When Melbourne fly in and out of the Gold Coast for their AFLW season opener, there will be one player ready for the competition’s new reality more than most.
Demons skipper Daisy Pearce – the AFLW’s most famous face – has relocated her family back to country Victoria.
It means long drives – about three-and-a-half hours one way – up and down the Hume Highway from near Bright, in the state’s northeast.
But the tree change, or the return home as she puts it, is worth the extra kilometres in the car for the hardworking midfielder who was one of the AFLW’s first marquee players back in 2016.
The 32-year-old might just have the upper hand on teammates, and opponents, in dealing with travelling and playing on the same day.
“I don’t do it (the trip to Melbourne and back) every night, I can stay down here at times,” Pearce told AAP.
“It’s funny, we’re going to the Gold Coast this weekend and people can’t believe we’re going up on the day of the game, but for me that’s easy.
“I’m well practised in jumping straight out of the car and hitting the track this year so I’m not too worried about it.”
Despite her football career and emergence as one of Channel Seven’s best commentators during men’s games, the lure of country life proved too strong for Pearce, her partner Ben and their twin children Sylvie and Roy.
“I always planned to get back there but through footy and work opportunities I thought I might end up in (the city of) Melbourne a bit longer than I originally planned,” Pearce said.
“I think with coronavirus hitting, you strip life back and think about what you really miss and what you really love.
“For me, it was getting out in nature and being around family – and all of my family is up there.
“I’ve now got two nearly two-year-olds that seem to enjoy the great outdoors as well.
“I wanted to give them the same opportunity I did growing up in the country so we’ve made the shift and I juggle life down here (in Melbourne) and life up there so I sort of get the best of both worlds.”
It will be a new-looks Demons team that takes on the Suns at Metricon Stadium on Saturday.
After securing a preliminary final berth, before the 2020 season ended prematurely due to COVID-19, a number of experienced players left the club.
Elise O’Dea, Aliesha Newman, Bianca Jakobsson and Harriet Cordner were among the players to move on during the off-season.
Despite targeting youth – draftees Alyssa Bannan, Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon will all debut against the Suns – Pearce says the Demons are gunning for a breakthrough flag.
“When you see six (players) go out and we go back to the draft, naturally people think it’s a bit of a rebuild, but I wouldn’t be as excited as I am at 32 if I was part of a side purely trying to rebuild,” she added.
“We think we can be really competitive and we’re not going to hide that we’re in this to win it.”