Happy Dais: The AFLW's biggest name returns

SHE'S not the first woman to have had a baby and returned to football, but she is Daisy Pearce, the biggest name in the NAB AFL Women's competition.

The Melbourne skipper took to the field against North Melbourne on Saturday for the first time in an official AFLW match since giving birth to twins Sylvie and Roy last year. 

DEES PIP ROOS Full match coverage and stats

If you ask a non-football fan to name an AFLW player, it'll generally be one of two players. One is Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips, and the other is Pearce. 

Her accolades speak for themselves. Seven VFLW best and fairests (now carrying her name as the Lambert-Pearce medal), two Melbourne best and fairests and two All Australians. 

AFLW Match Highlights: Melbourne v North Melbourne

05:01 Feb 8. 2020. 5:13 PM

The Demons and Kangaroos clash in Round 1 of the AFLW

And she's finally back. But it wasn't the Pearce we'd been expecting, lining up in the middle for the centre bounce. 

Instead, she patrolled at half-back, initially dwarfed by opponent Kate Gillespie-Jones before pairing up against Sophie Abbatangelo and later Kaitlyn Ashmore, leaving the midfield work to the likes of Tyla Hanks and Maddy Gay. 

"Just good to be back out there. All things aside, just to start off round one with a pretty gritty win like that on a tough day, with some challenges through our pre-season," Pearce told reporters after the Dees' two-point win. 

"To come away with a win against North, we knew they were going to be quality conditions, it was a perfect start." 

The Roos close in on Daisy Pearce on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

The 31-year-old started relatively slowly in very windy conditions that didn't lend themselves to clean skills but showed her class with one passage of play in the third.

Taking an intercept mark, she bounced off, breaking up a run of stagnant play with a gliding run and clean kick inside 50, catching the North defenders off guard. 

The re-elected captain was vocal on the field, directing play and teaming up well with Karen Paxman to provide a spark out of the backline.

Pearce, who finished with 12 disposals was particularly noticeable in the tight stages of the final term, lending a calming influence when the Dees needed it most. 

Daisy Pearce was back to lead out the Demons. Picture: Getty Images

And she celebrated with gusto after the match, literally picking up Lily Mithen in a bear hug, the latter having hobbled out onto the ground on a moonboot after ankle surgery. 

"It's encouraging (to be elected captain), especially this year because I've had a different preparation and a bit of self-doubt myself, about my build-up and how much time I've been able to offer it," Pearce had told womens.afl before the match.

"When I was captain in previous years, I was completely dedicated to the program, it was the only thing going on in my life. I could tip a lot of my extra energy into my teammates.

"I was glad we waited until quite late to elect a captain and if people wanted me to be captain, they knew who they were getting."

Pearce also spoke of the juggling she has needed to do this pre-season and the mental energy that gets used every time she simply leaves the house for training.

"I look forward to catching up with some of the other mums like Dana Hooker – I've always drawn inspiration from what she's done – Maddy McMahon down at the Cats, Erin (Phillips) with her growing family at the Crows," she said. 

"I kept wondering, if Saturday morning trainings are our hardest days, why do I enjoy them more? And I worked out it's because it's in the morning, where I have the best bit of my energy. 

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"Whereas the 6pm starts on a Tuesday and Thursday night, which is part of AFLW, I've done a full day by then and I've had two little people clambering all over me and asking, 'what's next?' all day.

"Often on the way into footy, I was having to do pep talks, 'it's not time to wind down, we're going to training'. 

"I love my footy and I love being there, but every time you leave the house to go somewhere else, there's something inside me saying, 'I don't want to leave this little place, I want to be here with my babies, I don't want to miss if they do something new'."