When Grace Campbell suffered an ACL injury in 2017, she was forced to put her AFLW aspirations on the backburner.
It was a huge setback for the then 22-year-old, who worried she may have missed her chance at reaching the game’s highest level.
But two years on, and many hours of rehab later, Campbell is an AFLW Tiger.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity, I didn’t expect it,” Campbell, now 23, said.
“Especially having the injury in 2017, it sidelined me for a couple of years… it probably took a little bit longer than expected to get back into footy.
“It was a pretty big shock (to be signed) but it’s awesome, I can’t wait to be out there with the girls.”
A Bendigo product, Campbell spent her formative years playing for Bendigo Thunder.
In her return from injury this year, she’s been quick to make an impression in her first season of state league football.
The midfielder has skyrocketed up the ranks, establishing herself as one of the VFLW Tigers’ most reliable, tenacious on-ballers. Her efforts this year have been unparalleled, she is averaging 8.6 tackles per game to go along with 14 disposals.
“One of my strengths is my pressure around the ball…I think my tackling will probably be the main thing that I’ll bring to our team,” Campbell said.
“I’m very energetic and love getting around the girls so I’m super excited.”
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Campbell’s Tigerland journey began when she attended a Come and Try Day in Shepparton late last year. The rest, she says, “is history”.
“Once I got down to Richmond, they really supported me through my rehab program and got me back going,” she said.
“The Richmond Women’s program is fantastic, it’s so professional. You’re surrounded by girls who are likeminded and just so happy to be there.
“It makes you strive to want to better and it’s an awesome environment.”
With her AFLW contract now secured, Campbell is looking forward to celebrating with her support network back home where her football journey began.
“Bendigo is where I started my footy and they’re fantastic. I’ve got a huge family which support me and I reckon they’ll be very, very excited,” Campbell said.
“We’ve had a few girls come out of Bendigo who have played AFLW so getting another one is pretty exciting.”