IT didn't take Maddison Smedts long to notice the talent at North Warrnambool Eagles' disposal.
The boom recruit, who has returned to Bushfield Recreation Reserve after eight years away, ventured to the Eagles' first pre-season training run on Thursday night and was blown away.
"There is a young under 17 girl, Tahni Porter, and I've heard a lot about her," Smedts told The Standard.
"Everyone has been telling me she's a great player.
"I can see what everyone else sees - she looks like a little gun. I am excited to play with her."
Smedts, at 29, will add experience to an already settled line-up.
The Eagles' versatility means she's bullish about their prospects.
"We've got a solid shooter in Vic Grundy and a solid keeper in Rachael Batten and everyone else can play all over," she said.
"Between me, Skye Billings, Georgia Corbett, Phoebe Wittman - we have a strong midcourt and we can all go wherever."
Smedts' own netball journey has endured pitstops since leaving North Warrnambool Eagles to join Cobden where she became one of the league's youngest coaches, aged just 20.
She spent 2012-13 as a Bomber before a one-year stint at the Eagles.
"I have been away for so long, I don't know who is still here anymore and who has taken off," she said of her Hampden league opponents.
"I am excited to see who we line up against and who is still around and what juniors have come through. I am intrigued to see what's out there actually."
Smedts played in Geelong - where she met now-husband Nathan Vardy - before moving to Western Australia in 2016 and having her two children Boh, 3, and Mac, eight months.
Netball was on the agenda but injuries curtailed her court time.
"I played for Western Roar in the WANL when I first got there and I snapped my achilles in round three," Smedts said.
"I had surgery and then had a baby and came back and started playing again last year for the same team.
"I had some feet issues - my body is just riddled with injuries - and I had to have a bit of a rest. I had to have six weeks off so decided to have another baby.
"This will be my first season back after having the second bub. Hopefully the body holds up because I am really excited."
Smedts and Vardy, who will play football for North Warrnambool, have settled back into country life after the fast-paced AFL lifestyle.
Vardy retired from the AFL at the end of the last season after 77 games for Geelong and West Coast, including the 2018 premiership.
"We have become accustomed to the big, city life. We've moved back to Warrnambool and are trying to slow down and Boh's started kinder this week and Nathan is working," Smedts said.
The couple will miss Perth, which became a second home despite Smedts' early reluctance.
"I never wanted to go at the start. He wanted a bit of a change and I said 'I'm happy to move anywhere but Western Australia, that's way too far for me'," she said.
"We ended up giving it a go and we moved over and ended up being over there for five years.
"We bought a house, had two kids and by the end we were both pretty scared about leaving. We already miss the weather."
One aspect of AFL life they won't miss is navigating COVID-19 border restrictions. "Between us we did over 20 quarantines - hotel and home," Smedts said.
"I had Mac and the day we got out of hospital we got a call from West Coast saying we had to go into a hub and had three hours to pack and be at the airport and I had a four-day-old baby.
"Footy was a high-pressure environment so I think we're going to enjoy footy and netball being our hobby and our outlet rather than Nathan's career."
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