Kirstyn Antoni is back enjoying her football.
And South Wallsend coach Cas Wright has no doubt the former W-League Jets and Young Matildas player will prove integral as the Wolves push for their first piece of silverware in Herald Women's Premier League.
Antoni (nee Pearce) was identified as one of the country's most promising talents as a teenager.
She was in an Australian under-17 side alongside current Matildas Emily van Egmond, Gema Simon, Tameka Butt and Kyah Simon in 2007 then was signed for Newcastle's first two seasons in W-League.
But when the Central Coast product finished school, she had to choose between work and football.
"There was no financial incentive then and I was still living on the Central Coast, so it was a no-brainer," Antoni said. "I look back now and have moments where I think, 'Do I regret leaving?'
"But I love my life now and I look at those girls who are still playing and pushing for the top spot and I think, 'Good for them', but I also think I wouldn't have what I have now if I was to pursue that. It was hard but I don't regret it."
Antoni, now 27 and a childcare worker, has a house and 14-month-old daughter Billie with husband Mat.
She played football socially on the Central Coast with good friends for a few years and gave AFL a go before having Billie.
The decision to return to a premier competition this year came after talking with Wright, who coached Antoni in the early years of WPL.
"The last three years I played soccer was not competitive," Antoni said. "It was fun and I didn't miss it then but something changed ... There was some sort of fire in my belly.
"Cas said there's a spot here if you want it. I said, 'I've just had a baby and I could be terrible'. I hadn't even kicked a ball. But I went to training and it was all good."
The Wolves, touted as premiership and championship contenders in 2019, have opened their WPL campaign with two wins.
Antoni brings not only experience, skill and versatility to the team but a steadying influence as well.
"She has an amazing amount of composure on and off the ball, can play any position and she brings leadership," Wright said.
"I'm hoping she'll hit her straps by the end of the first round. I want her to love her football again and be good at it. If she wanted to I could see her being back at that [top] level."
For Antoni, the focus is on getting the most out of the season.
"There's no real goals for this year, just to keep enjoying it," she said. "I am enjoying it and I'm loving it at the moment."
While you're with us the Newcastle Herald is offering sport readers 20% off an annual digital subscription. Sign up to stay up to date with all the local sports you love. Terms and conditions apply.