There was a moment when it all hit home for Isabella Simmons.
The 18-year-old was wearing Melbourne's famous red-and-blue. Kardinia Park's monolithic grandstands watching over her.
Simmons was in the backline, marking former Ararat Storm teammate and role model Georgia Clarke.
The Demons walked away winners against Clarke's Geelong, but the result was just a bonus for the Stawell export.
"The whole build-up to the game was just so exciting. All the girls got around you in little ways, like having a chat or giving you high fives," Simmons said.
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"I was so nervous because it was my first real game in a long time and it was against such a good side in Geelong.
"It was so professional and so elite. It was definitely a huge step up from playing NAB League and local club footy.
"I knew those things were going to happen, but you don't actually realise it until you're out there."
Last month's practice match was Simmons' first game since the NAB League season was cancelled in March last year.
Although 'unofficial', the win was also her first game for Melbourne since being selected with pick 48 in the 2020 AFLW draft.
Now among the sport's elite, Simmons has traded the country for Melbourne's CBD and now calls some of football's greatest names her teammates.
"Our first training session was a Saturday morning, and I was in the middle of studying for my year 12 exams," she said.
"It was raining and cold, but I remember thinking 'oh my god. Look at all these players, all the staff members and the facility'. It was all really cool.
"Then, when I saw Daisy (Pearce), I was pretty starstruck. It was surreal. Now I casually have chats with her and go see whenever like it's normal. It's crazy."
Simmons spent most of her junior career on the wing, or rotating through the forward line; however, the Demons see a future for her in defence.
The positional change and minor ankle injury saw Simmons slide out of contention for Melbournes AFLW season opener at the weekend - a 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35) victory against Gold Coast.
"The season seemed so far away and now it's already here, I'm just so excited," she said.
"I can't believe it, you know. I'm not watching the games from home; I'm going to be with my teammates.
"Just being a part of it all is pretty incredible."
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