Some players take time to find their feet again after a season off but Nadja Squires appears to have not missed a beat as she continues a dominant return to NewcastleHerald Women's Premier League.
She was often an unsung hero in a star-studded Warners Bay side that included W-League players Cassidy Davis, Jenna Kingsley and Tara Pender in 2018 and 2019 before having last year away from football to try her hand, and feet, at AFL.
But Squires, who is still playing AFL as well as WPL, is relishing a more attacking role with Broadmeadow after largely having a defensive one with the Panthers. She has been integral to Magic's unbeaten start to the season and coach Jake Curley has described her as "probably the best athlete in the competition".
"She can just keep running the whole time," Curley said.
"Her and Kobie [Ferguson] together in the middle are both really good on the ball and don't really make bad choices."
Squires is also proving pivotal from the set piece. Twice she got the league leaders back on level terms after trailing in a 2-2 draw with Warners Bay last Friday night.
The first was a well-struck, long-range free kick into the top left corner and the second came from the penalty spot.
The brace took Squires' season haul to five goals in six appearances. Only striker Ash Brodigan, with eight, has scored more for Magic.
Squires came off late in the round-seven game due to concussion. Ferguson (ankle), wide player Lucy Jerram (back) and utility Maddie Dean (concussion) were also forced from the field due to injury.
But Curley expected Ferguson to be the only one in doubt for their round-eight clash with Maitland at Magic Park on Friday night.
Newcastle Olympic coach Harmonie Attwill has picked up a handy new signing in midfielder Elise Mamanu-Gray, who toured Thailand with the New Zealand women's squad in 2017.
Mamanu-Gray is based in Newcastle and started training with Olympic two weeks ago. She played in reserve grade in round six before replacing injured attacker Keea Parrish in Olympic's 3-2 win over Adamstown in first grade on Saturday night.
"She's a quality player and a good pick-up," Attwill said. "She plays midfield, usually a No.6, but at this point we're using her as a bit of a utility player. She's super experienced and has lots to offer."
Parrish is in doubt for Olympic's round-eight clash with Warners Bay on Sunday due to a hamstring injury. The defending champions are already without leading scorer Jemma House, who will be serving a suspension after she was red-carded on Saturday night for two yellow card offences.
Olympic goalkeeper Madi Duguid made her WPL first-grade debut last weekend in place of injured shot-stopper Natalie Wiseman.
Maitland 17-year-old Airlie Gray made her first-grade starting debut for the Magpies in their 5-0 win over Mid Coast at Cooks Square Park on Sunday.
Charlestown and Mid Coast will both be hunting maximum points from a weekend double-header to keep in the mix for a top-four position.
They meet at Lisle Carr Oval on Saturday then in Taree on Sunday.
Mental health round
Northern NSW Football will shine a light on mental health this weekend with Mental Health Round being held across its premier competitions. Premier clubs adopted a mental health pledge last year, committing their club to fostering a culture which is inclusive, supportive and respectful.
The Emerging Jets lost 3-1 to Sydney Olympic last weekend. This round they face defending champions Manly, who feature Jets W-League players Cassidy Davis, Tara Andrews, Chloe O'Brien, Sunny Franco and Nicole Simonsen. Newcastle's Libby Copus-Brown, who played for Western Sydney in W-League, is also in the side.
The match will be played at Cromer Park on Sunday.