When Orla O’Dwyer first boarded her plane to Brisbane at the end of 2019, the then 21-year-old had no idea what lay in front of her.

Three years on with a Premiership, All-Australian honours and now a new contract at the Lions in hand, the Irishwoman has forged a name for herself as one of the fastest wingers in the competition.

“I never thought I would get to where I am now when I first came over,” O’Dwyer admitted.

“When I look back at how far I’ve come now, it’s amazing.

“It just makes me want to chase more success with the Lions.”

00:37 Mins
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O'Dwyer inspires with this dashing snap

Orla O'Dwyer snares the opening goal of the game with this wonderful kick

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Lions Head Coach Craig Starcevich had an inkling that O’Dwyer might flourish in AFLW, with the Premiership Coach recalling interviewing a young Irishwoman who seemed vastly prepared for the life of an elite athlete.

“I remember back in 2019 when Bree (Brock, Lions Head of Women’s Football) and I first interviewed her and how confident, determined and organised she came across,” Starcevich said.

“We both thought this girl has the right qualities to make a go of a sporting career on the other side of the world.

“And then when she started training and playing, her athleticism really knocked everyone over. She kicked a goal with her first touch, but what really stood out to me was that she never got caught with the ball.

“That’s unusual for Irish players who sometimes take time to adjust to tackles, but each year she’s been able to layer a new skill to her repertoire. It’s still a work in progress but she’s very determined to keep improving.”

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O'Dwyer: I've Got a One Club Mentality

Orla O'Dwyer says she's used to a "one club mentality" so never questioned signing back on for the next AFLW season.

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Consistent development has been the definition of O’Dwyer’s AFLW career so far.

In her three seasons of AFLW, O’Dwyer has improved at an exponential rate year-on-year.

Her 2020 season’s averages of 7.5 disposals, 1.8 tackles and 93 metres gained pale in comparison to the figures from her most recent season; 14.4 disposals, 4.1 tackles and 325 metres gained.

As Starcevich recognises, she’s added new elements to her game too, including becoming a threat on goal. The speedy winger slotted six goals throughout the 2022 season to emerge as yet another damaging offensive threat in the Lions’ arsenal.

A career-best season saw O’Dwyer rewarded with inclusion in the 2022 All-Australian team.

The first Irishwoman in the competition’s history, and the first Irish footballer since the legendary late Jim Stynes to receive the honour, O’Dwyer said that it was an ‘unbelievable’ moment in her career.

“It was such a surreal experience,” she said.

“To make the squad, let alone the 21, it was just unbelievable.

“And then to share that with Nat (Grider) and Batesy (Emily Bates) just made it even sweeter.

“Even back home, to be the first Irish woman to make the team, all the support from my family and friends back home was phenomenal.

“It just makes you want to go back out there as soon as you can.”

And with the season moving to an August start date, O’Dwyer didn't have to wait long to get back out on the field with pre-season kicking off on Monday.

Despite interest in the talented winger from expansion and existing Clubs alike, O’Dwyer has penned a new contract with the Lions that will see her remain at the Club for the upcoming AFLW season.

Reflecting on her decision the 23-year-old says that Brisbane has become home.

“I’m really starting to make my life in Brisbane,” O’Dwyer said.

“I’ve always seen us as more than just a team, especially the players. We might see each other five or six times a week just training, but then the days we have off we’re still asking to meet up for coffee or do extra skills or recovery and I think that’s what it’s all about.

“You learn quickly when you’re out here on your own with no family that they become your family.

“I’m really excited for the season coming up again so soon too.

“We play this game to play matches and to win matches, and I suppose we get to do it twice in one year, what’s not to love about that?”