GEELONG'S track record in working with AFLW players who have given birth helped No.1 pick Erin Hoare make the decision to return to top-level footy.
Hoare was selected with the Cats' only pick on Tuesday night, having had two children since her last AFLW game for the club in 2019.
She had originally taken a break from football at the end of the 2019 season, moving to England to continue her post-PhD studies in mental health at Cambridge University.
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The 33-year-old gave birth to son Connor just five months ago, and has since started her journey back to full training with the club's VFLW side.
"My last season was 2019, and I've had some really good friends (Renee Garing and Kate Darby) go through and have children and come back to play," Hoare told reporters on Wednesday morning.
"I suppose being part of a system that supports and allows that at the club and the competition more widely – I work at the AFL as well – so the support I've received is just phenomenal, to be able to do this. It wouldn't be possible otherwise. They've been a big inspiration and I'm just so excited to join them as a player.
"It's been absolutely awesome, super exciting. A bit of a whirlwind, lot of messages of support and a lot of excitement for me personally and for my family as well, and the club. To be back with old teammates, and new teammates, we're just so excited, and so humbled."
Geelong first floated the idea of Hoare re-joining the AFLW in January, but it was a big decision to make.
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"I caught up with Dan (Lowther, coach) and Brett (Johnson, head of footy) earlier in the year. I kept in contact with them a little bit, along my journey and wanted to support the club," Hoare said.
"For me, it was initial thinking around all the reasons why not, what would be the challenges. The more I spoke to Dan and the crew here at the club, my old teammates and others, it became really obvious all the support that's in place for mums to return, and that the opportunity is there, and those challenges could be overcome.
"It took a long time to think it through, it's a family decision, my husband Chris is here (at the press conference) as well, so for me to sign up is for all four of us to sign up and share that experience.
"It's a really unique set of circumstances that fell into place for my name to be read out first, but super exciting, a real privilege, and I'm just excited for all of us who were taken in the Supplementary Draft, to have another chance and do what we can for our respective teams."
The couple both joined Cambridge Uni Australian Rules football club while they were in the UK, and for Erin, the desire to return to football post-pregnancy was never extinguished.
"Absolutely, without a doubt, I was always, always going to be playing at some level. Football is such a big part of my life, and there's nothing better than having teammates and being a teammate. I was always going to play at some level till I couldn't. I suppose the opportunity to play at the highest level was just awesome," she said.
"The team's changed quite a lot since I was here last. I know the ruck position is quite specific, and one I certainly enjoy playing. My role will certainly be to support and hopefully partner with Liv Fuller, who's been doing such a magnificent job in the ruck. I'm really looking forward to learning from her.
"I grew up in Geelong, so it's more than just playing for this club. I'm from this town, my family are here, so it's really, really special to be in this top and here."