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AFLW 2017 Grand Final - Brisbane v Adelaide

Heather Anderson is assisted by a trainer after injuring her shoulder in the AFLW Grand Final

HEATHER Anderson once woke up and decided to run from one Australian Capital Territory border to another, just to provide some variety in her training.

You read that correctly.

Now you know Anderson's personality – there are many more examples – you should have some understanding of how hard it was for her to contemplate her football career could be over.

The 23-year-old former Adelaide Crow, a top-10 pick in the 2016 NAB AFLW Draft, suffered a second gruesome right shoulder dislocation in 15 months in the inaugural Grand Final in March.

In between, Anderson also underwent an abdominal operation and subsequently struggled mentally with "subconsciously" protecting herself on the field throughout the AFLW season.

"As soon as my shoulder went (the second time), I had this sense of dread, this gut feeling, that this was going to be my last game," Anderson told AFL.com.au.

"So, I think it's something I've been tossing up since then, and as I went through recovery and got to a bit of a crossroad where I had to make a decision, I started thinking about it a lot more.

"I know the reasons I'm doing it are the right reasons, and I know it's for the best.

"But, looking back, and thinking about the past 17 years with footy and other contact sport (rugby and judo) and what I've done and the people I've met, I think that's what I'm struggling with."

Anderson has not ruled out a football comeback at some stage, but her physiotherapist, who doubles as a close confidante, recommended she avoid contact sports for up to two years.

That timeline might be hard to comprehend, particularly with the Canberra-born, Darwin-based athlete believing surgical screws have fortified her shoulder as well as ever.

But the dilemma for Anderson has always been combining football with remaining healthy for her other great passion, working as an Australian Defence Force medic.

She first cast football aside as an 18-year-old, a fortnight after achieving All Australian selection, as a result of joining the army.

Instead, Anderson's job helped create opportunities she never thought possible, although her peerless determination and work ethic were crucial.

She would commute to Canberra and Melbourne for football while working in Albury-Wodonga – three-and-a-half-hour drives each way – and rise at 4am to complete strength and conditioning training before work.

Anderson's reward was two games for the Western Bulldogs in the women's exhibition series pre-AFLW, where she gained traction for the pink helmet she wore to help her vision-impaired mother spot her on the field.

"What I'm most proud of is knowing the extent I had to go to, to get opportunities," she said.

"Joining the army opened doors for me to be able to trial and play for the Bulldogs, then come up to Darwin and play for the Crows, so it was kind of like a series of very fortunate accidents."

Anderson still feels she has "unfinished business" in the AFLW and one day hopes, in her own words, to repay the faith coaches Bec Goddard and Andrew Hodges placed in her.

Until then, she will remain involved with the Darwin-based Crows, especially wellbeing coach Belinda Creer, as she also completes degrees in paramedicine and behavioural psychology.

"I'm proud of what I achieved with the team and the girls, but I don't think I was the player I used to be after my first couple of operations," Anderson said.

"I don't think Bec Goddard got what she bargained for when she drafted me the first time, and I was a bit disappointed in myself for that.

"I'd like to go back and have the same level of tenacity and confidence I used to have when I was a bit younger and go back to being the player I used to be."