Eighteen minutes into the third quarter of Box Hill’s Round 12 clash with Diamond Creek, Julia Crockett-Grills slotted a superb goal on the run from thirty metres out deep in the forward pocket.
It was a significant goal in a significant match. The Hawks came within seven points of pulling off a massive boilover against a genuine premiership contender in arguably their best performance yet. But that goal meant so much more to Crockett-Grills. In the hardest 12 months of her career, she has overcome not one but two serious injuries to make her VFLW debut at Box Hill. Now she’s grasped the chance. And she’s got no interest in letting it go.
Although she came to Box Hill from the Knox Falcons, Crockett-Grills had to watch the inaugural VFLW season in 2016 from a distance as she recovered from a chronic back injury.
“I had two bulging discs in my back so I was out of sport altogether for about ten or eleven months,” she recalls. “I was excited to come back, I did all the Academy at the start of the year in pre-season.”
22-year old Crockett-Grills was one of eight Hawks selected to for St Kilda in the ANZAC Day clash against the Australian Defence Force All-Stars at Etihad Stadium earlier this year. However, what should have been a day to celebrate what she had achieved against the odds instead became another nightmare setback.
Early in the match, Crockett-Grills injured her right ankle in a contest. As she hobbled to the boundary line, she knew the news wouldn’t be good. As it turned out, she was staring down the barrel of a two-month lay-off that would see her miss the better part of the season before she was even in contention to play again.
“I was very upset when I hurt myself again. First game back from injury and I did other one… I wanted to get back my fitness, get back into footy, love it again.”
Crockett-Grills made her debut for Box Hill in Round 8 against the St Kilda Sharks. Playing across the midfield and backline, she hasn’t missed a game since and has featured in the best twice against top four sides Diamond Creek and Melbourne Uni.
“I just wanted to get back into footy, play some consistent footy,” reflects Crockett-Grills ahead of her side’s final match of the season against the Seaford Tigerettes. “I think it’s starting to come along, I’ve started to find a bit of form.”
That modestly described “bit of form” has caught the eye of VFLW coach Patrick Hill, who has been impressed not only by the on-baller’s talent but her dogged determination to overcome every curve ball the footy gods have thrown at her.
“She’s getting better each week. In the second half against Diamo she was instrumental in our resurgence.”
“To see her go down in the Exhibition game at Etihad… she’s a real resilient girl. What was really impressive to me was the work she did off the field while she was injured,” says Hill. “She’s another great person to have around the club, the girls really love her. To see her start to get that form back and get that touch, bounding through the midfield with genuine pace and skill… she’s made a big difference.”
Photo: Kadek Thatcher Photography