Fremantle midfielder Kiara Bowers returned to the AFLW like she never left on Sunday afternoon in Freo’s final home game of the season against Gold Coast.
The competition’s reigning fairest and best winner collected 18 disposals and a game-high 17 tackles against the Suns in what marked her first game for Freo in a month and a half.
Bowers put up an impressive performance in limited minutes after a delayed return to the AFLW season, sidelined by a two-week suspension before a three-week stint recovering from a minor knee injury.
The contested ball-winner said she was thrilled to be back playing in purple.
“I’m just so happy to get back with the girls and get around them and, hopefully, help them a little bit on the field,” Bowers told Fox Footy.
“Gold Coast were amazing, credit to them they’ve had an awesome year, and they’ve missed a couple of games just by a little bit.
“I can’t wait to see them just go up and up every year.”
Senior Coach Trent Cooper praised Bowers’ efforts on restricted game time, saying the decision to limit her minutes on field was a risk mitigation measure.
Cooper said he was excited to see Bowers line-up alongside fellow All-Australian Janelle Cuthbertson for the first time since round two of this season, with the key defender expected to make her return to the Fremantle line-up in next Saturday's qualifying final.
“She played less than 60% game time, I think that is what we were aiming at today, so she was only doing five minutes at the start of the quarters and then five or six at the end and having a big break in the middle,” Cooper said.
“That was just risk mitigation, she was totally fine and ready to go, but we just didn’t want her playing under any level of fatigue when statistics show that any level of injuries are more likely, so that was why we did that.
“It was really good that we got that into her so she can let rip next week at 100 miles an hour.
“Our medical team has done a lot of work with her and with Janelle Cuthbertson to have her ready to go next week as well.
“It’s really pleasing that we’re going to have our two All-Australians back together for the first time since round two.”
Approaching their fourth consecutive finals series, Fremantle will now prepare to head east to take on North Melbourne at Arden Street on Saturday 19 March.
The winner of the fourth v fifth clash will then progress to the preliminary final and face the top-of-the-table Adelaide.
While Bowers has been ‘not a fan’ of watching on from the sidelines, the midfielder hopes to contribute to the team as Freo look to prove themselves as serious finals contenders.
“We’ve got the team for it and we’re ready to go hard in the finals season,” Bowers said.