THE LURE of a second flag was one of the deciding factors behind Western Bulldogs' skipper Ellie Blackburn turning down an offer from Sydney.
The 27-year-old Blackburn was acting captain during the Dogs' 2018 triumph, and the side has since gone through an expansion-enforced rebuild, finishing seventh this year.
"I love the club, to be honest. I love what we're building, I love the people there, I love the environment," Blackburn told womens.afl.
"Obviously not everything's perfect, but I want to be part of that change and I don't want to just walk away from it, I'm a person who just wants to see things through. I definitely want to be a one-club player, it's something I've always wanted to do, and be known for at the end of my career.
"I think we're really close to a premiership and that on-field success as well, so to know we're not too far away from that excites me, and I want to be part of that."
Blackburn said the Swans made the first move, reaching out to her manager to gauge her interest.
"It wasn't a shock, but it made the expansion side of things real, that player movement was going to happen and it was the next step in the process," she said.
"From the conversations we did have with them, they seem like an amazing club. It was hard not to think of the 'what ifs' in that process, but I never took the Dogs out of my mind through it all. They were my priority, but it was hard not to consider other options out there.
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"It was a pretty long process in the end. I think we were still in-season when they reached out, so I put it on hold because it was at a time we were still potentially going to play finals.
"It dragged over a few weeks, talking with the Dogs and the uncertainty around what contracts can be offered (due to the lack of a CBA), and I wanted to provide some feedback to the football club about things and ensure some real positive changes were going to be made going forward. I wanted to know what the future was going to look like, so there were plenty of conversations."
Blackburn contracted COVID ahead of round two, and the Bulldogs were so heavily hit, they ended up missing two weeks, as the club and AFL medical staff deemed returning after seven days and playing in January was going to be detrimental to their health.
But the resulting fixture crunch knocked the tough midfielder about more than she realised.
"I didn't realise how bad it was until it was over. When I first got it, I wasn't in a good place at all, it took me a little time to get over it," Blackburn said.
"Then playing that first game back was one of the worst experiences I've ever had in my life, I was cooked, really fatigued and exhausted to the point my body couldn't move. Each week was a real battle, there were some moments throughout the season where I was just completely exhausted, and you just had to get through it.
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"We had COVID, then we played seven games in 30 days, and to have that without a break or a chance to recover really affected my body. I took a couple of extra weeks off post-season because my body needed it, but I thought the club did a great job in supporting us and making sure we got that extra week (in-season) off.
"I'm back in training now, have been for the past few weeks, which is good. The body is feeling much better now, so I'm really excited to get into next season feeling that little bit fresher."