IT'S BEEN a long road for two-time premiership Crow Deni Varnhagen, but she's back playing footy.
Last weekend marked just the second NAB AFLW game in two years for the 28-year-old, who initially dislocated her knee in a practice match at the start of 2020.
Just as Varnhagen had finally made her return in round six, the season was brought to an unceremonious halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
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A second operation in September last year due to ongoing pain set her back further, with the winger making her long-awaited comeback last Saturday against Gold Coast.
Before the double setback, she had not missed an AFLW game in three seasons.
"It's been quite a long road in the past 12 months. The whole team have been really supportive, the coaches as well – the likes of Narelle Smith, 'Waz' our tackling coach, he's been really supportive, even down to the physios," Varnhagen said.
"Everyone's been really supportive and it's good to finally be out of the rehab group."
Varnhagen is a nurse, and the two operations threw up considerable challenges for her life outside of football.
"That was pretty tough. I think I'd started in ICU at Queen Elizabeth (hospital) the week I did my first injury, and then had to have two weeks off," she said.
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"I came back a little bit earlier (than I should have), probably should have had some more time off, but I had to get back to work. So that was pretty tough, the swelling and the pain, but everyone at work was really supportive.
"And then the second operation was actually two weeks after I started a new job at Flinders hospital, so again had just two weeks off and came back. Not going to lie, it was tough because we are on our feet all day, every day, but it's just what you got to do."
As the final third of the home and away season commences, Adelaide is well-positioned to participate in its third finals series, but faces somewhat of a curveball this Saturday night in Melbourne at Casey Fields.
The Dees have run hot and cold this season, occasionally kicking themselves out of matches with poor conversion.
"Every game is important. The whole season, you pretty much have to get wins, you can't afford any losses. We've got three big games coming up, so we'd like to obviously win each of those to give ourselves the best chance to make top six to make finals," Varnhagen said.
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"It's always exciting to get away with a team, this is my first time travelling. So [it will] just be good to get around the girls and spend some time away. A few of the girls have family over there [in Melbourne] so they're always excited to get back."
With a public holiday in South Australia on Monday following the Crows' big win over Gold Coast, the team did recovery a little differently.
"We actually held it a bit earlier, all went over to 'Doc's' house (coach Matthew Clarke) and his eldest daughter Eloise cooked us breakfast," Varnhagen said.
"Then we launched Erin (Phillips)'s beer, the Strong Blonde that night, so we had a bit of a relaxed day on Monday, just to sort of regroup and we'll get the hit the track hard and get back into it."
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