A LOT has happened to both Jamie Stanton and Gold Coast since the Suns played their only AFLW final in 2020.
Since that 70-point shellacking at the hands of Fremantle, Gold Coast suffered a winless season, changed coaches from David Lake to Cameron Joyce and have now climbed its way into an elimination final against Sydney on Saturday night.
Just like the club as a whole, Stanton has endured her own climb from rock bottom back towards the top.
In season seven she suffered a ruptured ACL against West Coast at Heritage Bank Stadium and a little over 12 months later is now equal sixth among the competition’s leading goalkickers.
Stanton will be one of just three players to run out against the Swans that played in that loss to the Dockers three years ago, alongside key defender Lauren Ahrens and ruck Lauren Bella.
The period between times has been quite a ride, with the 28-year-old conceding she contemplated retirement and was now a “better person” for going through the injury rehabilitation.
“It just requires you to appreciate other people and what they do for you,” Stanton told AFL.com.au.
“You have a lot more gratitude for the small things in life.
“Just being able to walk and move, but also the people that are wanting to help.
“You get to stop and sniff the roses a bit more often than when you’re not injured and it’s all “me, me, me”.
“It allows you to become more about them than you.
“It’s made me appreciate footy so much.”
Stanton’s move from a ball-winning midfielder to a difficult-to-match-up-on hybrid forward has been a key cog in Gold Coast’s rise this season.
But it’s just one move in a long list of decisions that has led to this point.
Stanton said following the winless 2021 season and move for Joyce to become coach, things had to change.
“You don’t just go from zero to 100, you have to work your way through it and evolve as a group,” she said.
“It was a black hole after that no-win season. It was like “where do we go from here?”
“No-one wants to be in a team that’s uncompetitive, it’s really hard to attract players at that point too.”
One player that was attracted was No.1 draft pick Charlie Rowbottom, who decided the Suns were more her jam than staying in Victoria, which she had the option of doing.
Rowbottom made an immediate impact in season six, with Stanton’s move to the forward line expected to happen last season before her untimely injury.
Joyce wanted a younger midfield mix, with Claudia Whitfort and Lucy Single both exploding this season.
“I bought in pretty quick because I was over losing,” Stanton said of moving forward.
“When Charlie Rowbottom walks in the door and can do so many amazing things, you’re happy to step aside from someone like that! She’s pretty good!
“What we were doing (before that) wasn’t working. We weren’t winning games.
“I just want to win. I’m a competitive person. As long as I’m playing and we’re winning, happy days.
“I think we’ve developed a program that can sustain success with our age profile.
“It’s really rewarding and quite satisfying to make it back to finals, but just getting here is not good enough.”