Penshurst's Jessica Rentsch is taking every opportunity at her disposal to make her AFL Women's draft dream a reality.
Rentsch was one of 30 players from across Australia to be named in the AFLW Academy last week, which features players eligible for the 2023 AFLW draft.
The 17-year-old, who has started boarding at Ballarat Grammar, said she was surprised to make the squad after breaking her leg in an exhibition match for the AFL Women's Futures program in June.
"I had kind of ruled myself out," she said. "I was more stoked, and happy, that it means my career isn't over. It does open up more opportunity for me."
The program, led by former Collingwood player Tarkyn Lockyer, brings players together for three camps from January to June before the squad teams up for an exhibition match.
Rentsch, who can play through the midfield, is hoping the program will make her both "a better person and player".
"It's definitely an opportunity that I had to take openly and try and get as much as I can (out of it)," she said.
"I want to go all the way and this is just going to put me in front of the right people and coaches who can help me be that better player."
Rentsch, who is the sole Greater Western Victoria Rebels player named in the academy, said the road to recovery from her broken leg had felt long. But after five months of rehabilitation, she remains determined to return to the standard of play she produced pre-injury.
In positive news, Rentsch has started running again but won't be taking part in contact-drills before the new year as pre-season training with the Rebels kicked off this week.
"I've got most of my mobility back," she said. "But there is a bit of restriction."
Rentsch, who played for Portland in the Western Victoria Female Football League's youth girls competition this season after Hamilton withdrew its team, went on to win back-to-back league best-and-fairest awards despite her year being cut short by injury.
She will look to play for a new club team in Ballarat next year after starting board at Ballarat Grammar to help cut down travel.
"For Ballarat (Rebels) training it's two times a week and then there is games," she said. "Being in Year 12 next year I don't want a four-hour round trip just for training. It's definitely closer.
"Instead of a half-hour bike ride to a footy oval, there is literally one at the school and it's a five minute walk to the lake which I can run around."
Rentsch said she would aim to cement her spot in the Rebels side, led by new head coach Sally Riley, after a whirlwind first year in the NAB League system.
"The Rebels have done so much for me so I want to try and give back to them as well," she said. "It's crazy to think only last year I'd just started the Rebels.
"Now it's like everything has gone up-hill, which is really exciting and I think I have the Rebels team to thanks for that."
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