RICHELLE Cranston has been wearing Geelong's blue and white hoops for two years, but Tuesday night's training session felt like the first day of school for the 29-year-old.
Cranston has played for Geelong's VFLW side for the past two seasons after the Cats inherited a licence from local side North Geelong Magpies, her former local club.
Tuesday night, however, marked the first official training session for Geelong's inaugural AFL Women's squad, which will play in the NAB AFLW competition next year.
"I definitely got excited putting my uniform on for the first time and getting my backpack ready to go … first-day-of-school 'feels'," Cranston said with a laugh.
"I got a whiteboard, ruled it up and have been crossing out the days until now, doing all the pre-pre-season running, which has been hard, so I'm a bit nervous to see what tonight's going to be like," she said before the session at Deakin University's Geelong campus.
"But [I'm] super excited."
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Cranston has played the past two AFLW seasons with Melbourne but crossed to Geelong in order to play at both AFLW and VFLW levels with the club.
The conference fixturing system has meant the two sides will not play each other, which Cranston is a "little bit" disappointed about.
"But we might see them in finals, you never know," she said.
The Geelong coaching staff had been keeping a close eye on the weather radar on Tuesday night, with Victoria's muggy conditions due to give way to large thunderstorms. Thankfully, the storms had passed by the time the Cats took to the field.
All but two players were present, with draftees Rene Caris and Becky Webster absentees due to year 12 exams.
Key defender Melissa Hickey, recovering from a left knee reconstruction, looked sharp as she took part in most drills, but wore a pink vest to signify no contact.
Versatile mid-sized draftee Denby Taylor is rebuilding her fitness after a bout of glandular fever she developed after the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships on the Gold Coast, while Aasta O'Connor and Phoebe McWilliams were also on restricted duties due to niggles.
Renee Garing, a former VFLW midfielder who is rated highly internally, is continuing to recover from a long-term back injury but had her precise kicking skills on show.
Geelong focused heavily on elite young talent in October's NAB AFLW Draft, landing five picks inside the top 20, including No.1 selection Nina Morrison.
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Morrison, not one to take a backwards step, nearly crashed into training equipment on the sideline while taking a mark, much to the horror of the team's support staff.
Later, in a low-contact, full-ground drill focused on ball movement, she (fairly) cleaned up teammate Maddy Keryk, who looked slightly shocked at the level of force that had been dished out as Morrison helped her to her feet.
"In my eyes [Morrison, Taylor and Olivia Purcell are] in our best 21. They will continue to grow in an elite AFL program and it will be insane what they will be able to do, because they're already amazing athletes. Watch out," Cranston said.
Geelong had a strong VFLW season, making the Grand Final before losing to Hawthorn. Twelve of its AFLW side have been recruited directly from that VFLW team (not counting under-18 and AFLW players joining from other clubs), and Cranston said the loss would spur them on.
"I think about [the loss] a lot, and I think a lot of the girls do," she said.
"It's really good that we made it, but we wanted to go one better and the two-thirds of [the AFLW team] who were in that VFLW Grand Final are really using that as fuel to make us better for AFLW."