Comeback Cat’s ‘nerdy’ Rubik’s cube secret
When Nina Morrison returned to football for the first time in more than a year, she felt a sense of hollowness.
She said it was an anticlimax to run out in Round 1 in Perth, 367 days after the 2018 No.1 draft pick had ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament at training after just one game.
All this after months of anticipation, rehearsing her return in her head.
"I think that I built that first game up so much in my head and then when I got there, I don't know, it was actually a really weird feeling when we were in Perth," Morrison said.
"That first game last year, there was so much hype around it - it was Geelong's first game, it was a home game, lots of people that I knew were going to be there and it was a really historic moment. There was so much external hype around that as well.
"I'd almost spent 12 months being like 'oh my god, this is going to be the best feeling ever to get back into it', and then it was quite weird."
She admits she "didn't feel much at all".
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Not many nerves, a touch of excitement. She cramped hard early.
"I just got to the ground and was waiting for it to hit," she explained.
"But then I just built it up so much and played it over in my head so many times and was expecting something really crazy to happen, but it just flowed on.
"That was an interesting experience, but then since I've got that one under my belt I'm back into the normal swing of things again, I'm leading into the games just a normal game and I can just worry about the opposition and how we're going to play as a team and nothing else."
The 19-year-old concedes while she wouldn't wish the ACL path - now beginning for 14 AFLW players so far this season - on any player, she feels better for enduring the physical and mental test.
She's developed in ways she could never have envisaged, and "never would have spent that much time in the gym before in my life".
A new friendship was formed - Geelong's odd couple - with 35-year-old Elise "Flynny" Coventry having ruptured her ACL in the weeks prior to Morrison.
It proved to be a "buddy system" Morrison - who has reached out to players who have suffered the injury this season - would recommend for all.
"We joked throughout the year that you're only as old as your rehab partner, so Flynny was still going on 19," Morrison laughed.
"We tried to reflect on our relationship beforehand, and I think we were basically just teammates, nothing more. We wouldn't really hang out. When she did her knee, I was speaking to her in the days afterwards, and she was like 'this sucks, but I don't want any friends in rehab'. And then about a week later, she had me.
"We've formed a really special bond and it is an unlikely friendship. But I've really leant on her throughout the year and she kept me sane throughout it all. She's someone that has made last year one that. .. it wasn't one that we would have chosen, but because of each other, it's one that we'll remember."
CATS ARE PUZZLED
The race is on.
If you spot a Geelong AFLW player on the road this season, there's every chance there'll be a Rubik's Cube in tow, with Nina Morrison the big dog - or is that Cat? - in town.
The 19-year-old exercise science and maths modelling student, who received an ATAR of 99.75 in 2018 to be Geelong Grammar's top performer, admits a penchant for the combination puzzle fostered as a child has recently returned with a vengeance.
One club insider revealed she had completed four of the tricky puzzles in the airport lounge on the way home from Mackay last weekend.
"I got a cube one day when I was a kid, and I looked it up on YouTube one day how to solve it," Morrison said.
"And then I remembered the algorithms and stuff and it becomes muscle memory. I'm probably a bit of a nerd sometimes, so that sort of stuff excites me.
"There's a few of us at the club that get into them, we enjoy doing them."