AFTER just three rounds of the NAB League Girls competition was played in 2020, two of its brightest stars are raring to go for the new season, starting on Saturday.
Calder Cannons' Georgie Prespakis and Oakleigh Chargers' Charlie Rowbottom – both midfielders and members of the NAB AFLW Academy – also have some close connections to lean on coming into their draft year.
Prespakis, who already has a NAB League best and fairest under her belt from when she was 16, is younger sister of AFLW best and fairest Maddy, while Rowbottom's older brother James has 28 games under his belt with Sydney.
Rowbottom's uncle is AFL commentator and former Collingwood and Richmond forward Brian Taylor.
"I'm so excited, I can't wait. It's been a long time and I think not only myself, but a lot of the other girls are keen to get back out on the field," Prespakis said.
"It was definitely challenging (to keep fit over lockdown), especially with gyms closing and finding that motivation to keep going. I went with a few kicks and runs with (former Cannons teammate and current Saint) Georgia Patrikios, just the little things.
"I had a bit of gym equipment I was able to borrow through my school, so I set up a gym in our spare room, doing deadlifts and all that sort of stuff."
The competition has been expanded to include under-19 players, given the disrupted 2020 season.
Thirteen clubs will take part in the nine-round home-and-away season, including the Tassie Devils.
A three-week conference finals series will begin in May, with the top four Vic Country/Tasmania and top four Vic Metro teams qualifying.
The first two weeks of finals will see the pools compete between each other in a top-four system, with the Grand Final in the third week featuring the best of each conference.
"It's been too long since we've played. I've missed the girls, the culture and the camaraderie around it all, it's been hard not being around them," Rowbottom said.
"Last season we did a lot of Zoom calls with the girls, which was a lot of fun, but I spent a lot of time working on my fundamentals and getting them down pat, because they're essential.
"I hope I can play the best footy I can, show [the recruiters] what I can do and hopefully get picked up in the draft."
Prespakis' Cannons will face Sandringham Dragons – who had seven players taken in the NAB AFLW Draft last year – on Sunday at Highgate Reserve in Craigieburn, while in the following match, Rowbottom's Chargers have a tough task against 2019 premiers Northern Knights.
The AFL has also advised that the 2021 NAB AFLW under-17 and under-19 national championships will take place across the Easter school holiday period in April.