IT'S AN unlikely friendship forged by adversity.
Nina Morrison, the No.1 pick from the 2018 NAB AFLW Draft, ruptured her right ACL at training just days after leading Geelong to a one-point win over Collingwood in the first match of 2019.
By contrast, Elise Coventry's left ACL rupture, suffered during the Cats' practice match against Carlton two weeks earlier, was met with much less external fanfare.
The 35-year-old was delisted at the end of the season, having missed out on her AFLW debut, but has stayed at the club as a training partner for the team.
Morrison's nearly back in full flight, winning the club's shuttle run (conducted instead of a time trial) and setting a personal best in the process.
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But it was the support Coventry provided during the extensive rehabilitation period that helped the young star get back to where she is, aiming for a round one return.
"I'm 19 and Elise is 35, so a bit of an age difference there," Morrison told womens.afl.
"Coming into the year, we were probably just teammates, and that was really it, but from the moment we embarked on this journey together, our friendship has really turned into something quite special.
"To have someone to go through every moment of rehab with you, all the highs and all the challenges, to share your little bits along the way – it's pretty special."
Morrison had never missed a football training session through injury, let alone sat out a season, and the competitive midfielder found the going tough on the sidelines.
"There were little times I found challenging, especially the transition from the AFLW season to VFLW," she said.
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"Throughout the backend of AFLW, even though I wasn't training, I was really enjoying coming to training and being around that team environment.
"I think when that finished, I was worried that group environment and team sense would be lost a little bit through the VFLW and that in-between period when not as many people were around. 'Flynny' (Coventry), through all those periods, made things a lot easier."
Round one will be a different proposition for Morrison this time around.
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Far from hosting the season opener, Geelong will be making the trip west to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval in a Sunday twilight slot.
While she was held out of match simulation against Melbourne on January 18 and last weekend's practice match against the Western Bulldogs, Morrison is on track to make her return in round one against the Dockers.
Away from footy, the whip-smart Morrison is studying exercise and sports science at Deakin Uni (with a side of mathematics subjects to boot), tutoring and coaching at her old school Geelong Grammar and working at Cotton On in her, ah, spare time.
"Nina's been the ultimate professional. She's worked as hard as she can in every session, she's chased advice, she's been so well supported by Elise Coventry, it's been terrific to watch the two work together," coach Paul Hood said.
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"She couldn't have done better. She's moving really, really well, she's hitting all our benchmarks, leading all our stats on the GPS and if anything, she appears to be kicking the ball and her skills are better than we've ever seen.
"She's the hardest worker we've got."