'Didn't have a hell of a lot more to give': Veteran's perfect farewell

NOT ALL players are afforded the luxury of knowing just when their career is going to end.

Brisbane premiership half-forward Lauren Arnell decided last year she only had one more NAB AFL Women's campaign to give, having played in every season since the competition's creation.

It gave the former Carlton captain the chance to enter this season with intent to be present, as much as she could, and soak up all of the "lasts" as they happened.

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"I came into pre-season knowing I didn't have a hell of a lot more to give," Arnell told womens.afl after the Lions beat Adelaide in the Grand Final.

"It's been really nice because I've had all of pre-season and this season to know that I had each moment to be grateful for.

"To be fully conscious of having your last moments in every way throughout the season, it's been really nice."

Lauren Arnell and Jesse Wardlaw celebrate the Lions' 2021 NAB AFLW Grand Final victory. Picture: AFL Photos

The 34-year-old wasn't immune to the challenges presented by last year's COVID-19 situation.

The pandemic forced her re-evaluate her life and what she wanted to focus on.

"Everyone had their own challenges in COVID, and I was highly motivated at the start and put in a huge amount of work," she said.

"Then April, May, June, July … I played a bit of QAFLW, won a QAFLW premiership, but that motivation was starting to taper a bit and everything was getting pretty hard.

"I had some family illness as well and I just started to question where the priorities lie in life – I think COVID did that to everybody."

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The Crows and Lions clash in the 2021 NAB AFLW Grand Final

It turns out the timing of Arnell's decision to call time on her career couldn't have been better, or more "absurd", as she called it.

It aligned with the season it all came together for the Lions, as they overcame monumental COVID-related obstacles that altered their fixture more than once, sent them on the road, and forced periods of quarantine.

Arnell said their 18-point win showed just how strong the "sisterhood" of the Lions had become since the list was ripped apart by expansion at the end of 2018.

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"There's still a few of us digesting the result," she said.

"Sometimes you go into Grand Finals thinking, 'Oh, if this one's off, we might be in trouble', but I knew from the moment we'd beaten Collingwood that everyone would turn up.

"For an AFLW team to have zero ego, 32 on our list, 32 contributors … maybe people will now take a bit of notice about how talented this group of players are."

Lauren Arnell and Emma Zielke are chaired off with the 2021 NAB AFL Women's premiership cup. Picture: AFL Photos

Arnell will remain in the game as a coach at the Lions' Academy and at Brisbane South State Secondary where she teaches health and physical education plus an AFL Academy class, and also as a commentator on ABC Grandstand.

She's not sure if she'll play on at a lower level because she doesn't want to rob a younger Queensland player of an opportunity.

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For now, she's looking forward to enjoying the "other pleasures of life", and physical activity at a "lower intensity" after her AFLW career of 36 games.

"I've been playing footy since I was 17, 18 when I moved out of home, and I think from 20, 21 I've taken it really seriously and it's consumed a lot of my life," she said.

"I'm actually really looking forward to spending time with my partner, my friends and my family and soaking in all the things you choose to not enjoy in life when you play footy … I'm 34 and I've made a lot of those decisions.

"They're not sacrifices … but I'm really excited about having that time back."