West Coast Eagles player Lauren Wakfer suffered a heartbreaking injury in her debut season for the team last year, which saw her spend time in rehab following knee reconstruction and watching her twin sister Zoe achieve their shared dream.
She has now triumphantly announced her return and has been nominated as one of two Rising Stars for the AFLW’s fifth round alongside Sydney Swan Ella Heads.
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With a victory over Port Adelaide by six points, Wakfer’s Eagles celebrated their first win of the season, which was sweetened by the young player having a big loss.
She finished the day with seven tackles, 14 disposals and two marks, showing why she dominated the rucks in the Western Australian draft pool.
Wakfer held her own in the match against Power’s Matilda Scholz, who used her additional size and experience to consistently put Wakfer under pressure.
The name Wakfer became popular after the 2022 draft when Zoe attended draft night to support her sister and was unexpectedly drafted herself.
At pick No. 15, West Coast had selected Lauren with the second live pick in Western Australia, although the ruck came just a week after a complete knee reconstruction.
Then, with pick No. 36, Zoe, who wasn’t even at the draft in her South Fremantle club polo and expected to be in Melbourne just to support her sister, burst into tears.
The Eagles called out the name of the key defender during the final first-round pick and then presented her with a polo shirt that she proudly wore over her dress.
West Coast managed their first win, celebrating Emma Swanson’s milestone game with a six-point triumph.
Skipper Swanson led the way as the Eagles fended off a last-minute power surge to secure a 6.3 (39) to 4.9 (33) victory in a heated contest at Mineral Resources Park on Friday.
With just a point separating the teams at the final exchange, Eagles striker Kate Bartlett scored two majors in their return leg to give the hosts some breathing room.
But the Eagles (1-4) had to withstand a late challenge from the Power after Gemma Houghton scored her second goal with three minutes left until the visitors ran out of time.
The win ends the Eagles’ 10-game losing streak and lifts the side from the bottom of the ladder as they try to avoid a second AFLW wooden spoon after finishing last in season six.
Swanson was outstanding in the start of her 50th game, finishing the game with 24 interceptions, four free throws and 394 yards gained, giving the Eagles a much-needed win.
Goals were difficult for both teams, but Eagles midfielder Aisling McCarthy shone with two goals to help seal the win.
McCarthy also collected 22 disposals, making him one of the Eagles’ best along with Charlotte Thomas (24), Belinda Smith (21) and Isabella Lewis (17, one goal).
“We knew they were going to come out and the momentum was going to change and the girls just hung in there, it was a great fight,” Swanson told FoxFooty after the match.
“Credit to Port Adelaide too, they came out with some heat but I’m super proud of our girls.”
The Power (1-4) had a chance to take a lead in the first half, but paid the price for erratic shooting as they entered the main break down just 1.7.
Young talent Abbey Dowrick impressed in a thrilling battle with Swanson in midfield, while also making a splash with 22 disposals and nine clearances.
Power superstar Erin Phillips held up well for most of the contest, but scored a goal just before the final change that gave the teams a thrilling final season.
“We are extremely disappointed with the performance we showed tonight,” said Power coach Lauren Arnell.
“They outplayed us and took their chances, but we didn’t. We are disappointed with the lack of discipline we showed tonight and the lack of composure in our front half really hurt us too.”
West Coast will look to record a second straight win against GWS at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday, while Port Adelaide host Sydney at Alberton Oval later the same day.
Alongside Wakfer, Sydney Swans youngster Heads is also nominated for the Rising Star Award this week for her performance in the Swans’ five-point loss to Carlton.
Heads had 18 disposals, four points and six tackles to seal her nomination.
– With AAP