When Jess Trend arrived at Hawthorn, it was one of the happiest days of her life.

After playing three seasons of AFLW for North Melbourne and Fremantle, the 30-year-old was excited for a fresh start at the Hawks in their VFLW program.

But just days after being named captain in her inaugural season at Hawthorn, disaster struck in the form of a cruel ACL injury in Round 1 last year.

After 435 challenging days of rehabilitation, Trend finally made her return in Hawthorn’s 88-point win over Port Melbourne on Sunday.

She said she couldn’t have done it without the support of the club.

“If you come out of a rehab the way I have with such a positive mindset, it’s such a testament to the people you’re surrounded by,” Trend said.

“I know we go on and on about how Hawthorn’s the family club and it has the best culture, but you can’t say it any other way.

“You walk into the club and you feel loved, you feel valued.

“It’s the small things that Hawthorn does that bring you across the line and remind you that you’re not just a rehab player, there is a goal in sight and you’re just as important as any other player coming to training each week.”

During her recovery, Trend received support from her family, friends and her physiotherapists, but there was one person that believed in her even more.

“I couldn’t thank Bec (Goddard) enough, she constantly checked in with me,” Trend said.

“She would just say little things like ‘I’m excited to see you back out there,’ or that I look fit.”

Goddard was even in the inner sanctum back when Trend ruptured her ACL last February.

“She came down from the coaches box mid-game to the physio room and just gave me a hug to show that care and love,” Trend reflects.

“I knew I loved her as a coach and as a person, but that’s really when I respected her because I knew she cared about me as a player and as a person.”

Trend recorded eight disposals in her return game on limited minutes and now looks forward to building on not only her physical strength, but her mental strength as the season progresses.

“Although it was hard, it was nice to reflect on all the positive moments,” Trend said about her injury.

“I’m a huge believer that everything happens for a reason.

“It’s a little reminder that footy isn’t everything and you’re just as important to a club if you’re not playing.”

The VFLW Hawks are set for a blockbuster Round 12 clash with ladder leaders Essendon on Sunday at Box Hill City Oval.