Suns defender ready for unusual 'homecoming'

GOLD Coast defender Lauren Ahrens will cross paths with familiar faces – on both sides of the fence – when she returns 'home' with the Suns to play North Melbourne on Saturday.

Ahrens has been one of the unheralded stars of the Suns' first AFL Women's season, locking down opposition key forwards and helping her team to the second stingiest defence in the competition.

The 28-year-old has blazed an unusual trail to get here though.

After finishing high school at Palm Beach Currumbin on the Gold Coast, Ahrens followed her snowboarding passion all over the world the next few years.

"I did it in my teens through a school trip and when I finished school I wanted to save to go snowboarding," she told womens.afl.

"I moved to Canada and fell even more in love with it.

"I just wanted to get to the northern hemisphere every winter. That took up my time over (Australian) summers."

 

After a few summers of splitting time between Japan and North America, Ahrens moved to Melbourne to continue her studies, where she first discovered Australian Rules.

She quickly found her way into the Essendon VFLW team, and that's where things changed.

"I played a couple of games and about halfway through the (2018) VFL season, funnily enough (North Melbourne coach) Scott Gowans, said to me 'I think you should have a crack and people are starting to look at you. We need to find the right position for you.'

"It wasn't until that conversation that I thought 'wow, maybe I can play'."

And play she did.

After a failed try in the ruck Ahrens found her home in defence, reading the play well and using her athleticism to run off her opponent.

Although it didn't come naturally, she impressed enough to become a Gold Coast priority signing.

Ahrens still lives in Melbourne and said two of this weekend's opponents played a big role in her development.

"At that point (in the VFLW) I was still learning the game, I grew up around rugby league," she said.

"I was around some pretty good footy brains in Emma Kearney and Ash Riddell, so I was really taking on board what they were doing and realised if I wanted to make it I had to be a bit more like them."

As for playing her former coach and teammates, Ahrens said she was excited.

"I love Arden St and have trained there a bit.

"I'm still based in North Melbourne, my partner's in North Melbourne, it's sort of like playing at home for me."

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