RETURNING to football was the perfect tonic for former Hockeyroo Georgia Nanscawen. The youngest Hockeyroo to make the 100 and 150-game milestones for her country had lost her love of the game along the way, and taking up football reminded her sport can be enjoyable.
The journey to that realisation wasn't linear and came when Nanscawen joined Essendon’s VFLW team after being delisted by North Melbourne after the 2019 AFLW season.
"North offered for me to stay with their VFLW team but I didn’t think it was the best fit for me," Nanscawen said.
"I thought I'd have better opportunities to develop at a non-aligned club, so I sent Courtney Ugle a message and she put me in touch with [Essendon Coach] Brendon Major and that was that."
When she was picked up by North Melbourne ahead of its inaugural season, the depth of the club's midfield had Nanscawen beginning her AFLW career as a small forward, a position she believes wasn't suited to her, so when the Bombers gave her the opportunity to join the midfield she jumped at the chance.
"They backed me with the confidence to play there and I loved it from the second I was there and felt valued as a player, and my confidence grew throughout the season,”"Nanscawen recalls.
"By the end of the season I felt I was playing some pretty good football and then coming back this year I feel like I will only keep improving."
Stepping down from the elite hockey environment to VFLW was "refreshing" for Nanscawen, the pressure of selection and to perform was still there to fill the void left from hockey, but this time it was different.
"That's why I probably thrived in the end, because it felt like for the first time in a very long time I was playing sport for enjoying sport again," she said.
"I probably didn't quite have that at North because I wasn't being picked. It's that tough position to be in where you're not playing, whereas at Essendon I was getting games it was fun again. It was like 'great, I can relax a little bit more and enjoy myself and enjoy the sport for what it is'."
The enjoyment could be seen in the quality of her football, Nanscawen finished 2019 in the VFLW Team of the Year and also as Essendon's best and fairest winner.
The accolades had AFLW clubs come calling but Nanscawen decided not to nominate for the draft and instead continue as a part of the Bombers’ VFLW program that had given her so much.
"I had a few chats in 2019 and decided not to, and that was around I'm really happy at Essendon, I finally feel like I've found a great place that I'm happy and I feel I'm believed in."
Eager to return to football Nanscawen did nominate for 2020 and spoke to a few clubs, but they decided to go in a different direction. What initially felt like a "kick in the guts" was soon a positive in that she got "to stay at Essendon".
The aspiration to get on an AFLW list is still there for Nanscawen and the Bombers are campaigning hard to be included in the next round of expansion, something she believes the club is ready for.
"I think ours is the best female facility in the country. We're very lucky with what we have at The Hangar in terms of the structure of our program, so I believe we are," she said.
"The longer the decision is held off the harder it will probably be, but I think we're very much set up for it, we’re ready to go, but whether it happens next year or the following year I think we'll be ready."
For now, the Bombers find themselves in fifth on the ladder and on the verge of their first-ever VFLW finals series. To play and win finals is very much in reach, according to Nanscawen.
"We are a good team and we deserve to be up there. When it comes to big games against good teams we should be confident we can match it."
"And not just match it but win, so it's having that belief as a group that we deserve to be there and give it a really good shot."