"You never want to wish injuries on anyone, but if anything, it came at a really good time," Swanson told womens.afl.com.au.
"I learnt not to tie my identity to being a footballer.
"It's a really valuable lesson to learn and it's just really unfortunate you have to learn that through such a long-term and horrific injury.
"If anything, it's given me a whole new gratitude for the game.
"I've fallen in love with the game again and I'm really excited to get on the track every day and get in the gym."
"It's great to be back in the West. To be home in the nice weather, and to be in the blue and gold is fantastic."— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) April 12, 2019
Eagles fans, you're going to love Emma Swanson! pic.twitter.com/WDlDMQm0Ft
Swanson felt pain in her shoulder immediately after sliding into the post.
"I knew straight away that something wasn't right," she said.
"When the adrenaline kicked in, I remember getting back to the bench and being like, 'Oh, I've just made a big scene, I don't think it's that bad'.
"Once that wore down I knew straight away it was the season done.
"That whole week after that game, I was a bit optimistic and I tried to get through a couple of training sessions.
"I'd play with one arm, so I kind of kept going, but when I saw the surgeon, he said he would fix it up on Monday … it was a little bit to take on."
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Swanson – who can also play across half-back – joined the Giants as one of their original marquee players in 2017 and was named in the 40-woman All-Australian squad that season.
She has returned to WA to join the Eagles on a two-year deal and began her rehab when she joined the club in April.
Now back into full training, she is loving life in her new surroundings and can't wait for next season to start.
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"When you only play one game and a minute of round two, it's almost 12 months out of the game," Swanson said.
"I'm really excited just to be feeling good and my main focus is looking after my body.
"The shoulder's good to go, but it's inching away, getting through pre-season, one session at a time, and hopefully no more freak accidents."
The Eagles open their inaugural AFLW season away to Collingwood at Victoria Park on February 9, before hosting cross-town rivals Fremantle in the historic women's Western Derby at Optus Stadium on February 15.