The lead up to season 2021 has been nothing short of a whirlwind for Adelaide forward Ailish Considine, as the 28-year-old Gaelic footballer from Ireland was forced to jump through countless hurdles just to get back into Australia for her third season of AFLW.
Dealing with everything from cancelled flights to hotel quarantine, her resilience throughout the process was remarkable with her passion and love for the game driving her determination to get back and compete with her beloved Crows teammates.
Speaking with The Inner Sanctum, Considine is adjusting to life back in Australia and excited to be doing what she loves with the squad at West Lakes.
“It has definitely been an adjustment since I got back [to Adelaide],” Considine told The Inner Sanctum.
“Having come from Ireland and being in such a severe lockdown for eight months, you get in a routine of doing your own thing and not socialising or leaving your house, so getting back here where there is freedom it has taken a bit of time to get used to.
“Just being back out there with the girls on the track and having a kick it has been absolutely amazing, I can’t wait to get back into matches.”
The journey to get to this point of resuming pre-season training can be best described as a roller coaster and begins some eight months ago as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip the world and forced a sudden shutdown of the 2020 AFLW season.
Considine reflects on the abrupt end to her second campaign and the sense of uncertainty as she decided to make the trip back home to Ireland for the off season.
“It was all a bit of a shock to be honest,” she said.
“Over here at the time there were very limited cases and not a lot of information about it, so it was really strange to see how crazy it had got over in Europe.
“I kept getting calls from my family back home saying to get back here, this is really serious, but from my point of view being in Australia it didn’t seem too bad and I initially thought they were overreacting.
“It was a serious reality check when I did eventually get home and saw the magnitude of the disease.”
Departing in the weeks following the conclusion of the season, Considine was initially faced with the problem of getting out of Australia as people around the world rushed onto planes in the hope of beating impending border restrictions.
“Once it was announced that the season was over we immediately went about booking flights for me to get home,” she said.
“However, due to the massive rush of people flying out and the closure of borders around the world it actually took me three attempts to get home which was just crazy.
“After waiting a couple of weeks I eventually got on a flight connecting through Melbourne and if that third attempt didn’t work I think I would have ended up staying [in Australia].
“Looking back I probably should have stayed [in Adelaide], SANFL and everything went ahead and it was a much more normal life to what I would return to in Ireland.”
Considine would spend the following six months back at her Irish countryside home and quickly found herself subject to some of the harshest lockdown restrictions on the planet.
“When I got back in April I was faced with a two kilometre radius lockdown meaning I literally couldn’t go any further than two kilometres from my house,” she said.
“We then hit a second wave and a third wave over the coming months, so despite having a bit of reprieve for a couple of weeks here or there, we were constantly in a state of lockdown.
“The major impact it had on me was the gym being closed, making training on your own and keeping your AFL skills up to standard that little more difficult as you really were only able to utilise what you had which was definitely limited.”
Despite these harsh restrictions and training limitations, Considine’s determination to return to Australia for the 2021 season never wavered as she went about signing a new contract in August and beginning the process of returning to West Lakes.
“The intention was always to come back [for 2021],” she said.
“I was always keen to get back and put in as much work as possible at home to make it happen and be in the best shape I could be when I eventually got over here.
“In my head I had fully committed to coming back and doing all I could in that space, so I guess that helped me focus with my training and keep motivated as hearing how well the girls were going on the track I was super keen to join them as quickly as possible.”
Similarly to her initial departure from Australia in April, Considine would go about exploring every avenue in getting back into the country in a process that would end up taking six months.
“We started working on Visa’s and things for me to get back here around the end of the May, and it ended up taking until October for it to all be approved,” she said.
“It seemed almost an impossible task at times as there was no real let up with the borders and restrictions getting into Australia.
“It definitely was a long haul, but I am just super grateful and excited to finally be back.”
One condition of her arrival into the country would be the mandatory 14 day hotel isolation period, which due to a last minute flight change she would have to complete in Perth.
“It [the hotel quarantine] was tough going I am not going to lie.” She said.
“There’s no fresh air and you are stuck inside that room for the entire 14 days, it is very much like imprisonment.
“The first couple of days were okay, but the last few were very hard as they just seemed to drag on.”
Keeping active was one way Considine looked to pass the time, as she got creative in ensuring her conditioning stayed up to standard across the quarantine period.
“I just focussed on trying to keep busy as much as possible and keep moving as I knew that I would be returning to training straight away,” she said.
“It was day five or six that I just needed to run, so I did a five kilometre run inside the room just from to the corner of the bed.
“I was also fortunate enough to have a footy and exercise bike with me, so being able to train and exercise was the only thing that kept me sane.”
Now back on the track at West Lakes, Considine is excited for the upcoming season and to continue her development as an AFLW player.
“It has been bit of an interrupted start to my year, missing a fair chunk of pre season and all so I’m really not going to put much pressure on myself,” she said.
“I just really want to play as much football as possible, improve as much as possible and play my role for the team to the best of my ability.
“From what I’ve seen and heard from the track the team is in a really good place at the moment so I feel it’s going to be a really exciting season.”