After more than two years away from family and friends chasing her AFLW dream, Aine Tighe was always able to look at the positives.

The Gaelic footballer from Country Leitrim in Ireland will make her AFLW debut in Saturday’s RAC Derby at Fremantle Oval and Tighe said two years on the sidelines have provided her the benefit of giving her more time to learn the game.

That education has come at a cost, having to rehab two ACL injuries while remaining in Australia and away from her support network as she regained her strength and fitness.

Yet the forward / ruck feels it will all be worthwhile when she pulls on the purple jumper for her first AFLW game.

“We’ve had our ups and downs over the last couple of years but I’ve learnt a huge amount about the game as well over the past three years, which hopefully will hold me in good stead when we do get out on the field,” Tighe said.

“The experience I’ve picked up along the way from watching vision and chatting to the girls and watching the games close up, it will definitely help.

“Looking back on how I was and what I knew in year one and the first couple of weeks in pre-season compared to now, I definitely feel a lot more comfortable.”

03:41 Mins
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Freo's six debutants get the news

Watch the reactions of Fremantle's six round one debutants as they are given the news they will be playing their first AFLW game.

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Tighe has still been able to contribute significantly to Fremantle in her time on the sidelines, working at the Club in the Fan and Community Engagement team to help pass on her love of sport and the game to thousands of kids around WA.

Despite putting in the hard work in throughout this time, Tighe was quick to credit the support she’s received throughout her journey.

“Everyone from strength and conditioning staff, to the rehab crew, physios, the girls themselves, it’s been phenomenal. There’s been a couple of curve balls thrown in along the way but we’ve made it through,” Tighe said.

“There’s a lot of support that I’ve received from home as well, family, friends, teammates, there’s been an awful lot of messages and things that have kept me going through the different stages throughout.

“To everyone who’s reached out, a huge thank you and hopefully we’ll be able to turn it on in round one.”

There’s been one teammate who’s been with Tighe throughout her time in injury rehabilitation in teammate Ann McMahon, who will also make her debut on Saturday.

McMahon has had to deal with adversity both on and off the field, suffering serious injuries in a workplace incident when working as a WA Police officer in December 2019.

Tighe said she was thrilled to share her debut with McMahon.

“I’m just absolutely delighted for Ann. We’ve done a lot of sessions together over the past couple of years and through rehab,” Tighe said.

“Nobody deserves it more after what she’s gone through. Her character, she’s been an unbelievable support to me and an inspiration as well. I can’t wait to run out alongside her.”

Six to debut in RAC Derby!
Match day information: RAC Derby
Gallery: Training 4 January