If you told Michelle Heyman six months ago she'd soon have the Julie Dolan Medal draped around her neck, she would have laughed at you.
She had just spent a year out of the W-League and had seemingly lost her love of the game.
But now she has been crowned the W-League's player of the year to cap off a stirring comeback that saw her guide Canberra to a semi-final return.
"There was a lot of hype behind it saying people wanted me back in the W-League, but people also said 'she's too old, give the younger kids a go'," Heyman grinned.
"I wanted to shut those people up, I always enjoy that side of things, when I can prove other people wrong, and to say age is just a number.
"I'm only 32, I'm not that old, and I'm still as quick as the 16-year-olds, so why not?"
Canberra coach Vicki Linton is already piecing together her squad for the 2021-22 season with rivals Perth already poaching Demi Koulizakis.
Heyman is desperate for the club to retain the core of its playing group as they look to build on a long-awaited return to the finals.
"You know me, I love being in Canberra," Heyman said.
"I love playing for the club, the club means a lot to me and it's where I've pretty much created who I am as a footballer.
"Of course I want to be able to come back to Canberra and play the following season. I'm super excited for it, hopefully it happens, hopefully it goes to plan.
"That's the biggest struggle with the W-League, you don't get a long enough pre-season to be able to make big changes so you want to try to keep a core group," Heyman said.
"If we can keep most of the Canberra United girls within Canberra, it will make us even more successful than what it was last year.
"I know this season coming is going to be difficult, especially with the loss of Nicki [Flannery] with her ACL, but again we've got to scout different players and put in another forward just like her."
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