SOME investigative work by the Hawthorn operations team uncovered that Meg Hutchins 250th game would be on the team’s round eight clash with Williamstown.
Hutchins knew she was around the 240-game mark, but didn't know what awaited her that day when she arrived at Box Hill City Oval.
"We always have our pre-game meeting led by Bec [Goddard], she tends to tell a story each week, give us them for the day, but she said I don't have a story today," Hutchins recalled.
"She said, 'that's because today is all about Hutch' and I was like 'um, what's going on?' And it snowballed from there."
Teammate Jess Trend, who has played alongside Hutchins since the Eastern Devils, stood up to say a few words and a video presentation was made celebrating Hutchins' contribution to football. There were highlights and messages from former teammate Chantella Perrera, former coach Patty Hill and Hawks AFL player Liam Shiels amongst others.
The milestone holds even more significance for Hutchins when she reflects on where women's football has come in her years in the game.
"It's difficult to reach this point in women's football so I did have this as a small goal along the way that I'd love to reach."
Hutchins won the VWFL Best First Year Player award in 2003 and, unlike the VFLW's most recent recipient in 2019, was not awarded the accolade on stage at the Palladium at Crown but in a "small function room at a footy club or a function room in a hotel motel in Carlton".
It was an email from Lou Wotton that year asking her to come down and support Wotton's team the Deakin Devils in their round one match that alerted Hutchins to the possibility of women playing footy.
"I said 'look, I can't come down to support you, but would you mind if I came to training?' That was the first I'd heard of it," Hutchins said.
It was a different world to the elite facilities Hutchins now enjoys as part of the Hawthorn VFLW side.
She recalls painting the lines on the oval themselves before games, running the canteen in-between getting ankles strapped and, in the worst cases, picking dog poo off the grounds before play began.
"We were sent from club to club as a women's team because we weren't welcome early in the piece.
"But we still loved it, we just loved playing footy. We didn't care too much what anyone else thought or what we did or didn't have, what we did have was the community and the opportunity to play the game."
When the beginning of the AFLW was brought forward from the original 2020 start date it gave Hutchins her chance to live out a lifelong dream.
Collingwood came calling, signing her as a priority pick and giving her the chance to play for the side she had barracked for growing up and culminated in playing in that first-ever AFLW game.
Seeing 25,000 people in Ikon Park was a pivotal moment for Hutchins and for women's football as a whole.
"That was beyond anyone's expectations or plans, it was part of people's dreams, they had always had dreams of playing AFL football," she says.
"Kind of talking about it now I can't believe it happened, but also how far have we come now in five years is pretty ridiculous."
When her time at Collingwood came to an end in 2018 she decided to join the Hawks, a decision she made because of what she saw Hawthorn building and because a few of her closest friends had joined the club.
The decision culminated in playing in the 2018 VFLW Premiership, a moment she says stands in the top five of her career.
"It's one of the most enjoyable games I've played, obviously, because of the result and that was the first time I'd played in a grand final."
"To get the opportunity to play in a game like that with some of my closest friends was unbelievable. That season was so great, the premiership was the cherry on top."
Hutchins has spent her time juggling football and her career, feeling privileged some of that was spent working in football clubs, but she hopes a transition can be made so female footballers are more supported.
"We’ve still got a long way to go when some of our best players and athletes are weighing up whether they continue. Their careers that put food on the table have to come first."
Now she says she's "closer to the end than the beginning" of her career Hutchins hasn't yet made a decision on her future. She's set on helping the Hawks make the most of their chance to play finals in 2021.
"I know it's a cliche, I do just take it a week at a time. Being my age your next game could be your last.
"I'm just enjoying the journey that I'm on with this young group that we've got and hoping I can be the best I can be for as long as I can to make them the best they can be."
A 'pandemic pivot' has led Hutchins to Ocean Grove to find her focus outside of football, but she can’t rule out her involvement ending once she's done with the Hawks.
"You might see me running around in the Bellarine Football League because it can be an itch you want to scratch.
"And I'd love to help Hawthorn when they get into the AFLW space and contribute in whatever way I can to make the program as successful as possible."