Midfield star Stephanie Cain put a tough 12 months behind her as she made her return from an ACL injury in Fremantle’s 30-point win against GWS on Sunday at Fremantle Oval.
The speedy winger played only a handful of minutes of Freo’s 2020 unbeaten campaign after going down with the injury in round one of last season against Geelong.
Just under a year later, Cain looked to be back to her best as she used her pace and skill to help Freo put away the Giants and get their 2021 campaign off and running.
Cain said the atmosphere at Fremantle Oval was what really struck her after a year out of the game.
“It was really good to get back out there. You forget how good it is playing in front of a crowd and I’m sure all the girls really enjoyed being out there and back at Freo Oval,” Cain said.
“I was really just wanting to get through that first five minutes because that’s when I did my knee last year.
“I was trying not to think about it but the nerves just come with the game. Once I got through that first five, I really tried to settle and got back into AFLW footy. It was just good to be back.”
Fremantle unveiled two new Dockers in the clash with first round draftee Sarah Verrier and top up player Mikayla Hyde both having moments of brilliance in the clash.
Hyde provided one of the highlights of the clash with a goal on debut, just 10 days after being added to Fremantle’s list, while the 18-year-old Verrier could have been confused with a veteran of the game with her decision-making and skill by foot.
Cain said that the whole team fed off the duo’s enthusiasm to be out there.
“I think we just all bonded together and got around the two ‘debbies’ in ‘Sez’ and ‘Mik’,” Cain said.
“We were really excited for them. We just got back to our roots, really absorbed the crowd and played fast, exciting footy.
“I played footy with ‘Mikki’ at Swans so it was good to see her really take confidence into this game and bring her own skillset.
“With ‘Sez’, she’s just so reliable and clean. You know if you’re giving her the ball, she’s going to pick it up and it was really good to see them firing.”
Fremantle’s forwards stole the show with star duo Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy kicking three goals each.
“‘Sabs’ loves it here, so she was kicking snags and Gemma always provides along with all the other girls just doing their business and it was really good to see,” Cain said.
“Gemma’s pre-season has been unreal and she’s been really fit. She was working with (assistant coach and former elite runner) Lisa Webb who helped her out to get to this stage.
“She just brings such a vibrancy to the group and I love being her teammate.”