THE CARDS were always stacked for Leah Kaslar to wear Gold Coast colours, but the Suns star has opened up about her departure from Brisbane, describing it as "horrible".
Kaslar was a crucial cog in the Lions teams that went to Grand Finals in 2017 and 2018, rarely beaten at full-back, and was named club captain for the 2019 season.
She had a great relationship with coach Craig Starcevich – dating back to their days at the Western Bulldogs for exhibition matches – and was a popular figure at the club.
But once the Suns were admitted into the AFLW, the offer to lure Kaslar was always going to come.
And why wouldn't it?
After all, she's a Gold Coast girl, lives there, works as an environmental scientist there, and was driving 90 minutes each way three to four times a week to attend Brisbane training.
It wasn't easy.
Speaking to womens.afl, Kaslar said she initially had no intention of switching clubs.
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"(Head of women's football) Fi McClarty called me and I was on the way to Brisbane to see the physio and I politely said I wasn't interested in coming to the Suns," Kaslar said.
"I thought I'd be a Suns player when they'd come in, but after being with Lions and forming relationships and enjoying being at the club I found it tough to leave.
"It was a really, really hard decision.
"I said 'thanks Fi I'm really flattered but I'm not going to change clubs'.
"I sat in traffic and I started considering it, even though I thought it'd be easy to say no.
"I weighed it up and to get the most out of my footy and recovery and not driving so much, I started to reconsider."
Kaslar also had a good relationship with Suns coach David Lake – a former Lions assistant – which would make the transition easier.
Making the decision was one thing, but telling the Lions was another.
It was like breaking up with 30 people. It was horrible
"Starce was at the top of the list. I was with him for seven years and have a lot of respect for him," she said.
"He's a really kind man, very football smart and someone I look up to a lot.
"I'll be forever grateful to him.
"He'd recently moved to the Sunshine Coast and he empathized with me having to do so much driving and we had a really good chat, so I'm happy to leave on good terms."
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Kaslar, 34, couldn't be happier now.
She's had an excellent pre-season and says the less hectic lifestyle has plenty to do with it.
"Being able to surf a couple of times a week in the morning is so good for you mentally and physically and it's even a form of recovery," she said.
"I'm a lot happier, which a few people have said to me.
"A lot of that comes down to not having to pack my dinner before work and then going to work, carpooling … all the logistics of having to pack and being organised.
"I can lead a normal life and just pack my footy boots and then go home after training.
"On a Saturday I can go to training then go to the beach and surf afterwards. I'm living my dream."