IMOGEN Barnett admitted to being a bit starstruck when she first walked through the doors of the Collingwood Football Club for pre-season training.
Less than 12 months later, she is a Rohenna Young medallist and an AFLW draftee after an excellent debut season for her beloved Magpies.
Barnett, 26, claimed the rebel VFL leading goalkicker award after booting 20 goals in 13 home-and-away matches, finishing with 21 in 15.
Collingwood didn't miss her efforts, taking her with its third and final pick at No.33 in July’s NAB AFLW Draft.
"I've supported (the Magpies) my whole life, so I was a little bit glassy eyed when I walked into the Holden Centre and being able to train there was a dream come true," Barnett said.
"It's still a little bit surreal for me to play for the club I've supported my whole life, but it's an awesome club, it has so much history and culture to it and I have just loved pulling on the black and white every weekend. The team has been outstanding and we've got an outstanding staff and coaches, so I couldn’t speak more highly of it."
Barnett won the medal by just one goal, kicking off her VFLW career with four majors on debut against Geelong in round one and bagging another four in round 11 and three in round 13.
Another Imogen, Casey Demons’ forward Imogen Milford, finished second on 19 including a six-goal bag against Hawthorn in round seven which saw her drafted by Carlton at No.26, while Southern Saints centre half-forward Tara Bohanna was third on 17, winning the Saints’ best-and-fairest and being signed by Gold Coast a month after the draft.
The 176cm Barnett moved back into the forward line on joining Collingwood this season from Old Trinity, where she won the VAFAW league best-and-fairest in 2019 playing in the ruck and earning selection for Victoria.
She was previously a forward for Methodist Ladies College, where she took up the game, and QAFLW club Bond University, where she studied medical science and nursing.
She said she loved the challenge of stepping up in standard to the VFLW and was looking forward to taking the next step again.
"Footy for me started around 16 years of age, I played at MLC when they introduced a football team – I was literally just playing for fun and playing with my mates," Barnett said.
"(At Old Trinity) I started to realise from a few people's comments that maybe this could be something a little bit bigger, so I put my name down for the trials for VFLW Collingwood and was fortunate enough to be picked up by (AFLW coach) Steve (Symonds) and the coaching crew.
"It was a bit of an adjustment (stepping up from local footy), it's a lot higher standard, a lot more expected of you in terms of training and especially off-field things like recovery and eating well.
"It was a bit of a change from local footy on a Saturday and just rocking down to training, but I've loved the challenge. I've always been someone who loved competitive sport and bettering myself in every aspect of that sport … and the VFL program at Collingwood has allowed me to do that.
"It has been a long journey in terms of believing that I am deserving of being where I want to go and I think that comes from having Steve and (VFLW coach) Chloe (McMillan) behind me the entire way.
"(AFLW training) hasn't been too much of a transition because I know the club, I know the girls. It has just been a little bit more training but I'm ready to go, I'm more determined than ever and the past 18 months has shown that things can be taken away pretty quickly, so I'm going to put everything into this season and hope I can play as many games as I can."
Barnett said it was disappointing not to get the opportunity to crown the Magpies' unbeaten season with back-to-back premierships after weeks of waiting for a Grand Final that never came.
"We've achieved so much over the past 18 months and unfortunately we weren't able to get the reward we really all wanted – it's great to receive this leading goalkicker award but it's similar to winning a Brownlow, you want the premiership more than the individual award," she said.
"We prepared for a Grand Final for about six weeks. 'We're playing this week' so we'd prepare and then we're not playing so we'd prepare again, and that mental on and off was challenging.
"But we've got such an awesome group and that's a credit to Chloe for creating this team and creating the environment she did. We stuck together through it and when the inevitable happened I don't think we were surprised – but we move on, we get bigger and better and I'm sure we’ll be right back in this position next year."
The VFL/VFLW Awards Ceremony, featuring the Lambert-Pearce Medal for the VFLW best-and-fairest and all other awards, will be streamed on vfl.com.au from 6.30pm on Thursday, October 7.
2021 ROHENNA YOUNG MEDAL
20: Imogen Barnett (Col)
19: Imogen Milford (Cas)
17: Tara Bohanna (SS)
16: Mia-Rae Clifford (Ess)
14: Steph Lawrence (Car)
13: Emily Harley (PM)
12: Sophie Locke (PM)
11: Georgia Clarke (Gee)
11: Federica Frew (Ess)
11: Jessie Williams (Haw)
ROHENNA YOUNG MEDAL HONOURBOARD
2021: Imogen Barnett (Col) 20
2019: Jaimee Lambert (Col) 27
2018: Darcy Vescio (Car) 26
2017: Chloe Molloy (Diamond Creek), Katie Brennan (Dar) 32
2016: Moana Hope (St Kilda) 106