Down to Business is an AFLW pre-season content series, focusing on players and coaches from across the competition through videos and articles. A continuation of 2020-21’s Unfinished Business, Down to Business talks with those who have a point to prove in the new season.
THE 2021 NAB AFL Women's season was a tough one for Gold Coast key defender Lauren Ahrens.
Despite being in career-best form, playing in one of the toughest positions on the ground for a winless team made life difficult.
The 29-year-old was a bright spot for the Suns as they slumped to a wooden spoon with a percentage of just 36.5.
"It was definitely challenging. Not having a win and chasing that each week was pretty hard on the group. Each week, we had to keep going out there and try to get through it and find that win, and we just couldn’t get there. It was hard," Ahrens told womens.afl.
"There were so many times we were so close, we'd be even at half-time, and then the score would blow out. At the end of the season, we had a pretty good opportunities to get a win, and we still couldn't get it done.
"So, it's pretty hard to be completely happy with my own season, considering I'd rather have success for our group.
2022 FIXTURE Every match, every round
"At the same time, I saw myself going forward and having growth in my own game, which I'm grateful for the support I had behind me.
"I was very clear on my role last year within the team, and I had a lot of support from coaches and the backline, we were a pretty tight-knit group. I was there for them, and they were there supporting me to go out and play my best footy. Without them, I couldn't have gone out and play the game that I did."
The 29-year-old has had a very different pre-season to those she's experienced in the past, sidelined by a stress fracture in her foot and subsequent surgery.
While Ahrens missed Gold Coast's practice match loss to Brisbane, she's aiming for a return to the field in rounds one or two.
"Pre-season has definitely flown by. It's been an interesting one for me personally, I've been in rehab the whole pre-season, and we've had 'Joycey' (new coach Cameron Joyce) come in, which has been exciting for our group.
"I've been watching that from the outside a little bit. Everything's going really well, I'm tracking well, and just looking forward to being out on the track a bit more.
"It's been awesome. A lot of change, 'Joycey' has brought in a lot of clear direction for the group, which was probably necessary after the year we had. The girls are really digging in and having a real crack, it's been really good for the group."
A combination of delistings, retirements and unavailability (work, other sports, long-term injury) has led to a significant turnover of Gold Coast's list ahead of 2022.
In all, there are nine new players in the squad of 30, with Jacqui Yorston also coming off the inactive list after missing 2021 with a torn ACL.
"We've definitely had a lot come in, which has been a lot of fun, quite refreshing. They're all doing really well, buckling down, which is exciting," Ahrens said.
"Alana Barba, I've played a bit of footy with her already (at Essendon VFLW), but I love watching her play and the way she goes about it. She's a real footballer. It's just nice to see those little things she does that might go unnoticed that I really appreciate, it gets me excited to play footy as well.
"Claudia Whitfort (recruited from St Kilda) – I've been doing a bit of coaching on the sidelines while they've been doing match sim, so it's been nice to watch her break out of the midfield and kick a few goals as well. She's just so powerful and brings another strength to our group.
"A little bit of depth in our midfield was definitely something we needed to gain. With 'Barbs' and Claudia, there's a new dynamic to our group."