Belinda Smith is ready to unleash ‘a year’s worth of pent-up rage’ when West Coast’s AFLW team embarks on a series of pre-season hitouts in the coming weeks.
The 24-year-old is raring to launch into her fourth AFLW campaign after spending most of 2019 on the sidelines recovering from injury.
Smith ruptured her left Achilles tendon during a VFLW practice match in February, which ended her season following three senior appearances with the Western Bulldogs.
But after working with West Coast’s medical team for the past seven months since arriving at the club in April via the AFLW sign and trade period, Smith is back to full fitness and champing at the bit to resume playing the game she loves.
“I just can’t wait to just tackle someone in a game,” an excited Smith said.
“I think that’s what I’m most looking forward to now. I’ve got a year’s worth of pent-up rage.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with the physios and rehab staff this year.
“It was my first long-term injury and it’s been a long rehab journey, but it’s had its pros too.
“I’ve put on a lot of extra muscle and worked on little aspects of my game to tidy up different areas, like my marking and ground balls.
“I’ve tried to become a more rounded player as opposed to someone who can just take off and take a few bounces here and there.
“Hopefully that will help come game time.”
Smith’s extra muscle and improved skills will no doubt help with her positional change in 2020.
After spending her whole junior, state and AFLW career playing in defence, the Pingrup product will line up in the Eagles’ forward line this year.
“I’ve recently become a forward after playing in defence for 15 years,” Smith explained.
“Coming back from an Achilles injury, I’m just building back to getting quick again. I like to take the game on and speed is what I usually use, so that’s a work in progress.
“I like to think that I have a bit of a footy head after playing the game for a long time, so I’ll try to bring my smarts to the game and hope that I can help the other girls in the forward line at the same time.”
Fortunately Smith will have a familiar face to help her along the way.
Michelle Cowan, who mentored Smith during her two-year stint at Fremantle, will coach the Eagles' attacking division during its maiden campaign.
“It’s really exciting to link up with Michelle again after working with her at Freo,” Smith offered.
“She knows my strengths, what I can do well and what I need to work on. Having her as my line coach and getting to work quite closely with her is a bonus.
“We’re training a very exciting brand of footy. I think it’ll be fun to watch.
“I’ll be stoked to get around that as a forward.”