Broken but not beaten; Rentsch returns

FEW could blame AFL Women’s Academy member Jessica Rentsch for being a touch hesitant ahead of her return to competitive football for the first time in 286 days.

The last time the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels wing took to the field, it was at GMHBA Stadium in the Under 17s Futures match on June 5 last year.

Unfortunately for the then bottom-age talent, the excitement of that day would quickly turn to disaster as she broke her leg midway through the match.

It was not just any broken leg though, it was a fracture that left her with a long-term rehabilitation, and one that would ultimately not have her back to full strength until at least 15 months later.

“After the injury it was obviously a bit challenging coming back,” Rentsch said. “Back into preseason I tried my best to get back to where everyone else’s standards were and keep myself as fit as I can.

“I think I went pretty well but getting back into it after a pretty traumatic event has just been the best thing, especially for my head, the best thing ever.”

Traumatic is one way to put it. The teenager was just 16 when she had one of the most severe injuries a footballer can cop, and though she is still in the recovery process in terms of having stabilisers in her leg, Rentsch will return to the field against Geelong Falcons on Saturday.

“I broke my femur, completely snapped my femur right across my knee. I’ve got eight screws and a plate in now and they’ll get taken out around September,” Rentsch said.

“Hopefully after finals, but it won’t be as traumatic as the last recovery considering I had one leg that was really strong and one that I couldn’t put any weight on for two months. It’s good to get back and put strength back into it.”

Despite the injury, Rentsch’s talent on-field was not overlooked by the AFLW Academy, who named her as part of a 30-player squad in the high performance program. The GWV Rebels top-ager admitted it had already taught her so much on and off the field, with the wellbeing lessons being “so helpful”.

“Just being in a high-performance your skills perform so much better. I’m really competitive and if I see someone doing something better than me I’m going to try and be better than them, so it’s just a great environment,” Rentsch said. “The culture around it is just the best, I’ve just learnt so much and grown so much, it’s been fantastic.”

Though 2022 might be remembered as a year where disaster struck for the teenager, the young gun has fond memories of the first five months, where she was able to progress from the Rebels, to Vic Country, and then earn a place in that Under 17s squad as one of the most promising players for the 2023 AFLW Draft.

“I think because of Covid I didn’t get those years before, it was good to get back to see where everyone else is at, and get a good feel for it,” Rentsch said. “Then being accepted into all those little games and programs was just the best experience. I’m so grateful for it. It’s just really solidified that I love footy and I really want to keep doing it.”

After playing wing last season, Rentsch was expecting to play a similar role this season, but also be trialled in other positions. Coach Sally Riley noted she would be utilised off half-back to begin with, which is where she was named on the Round 1 teamsheet against the Falcons for the weekend.

Rentsch tended to agree in terms of her endurance being a major improvement having lost ground due to the injury last season. When it comes to her strengths, Rentsch’s competitiveness and explosive speed are a couple of outstanding traits.

“I think that I’m pretty hard at it, I go if the ball’s there and is able to be won, I’m going to put my all into winning it,” she said. “Trying to change the odds if it’s a one-on-one instead of a 50-50, I’ll try and do those one-percenters to make it a 60-40 to just put my team in the best position.

“I’m pretty quick, I’ve got explosive movements, which makes me able to burst through some tackles and my strength as well to just tackle and break out of tackles is really good as well.”

Rentsch has a “kind of random” support of GWS GIANTS at the elite level, coming from a family of Carlton and Essendon supporters. Though she cannot really explain why her family has broken into the supporter bases the way they have, she can appreciate the similarities between GWS and GWV, with not only the name, but the theme songs ultimately bearing the same resemblance.

Though the AFLW Draft is still a while away, Rentsch said she was more likely to stay in Victoria due to her focus on aspects outside of football, but also being the football capital of the country. However, the top-ager did not rule out a move outside her home state if interest arose from interstate clubs.

“If interstate clubs were to pick me up, I’d be more than happy, they’d obviously facilitate for all my needs,” Rentsch said. “But with moving interstate I think Victoria is the place to be, we’ve got so many more opportunities here.

“It’s the footy mad state compared to most other states, not saying that they aren’t, but up north a bit is more rugby, so I feel like Victoria is kinda where footy is at. I might stay but I’d be very open to going somewhere else. I don’t know, whatever future the holds.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments