KRISTIE-LEE Weston-Turner didn't play much football this year.
But she'll end 2023 as one of the very first picks in Monday's AFLW Draft.
The Western Jets key forward sat out nearly three months of the peak footballing period with a fractured scaphoid (a bone at the top of the wrist and bottom of the thumb), managing to return in time to play one last game with Vic Metro in mid-August.
As of Wednesday, Weston-Turner is currently one of the players in contention for the Western Bulldogs' No.1 pick, with both West Coast and Greater Western Sydney circling at two and three if the Dogs go in another direction.
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"Last year, I had an okay season towards the end, but I knew how I could play, and I wanted to showcase it this year. I worked my absolute butt off over summer so I could do what I wanted," Weston-Turner told AFL.com.au.
"We were playing 'endzone' at school, and I went up for a mark, and one of my friends (accidentally) took my legs out from underneath me and I fell backwards.
"I went and got an x-ray, and it was all clear, and I was told it was a bad sprain. So I played the Tassie game, then Calder Cannons the week after (both Coates Talent League games, in early April).
"Whilst we were on the Academy camp, Gary, the doctor, he was looking at my wrist and I was jumping out of my seat when he touched it. He sent me to have another scan, and I was told I had fractured my scaphoid.
"I needed surgery and I was out for six weeks, and I was absolutely devastated about that. Coming around to the six-week mark, I had my hopes up to play in the Academy game (against the Under-23 All Stars in June), but I was told I had to sit out another five weeks. I had my hopes absolutely crushed."
Weston-Turner has nominated for the national pool, in the first year that option has been available for a full draft (compared to the supplementary draft earlier this year).
"I've spoken to quite a few clubs. I've had a few saying they're not really going to bother contacting me, because they're not going to have a high enough pick, which is so nice to hear," Weston-Turner said.
"I've had a really good connection with GWS, both them and Sydney flew me up, and they've been unreal. I've had a lot of interest from interstate clubs like West Coast, Freo and the majority of the Melbourne clubs. I've been pretty grateful and feel honoured I've had all these opportunities, it feels awesome, it's unreal, actually.
"I personally think the whole draft should be national, but I take into consideration that some girls might not be in the same boat, they're finishing year 12 or want to stay with their families. I was more than happy to do that, I think my preference is to actually go interstate rather than stay in Melbourne."
Weston-Turner and her siblings all started their footy with Sunshine Heights in Melbourne's west; her mum, Martha, has now been head trainer there for "30-odd years", and for the kids, the club was "basically our home".
The athletic key forward then spent most of her teenage years playing with Spotswood after ageing out of playing footy with the boys.
The inner-west club happens to be home to Western Bulldogs' head of football Chris Grant and daughter (and current Dogs defender) Issy.
"Someone who's played at that level, knows so much and has been a great player at that level, you don't actually understand how much you learn from them," Weston-Turner said.
"I just feel so grateful I had that chance to have that bond with him. If I do end up with the Bulldogs, I know I have that personal connection, rather than him just being someone who pops up here and there."
Weston-Turner's new AFLW home will also go some way to determining how she tackles her education next year.
Currently in year 11 at Lakeview Senior College in Caroline Springs, with one more year of schooling to go, she's got firm plans regardless of what state she ends up in.
"I have my heart set on doing social work, outside of AFLW. I've decided if I go interstate, I'll go straight into a course of social work, and if I stay in Melbourne, I'll complete year 12 and do social work the year after," she said.
"If I stay in Melbourne, it'll just be a matter of me communicating with my club about what days I need to be there, and communicating with school about the days I need to be there.
"I just find social work really interesting. Helping people who have been in unfortunate situations would mean the world to me."