SHE was a captain in the first-ever NAB AFL Women's match in 2017, and now Lauren Arnell will complete the circle by taking part in her first Grand Final against Adelaide on Saturday.
Arnell has seen it all her distinguished career, leading Carlton in that historic match against Collingwood at Ikon Park, being traded by the Blues the following year, and now playing her part in bringing Brisbane back to a third decider.
Following last Saturday's preliminary final triumph over the Magpies, the veteran half-forward told womens.afl there were moments of doubt over her five years in the League.
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"I think every athlete has their moments," Arnell said.
"I'm not the fastest athlete out there, I'm now 34, there's times where your brain challenges you and your body challenges you, but I put a lot of time into my craft and my work at training and outside of footy.
"While there's always little mind games you play with yourself, you flip that around and build confidence through training and hard work.
"I'm feeling confident through that at the moment."
Arnell has been instrumental in Brisbane's success this year, averaging 12 disposals and providing a calming influence in an exciting, and predominantly youthful, forward line.
Her handball to Dakota Davidson that led to a goal late in the second term against the Magpies was indicative of her poised decision-making.
"There's definitely been moments for me in the last five years where you think that making a Grand Final seems, at times, an unattainable goal," she said.
"To be part of such a special group … it's bloody special and I feel quite honoured, really, to be involved."
Arnell was part of nine premierships for Darebin in the VWFL, but the school teacher has one more decider she wants to win.
In round four at Hickey Park, Adelaide jumped the Lions from the opening bounce and established a lead it was just good enough to hang on to.
Arnell says the Lions learnt something from that hot Brisbane afternoon.
"They're an incredible group of players," she said of Adelaide.
"We learnt they like to throw numbers behind the footy. And Erin Phillips absolutely dominated that game of footy.
"We walked away and thought we were building towards the back end of that last quarter.
"Do you expect to make Grand Finals? I don't think that's ever an expectation. But do you work towards them and do you support your teammates to get there? Absolutely and that's what this group has done.
"I feel so privileged to be part of this squad."
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