Newly crowned Gold Coast leader Jac Dupuy is enjoying the ride of AFLW just 18 months after her call up as an inactive player replacement.
"I am still very much pinching myself that I am on an AFLW journey," Dupuy told womens.afl with her trademark smile still plastered on her face even after a gruelling preseason running session.
"My first season, I was just stoked to be here, and I still feel that way."
After just one year and two seasons at the club, Dupuy was officially voted into the leadership group as co-vice-captain alongside Bess Keaney.
"It's obviously a huge honour and privilege to be voted in by your peers and coaches to a leadership role, but I think especially in this group, I feel like we've got 30 leaders on the list, but to also sit alongside Tara (Bohanna) and Bess, that's definitely a compliment."
The pair support captain Tara Bohanna who is approaching her second season in the role. It is an unconventional leadership group, and the only club in the competition with two of its most senior positions occupied by those initially signed as inactive player replacements.
Dupuy, signed as a 27-year-old, Bohanna at 26 and Keaney at 29, each having to bide their time before reaching the top level.
"It's probably a reflection of the culture, it takes grit and determination," Dupuy said.
"And I think it also speaks to who Tara is. From day dot, walking into the club, she's been her whole self. She sets the example of what we want our culture to be. Bring your whole self and we'll bring you in with open arms."
Unsurprisingly, Dupuy is quick to defer to others when asked to reflect on her journey. The positive impact that others have made on her and the doors they might have opened. But the forward hasn't been handed her opportunity, she has been made to work for it.
In her debut season coach Cam Joyce dropped Dupuy after the SUNS' round four win over Richmond in which she gathered just three disposals – a decision which Joyce regrets. But the harsh reality of selection spurred Dupuy on to never end up in that position again.
"It's taken a long time and a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice to get where I am. I think I've definitely learned a lot along the way, my whole journey," Dupuy said.
Starting out on the netball courts of Bendigo, she made the life changing move to Cairns and became part of her footy club's community, ultimately leading to where she is now.
"There were a lot of mistakes in that pathway and a lot of experiences that I certainly don't take for granted and I think that really set me up," Dupuy said.
"Particularly the ability to keep all the plates spinning, which I've learned from being a semi-professional athlete, it really helps you to stay focused and prioritise the things that are important."
"I'm proud of myself for being able to do that, and hopefully I'm able to teach others to keep that in mind as well."
With her third season on the horizon, and the club now well-established under Joyce, it's all about working toward bigger and better goals for Dupuy's SUNS this year.
"The last few seasons, certainly since I've been at the club, it was a lot about proving to ourselves where we fit in this competition, and then last season was about proving that to everyone else," Dupuy said.
"I think the most exciting thing for this season and where we're at as a club is that we've set our sights on those goals and we're not here to mess around. We're here to stay focused and build a really strong culture, a winning culture."