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Returning together key for McGuire, HydeWednesday, April 3, 2024 - 6:36 PM - by Chris Pike

ONCE Emily McGuire and Brianna Hyde knew that the other was all in for a return to play at Swan Districts in 2024, they wanted back in and are more than welcome returnees to an increasingly young group.

Both McGuire and Hyde have been fine servants at Swan Districts but McGuire last played in 2022 and Hyde in 2021 before she had a season in South Australia. Then the pair each felt like they needed a total break from the game in 2023.

That only motivated them to return as they realised how much they missed both the Swan Districts Football Club and just playing the game itself.

Now they are both back out there playing in the black-and-white jumper in 2024 and couldn’t be happier.

It wasn't a decision McGuire took lightly to return because of the commitment required but knowing that Hyde was coming back too with familiar faces still around and with what she could add to a young group made her feel good about it.

"I tossed up about it for a while and having a year off kind of made me realise how much I love football, and how much I wanted to come back," McGuire said.

"Then as pre-season got a bit closer and I was talking to a few of my mates who were down there like Eliza (Gelmi) and Bri Hyde who was thinking about coming back too.

"So I just kind of bit the bullet and said I had to start somewhere in coming back and when Ben (Bowness) was announced as coach I went down to the information session, and knew then and there that I wanted to do this.

"It's been a bit of a journey but I'm glad that I made the right decision to return."

Hyde's 2023 break only stoked her fire to get back involved and now she is excited to return to Swan Districts.

"I'm pretty excited. I've had a year off footy so to come back and be back at Swans is something I'm pretty keen for," Hyde said.

"I'm back playing with my best mate, Emily McGuire, too so that will be some good fun and it should be good.

"Definitely her going back made my decision easier to go back and play at Swans for sure."

Coming into the season and McGuire was naturally a little nervous about returning and getting to know so many new faces, but she's comfortable knowing she's made the right decision.

"I'm a little bit nervous but I think that's just normal coming back after a year," McGuire said.

"But the girls are looking good and there's a lot of young ones that are coming through who are learning new styles of football, but we're looking good and hopefully we can get some wins on the board early in the season.

"There's more new faces than old ones that's for sure, and I'm terrible at learning people's names, but the girls are all very young and nice and welcoming back. Coming back has just been real easy for me because of that.

"I've been at the club for many years now aside from last year so coming back just felt good to slide straight back and fit back in. The girls have been real welcoming and luckily enough there's still that core bunch there who still know who I am but they're all great and I feel right back at home."

Having just turned 25 years of age, 2023 was a strange year for McGuire where she didn’t play football for the first time since she became a teenager.

The game had become such a huge part of her life not only at Swan Districts, but also playing for WA and then getting her AFLW opportunities, but at the same time she needed to put her own mental health wellbeing first.

She needed to focus on other things, needed to find out what life was like without being built around the football commitments, and now she's more than ready to return.

"It was very new to me. It was the first time in 10 years I hadn’t played a game of football but it was more so about prioritising myself and my mental health," she said.

"Now I think I'm coming out the other end of that and am ready to play football again and commit to the program, and to the team and club. I think what I realised is that footy is a pretty big part of my life and I never realised before until I started to step back.

"Watching from the outside in last year, I was cheering the girls on and watching their games when I could, and felt a bit of FOMO to be honest. So I wanted to come back and be part of it again so I took my year off to get my head sorted out and now I'm ready to come back."

McGuire played a lot of her early football as a forward but turned herself into a terrific defender after that and right up until deciding to take a break from the game in 2023.

Now upon her return to the game with Swan Districts in 2024, she sees herself moving back forward to kick some goals and to apply plenty of that defensive pressure she's renowned for.

"I have had some discussions with Ben recently and he's pretty chill and nice, and was willing to listen to where I would want to play at least to start with," McGuire said.

"So I'm going to return to the forward-line which is a bit of a surprise after a long time. But I think just to get back into the game right now will be good to play there and play as a natural forward, and if Ben ever needs me to go down back I'm capable of it. But I think playing forward to start with is what's key for me at the moment."

Meanwhile, Hyde last played at Swan Districts in 2021 before spending a season in 2022 playing in the SANFL Women's competition with Woodville-West Torrens and then taking a complete break from football in 2023.

The year off has made her hungry to get back involved now at Swans in 2024.

"I played in the SANFL not last year but the year before and then I took a full year off and played no footy at all," Hyde said.

"Honestly after playing eight or nine years straight of footy, it was good for me to have a year off and just enjoy life a little and take a step back from it. But I did miss it so that's why I've decided to come back.

"I missed the social aspect and just kicking the footy around with my mates but it was good for me as well and I probably wasn’t enjoying footy as much as I used to. So to get hungry for footy again and to miss it was a good thing."

Playing WAFLW is a huge commitment. You have to train at least twice a week, it takes up virtually all your weekend and even when not officially doing club activities, you still are doing things to help your football.

That sort of commitment can take its toll and it's what Hyde needed a break from, but she's ready to get right back into it now and give it her all.

"Honestly it was just the commitment that was the big thing," she said.

"Knowing that I had to plan my week around having training at least two nights and then the games on the weekend, and I was still going to the gym and running too whenever I could.

"It was just that commitment that I needed to take a break from and I had to think about if I could commit to it again while combining work and everything. But I thought I could do it and would make the time for it so now her I am giving it a go."

You don't need to watch Hyde play for long and realise she has everything it takes to get an opportunity in the AFLW just like twin sister Mikayla has.

There was a time where that was a major focus of hers as well, but now she's not worried about it and will just focus on what's in front of her playing WAFLW with Swan Districts.

"I think in the back of my head, AFLW would still be a dream of mine but to be honest I just want to enjoy footy again and just turn up and have fun with mates again, that's what I'm after," she said.

"I don’t have the stress of that if I don’t put those expectations on myself so I just want to enjoy having a kick, and if something happens from it then so be it and if not, then I won't be completely heartbroken like I might have been two, three years ago."

While not focused on whether or not she might still get an AFLW opportunity or not, Hyde loves watching her sister play and is looking forward to seeing how Mikayla goes in 2024 at Collingwood with both sisters now at least wearing black-and-white even if not the same number.

"Obviously that would be perfect in an ideal world if we both played together or were both playing AFLW, and I'm sure it would make my mum feel a lot better too, but I'm so happy for her," Hyde said.

"I love watching her and am her biggest fan so I'm keen to see how she goes over at the Pies. It probably affected me three years ago, but now I love watching her play and doesn’t really pull the heartstrings anymore.

"I was trying to pull some strings to see if I could wear No. 22 at Swans this year because she's wearing that at Collingwood, but the jersey's too big so I've gone back to the trusty No. 6 like when I was back at Swans last time."