JACQUELINE Dupuy admits there was likely no one more surprised to see her make her AFLW debut for Gold Coast Suns last weekend against GWS than herself.
It's a reflection on the former Bendigo netballer's swift rise to the elite ranks of women's football.
Despite a huge passion for the game, football wasn't even on the 27-year-old's radar until about four years ago when she started playing for Cairns Saints, for who she is also played netball for.
After relocating to the Sunshine Coast for work at the end of 2019, she joined the Maroochydore Roosters, where she enjoyed immediate success.
The versatile ruck-forward finished runner-up in the 2021 QAFLW most valued player award and was also named in the QAFLW Team of the Year.
Her big break came in the latter half of last year when she received a call from the Suns and was offered a spot on their list.
Dupuy said it was an offer that came 'out of the blue'.
"I had no idea - I played in the QAFLW for a couple of years and last year we had a really good year," she said.
"I have been pretty lucky to have some great coaches over the years in footy, who have helped me progress to where I am.
"I finished off the (2021) season and was pretty happy with it and then I was contacted to be a train-on for a couple of clubs, which I was eager to do.
"But my opportunity really came when they said there was a spot on the list for me."
If being listed by the Suns was a surprise, her selection for round one against the Giants was an even bigger one.
Asked whether she had any inkling she would be making her debut last weekend, Dupuy replied: "Absolutely not.
"To be completely honest, I had a bit of an interrupted pre-season, just in terms of injuries and those sorts of things. It was a big shock last Thursday (at selection).
"It was something that I've obviously been working towards, but in this sport, nothing is a given.
"You have to work hard, particularly on our list. We have 30 players, who are working hard and are super-competitive.
"So I never knew when my chance might come, but I was lucky enough it was round one."
A tally of six disposals and four hit-outs in a 15-point loss to the Giants represented a solid enough first-up outing for Dupuy and was ample enough evidence to suggest the transition from QAFLW to AFLW will become easier by the week, starting this weekend in Melbourne against West Coast.
"Every year the AFLW is improving, skill-wise and standard-wise, but there's no question the intent and speed of the game at this level is definitely a step up from QAFLW," she said.
"But I'm looking forward to that challenge every week.
"(Despite a loss), I think we were really happy with how we played our first half.
"It was great to see our brand of footy come through and there were encouraging signs for us and lots to build on going into round two against West Coast down at Whitten Oval (on Sunday)."
The most exciting part of making her AFLW debut, played at Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay, was doing so in front of her mum and dad, Maree and Rob, and older sister Lou, the coach of Colbinabbin's A-grade netball team in the HDFNL.
Like many athletes in her age group, Dupuy enjoyed limited exposure to football during her teens, but more as a release from the netball commitments she clearly excelled in.
"Bendigo Thunder was definitely around, but it (women's football) definitely wasn't as big a profile as what it is now," she said.
"But I loved the game. I actually started playing Auskick before I started playing netball, but I didn't carry on with it.
"I certainly played through school, but I kind of did it just as a bit of fun to get a day off school, to be completely honest.
"A lot of the girls I played netball with, we loved to run around and lay some tackles and make some contact, which we couldn't do in netball.
"I played at Catholic College and had some great coaches there too."
"I was really lucky to share it with mum and dad (Maree and Rob) and Lou, who made the trek up from Bendigo.Jacqueline Dupuy
A 19-and-under state netball representative as an import player for the Northern Territory in 2012 and a key figure in Golden Square's BFNL A-grade flag win over Sandhurst in 2011, Dupuy is continuing to play netball.
She last year captained the Northern Rays Netball team in the inaugural Sapphire Series (state league) and is open to a return this season if AFLW commitments allow.
Since her move to Queensland, Dupuy has over the years sporadically lined up for Colbinabbin alongside her sister, last doing so in 2019.
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