WEST Coast gave Courtney Guard her first big opportunity when she was invited her to join the Eagles Academy in 2018, but it was Fremantle who made her dream of playing at the elite level come true.
Now back at the Eagles as a member of their inaugural squad, Guard is preparing to square off against her former teammates in an historic Western Derby at Optus Stadium on Saturday.
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Guard is nothing but grateful for the opportunity the Dockers gave her at the end of 2018, drafting her with pick No.39, selecting her to debut in round four last year, and shaping her with teammates and coaches she admires.
But the opportunity to return to the Eagles’ nest was too tempting and she joined the club through the Sign and Trade Period last April.
“Being drafted at the end of 2018 to Freo was a dream came true, and despite what colours you pull on it’s really exciting,” Guard said.
“I think having that season at Freo was extremely valuable for me.
“Just getting a taste of what that professional, elite environment was like and there were fantastic players to help me grow and learn.
But I was a diehard West Coast supporter growing up, so playing for them is extra special for me because I’ve followed them since I was a young girl
Guard was one of nine former Dockers who crossed to the Eagles last year, and she said it was a tough call for all of the players involved.
“Each of us had our own reasons and for me there weren’t any problems at Freo,” she said.
“But a lot of the girls were really big fans of the club.
“We felt well supported by both Freo and West Coast and it was quite a smooth transition I suppose.”
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Guard, who played with Subiaco in the WAFLW before joining the Eagles Academy, started well in the Eagles’ historic AFLW debut against Collingwood last Saturday before fading, finishing with seven disposals and three tackles.
With a basketball and athletics background, she hopes to add explosiveness and strong tackling to the Eagles’ midfield.
The 28-year-old has made a big impression early at West Coast and was voted into the club’s leadership group, with coach Luke Dwyer describing her pre-season as excellent.
“She’s certainly grown with her role within the leadership group,” Dwyer said.
“Her training standards are really high and she’s worked a lot on parts of her game that she needed to identify.
“It’s been a really consistent pre-season from her and she’ll give herself every chance now.”