AFTER a heartbreaking 12 months, Georgia Nanscawen is back playing the game she loves.
She was mere minutes away from captaining Essendon to a VFLW premiership victory, with an AFLW contract already signed, heralding her return to the top for the first time since 2019, before her knee gave way.
Nanscawen sat out season seven, the Bombers' first in the AFLW, the co-vice-captain working on an exercise bike on the sidelines at training while her teammates ran freely.
The 31-year-old has now played all seven games this season, recording over 20 disposals in the past two weeks and is averaging 17.7 touches and 4.7 clearances.
"It's so much nicer than watching on from the stands. I'm certainly not taking any moment for granted and just enjoying every opportunity I have to run out here," Nanscawen told afl.com.au.
"I don't think about my knee when I'm playing. Credit to the medical staff, we had probably the most diligent 12 months we could to get it all sorted.
"Once you cross that line, it doesn't cross the mind. Just loving being out on the field.
Despite her origins in hockey, footy runs in Nanscawen's blood. The youngest Australian to register 100 and then 150 caps with the Hockeyroos, she hung up her stick at 26 and wanted a change.
So being the great-great-niece of Edward 'Carji' Greeves – the first Brownlow medallist, whose name is on Geelong men's best and fairest award – she returned to the sport in which she'd played a handful of games at school.
There, she'd been coached by none other than now-AFL executive general football manager Laura Kane, who was a couple of years ahead of Nanscawen at University High School.
Kane knew Nanscawen was back playing local footy and, working at North Melbourne at the time, recommended her as a possible cross-sport rookie signing.
It didn't all go to plan at North – playing two games in the 2019 season before being delisted – but she went to Essendon's VFLW team, buckled down, and got to work.
Nanscawen is now a much-loved Bomber and a crucial member of the midfield that tore Richmond apart last week, sitting 20 ahead in the clearance count at one stage of the match.
"It was probably an area last year we weren't that strong in, and we're starting to build that cohesion, which is naturally going to come as you play together more," she said.
"To be able to have a core group working in there and getting to know each other a little bit more, we can really see the benefits coming from it."
With games against West Coast, Carlton and Gold Coast to round out the season, Essendon is still in the running for a top-four spot in just its second season.
"It's such a bright future for our group, we've got contributors right across the board and we're not relying on one or two people to win a game for us," Nanscawen said.
"We've got 21 people out there, and we've got 30 working to get into the team, but the 21 who get to represent every game, they're really contributing, and that's all we can ask for.
"I don't think we want to put a limit on it. If we can go out there, look to improve individually, look to improve as a group each week, whatever happens happens - that's the focus. Winning games like this (against Richmond last week) makes it really exciting."