IT WAS a disappointing day for Carlton on Sunday, losing by five goals to North Melbourne in what was a critical game for both sides.

However, no one was quite as disappointed as vice-captain Jen Lew, who decided she would call coach Tom Stafford after the match to tell him how upset she was with her own performance.

This anecdote serves as a fitting metaphor for Lew, who is clearly desperate to make up for lost time through her recent string of injuries, trying her upmost to put as much of an impact on every game as possible.

After just a few games into 2021, Lew was unfortunate enough to injure her left achilles, ruling her out for the majority of a season where she played just six games.

Heading into this season, Lew was coming off one of her best preseasons until she once again hurt her achilles, although this time it was her right one.

She was determined to be fit for game one however, and she was on the verge of doing exactly that, until she tore her left calf doing some agility work.

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Lew conceded that the constant setbacks were devastating, but at no stage was she prepared to give up on this season.

“I’ve just tried to trust the process: I’ve been focusing on different styles of running, and there’s been a lot of rehab and pre-hab, and I think the thing that really got me through was trying to give a different role for myself which is to say I can still contribute,” Lew said.

“I wasn’t ready to finish, and I’m still not ready to finish until the season is over, so I knew that was the goal, so I was doing everything I possibly could to get back.”

Lew missed the first eight rounds of 2022 and she admitted that watching the games without being able to play was a very tough reality to deal with.

“I needed to step away for a second because it was hard watching the girls play and at that stage we’d had a couple of losses and I was feeling like I was letting the team down,” she said.

“My mindset was, well that’s not going to help anyone and it’s not going to help me, so what can I do to help them and pull my socks up because poor mental health doesn’t help healing.”

Jen Lew competes for the ball

Lew has now played two games in succession, returning after the Easter bye to play a crucial role in Carlton’s 28-point win over the Western Bulldogs.

The away side appeared to win the game comfortably, but in truth it was very even with the Bulldogs controlling the momentum for large parts of the game.

This is where Lew’s value was so evident, with every forward 50 entry the Bulldogs had, she was an ever-present figure, mopping up loose balls and taking intercept marks: she finished with 16 possessions and six marks.

It was also her ability to lead the Blues’ defence, allowing her teammates to stay cool and collected during periods of extreme pressure that made her stand out as a key player.

Lew believes that her role as vice-captain means that she is responsible for ensuring her teammates are calm.

“I want to be some who can steady the ship…when it gets frazzled, don’t contribute to it, bring it back, calm it down and show composure,” she said.

This weekend sees the Blues play at Williamstown, where the match will have a feeling akin to an elimination final.

It seems the type of setting that suits Lew down to the ground and expect to see her tenacity and determination go up yet another notch as captain Ally Bild and herself look to lead their team with conviction against the Seagulls.

Benjamin Hann is a student at La Trobe University, undergoing his Bachelor of Media and Communications (Sports Journalism). He is currently undertaking an internship at the Carlton Football Club as part of its partnership with La Trobe University.