Brisbane defender Kate Lutkins will play her 50th AFLW game for the club in the Grand Final against Melbourne after overcoming dark days to make a stunning return from injury.
Lutkins ruptured an ACL against Adelaide in January at the start of AFLW season six and was not expected to be back this year, but she will line up against the Demons on Sunday at the Lions' new home base in Springfield.
Her self-confessed stubborn nature and commitment came to the fore as the 34-year-old fought her way back to the playing arena in the round-six win over Essendon on October 2.
Lutkins took the guidance of the physios and conditioning staff and worked towards getting back for AFLW season seven once it was brought forward.
"There definitely were some dark days. I think there are with any kind of injury, especially those long-term ones," she said.
"I was very fortunate with my recovery from the surgery that I had a really good crew around me.
"There are a few girls in the team that have had the same procedure so I really leant on them, the team and the staff.
"An ACL is a really individual injury so I guess I didn't really put anyone as a benchmark or challenge myself to get back in any time.
"I am really competitive and really stubborn and do enjoy a challenge. Once the season did get moved forward I wanted to do my best to get back by this season."
Lutkins was the best on ground in the Lions' inaugural premiership win in 2021 and is integral to their title hopes.
They did not rush her return however. She said she had confidence in her body from her first game back.
"I am seven games in and right from the start I had the confidence in the knee," she said.
"Otherwise I wouldn't have been out there and the staff wouldn't have let me back out there.
"The girls around me have been amazing letting me play my role each and every week."
Lutkins' mindset going into any game is to give her best and nothing will change on Sunday in her milestone match.
"I am really proud to end up in the final dance at the end of the season alongside the girls," she said.
"That is pretty incredible. It is cool that it is my 50th."
Springfield is located in the city of Ipswich, where Lutkins went to school and where she has plenty of support.
"I am pretty excited to play here in Ipswich, which is my hometown, with my family alongside me watching," she said.
"They are really excited to watch the girls play and have followed the team since season one."