IT'S A wonder Alana Porter has maintained her focus given her head has been spinning for the past six months.
The promising Collingwood small defender made her AFLW debut just two days after her 19th birthday and received glowing reviews for her performance in the Magpies' historic win over West Coast in their season opener at Victoria Park.
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
It completed a whirlwind rise for Porter, who is becoming accustomed to exceeding her wildest expectations.
Last year, after representing the Oakleigh Chargers in the nine-round NAB League under-18 competition, she astonished herself simply by making the grade at VFLW level with Collingwood ("I somehow smuggled my way in there," she said), let alone playing in a VFLW premiership, being drafted by the Pies' AFLW team and making a strong debut in round one.
"My first game was amazing. It was a whole different kind of special for me because I never expected to make it to such a high level," she told womens.afl.
"I just feel so privileged to be a part of the team, so to debut in a win was just next level.
"I just want to keep improving, keep building my self-confidence and keep my spot in the team."
A fierce competitor, Porter has won admirers at the Holden Centre for the unfazed manner in which she has handled the leap to each new level.
"The more intensity there is, the more I love it. The harder they go in, the harder you go in," she said.
When you step it up it gets more exciting and makes you want to push harder. It pushes you outside your boundaries and you don't stay too comfortable
Porter has also been forced outside her comfort zone to learn the defensive craft after spending her junior days as a midfielder. In the meantime she completed her Year 12 studies with flying colours at Bentleigh Secondary College and from March she'll combine footy with studying science and the Japanese language at the University of Melbourne.
Before her football career took off, Porter was a state junior champion in the long jump and the triple jump. Her speed, spring and general athleticism have benefited her football.
"It's given me an edge over other girls and made me a bit different. I was always training my 40m sprint because my run-ups were very important for (jumps). It helped me beat my opponents to the ball," she said.
Porter grew up around Oakleigh Districts Football Club where her brother Daniel, one year her junior, still plays. They were teammates for the Hughesdale Primary School team and did Auskick together at Murrumbeena when their father Mick was the coach.
A lifelong Collingwood supporter, Porter admits she becomes "a bit starstruck" around the Magpie men's players. At her rapid rate of development, she might soon have the same effect on fans herself.