Brisbane Lions AFLW youngster Bella Smith injured her ACL in August 2022, forcing her to switch her focus from football to rehabilitation. 

The 19-year-old midfielder believes that despite being sidelined with her knee injury for the best part of 12 months, it might have in fact made her a better player. 

“I’m feeling good, fitter and stronger, I guess that’s the perks of rehab,” Smith joked. 

“There are silver linings, 100per cent, as unfortunate as it was, I got to work on a lot of things that I haven’t got to in the past. 

“The physical side of it just spending so much time in the gym, it was a weakness of mine whereas now I’ve become much better in there and then my fitness as improved as well. 

“The mental side of it being resilient and learning how your body works and knowing the limits of your body, I have such as better understanding of my body as well.” 

Smith’s mentality has been an area which she has worked closely on with friend, teammate and housemate, Lily Postlethwaite. 

Postlethwaite joined Smith in rehab after also injuring her ACL, and Smith is incredibly thankful for having someone there with her. 

“It was hard at times because we are two different people so when she is having an off week, I might be having a good week and it can be a bit up and down,” she explained.  

“But through that time, it was nice to bounce off each other and have someone to talk through it with and that can relate to what you’re going through. 

“So being able to ask question and get that assurance that what I was going through I wasn’t alone and obviously she has been through the process before, so it was very helpful. 

“Especially living with her, it helped me so much, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to do it without her.” 

The second year Criminology and Criminal Justice student is currently in the middle of a gruelling pre-season with her Brisbane Lions AFLW teammates. 

And with round one almost in sight, Smith is beginning to build her contact loads at uni and knows the hard work is just starting. 

“It has been really good, everyone is a part of everything so you’re in it together,” she said. 

“We get put through some gruesome sessions from Greeny (Matt Green, Physical Performance Manager) but so far it’s been tough but good.” 

The 2023 NAB AFLW Season kicks off on September 3, with the Lions to tackle Richmond at Brighton Homes Arena.