'It's been a wild ride': Inaugural Crow Marinoff reflects on 50 AFLW games

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If timing is everything, than timing has been Ebony Marinoff's friend.

The two-time premiership Crow, three-time All-Australian, and inaugural Rising Star is about to add another impressive accolade to her resume: 50 AFLW games.

Fifty games doesn't feel like a lot but when you're building them up in seasons of only seven rounds, plus finals if you're lucky, the magnitude of the achievement begins to reveal itself.

Marinoff will be one of three players to notch up game number 50 over the weekend with Brisbane Lions duo Ally Anderson and Emily Bates to bring up the milestone in their clash against North Melbourne.

While timing has obviously played a role in the stories of Anderson and Bates, Marinoff's career has benefited from a perfect storm of obvious talent, a successful team, and the fortune of good timing.

"The milestone, I mean, obviously, I've been playing since the inaugural season. And I'm just really proud to have notched up 49 games, and this weekend's my 50th," Marinoff told The ESPN Footy Podcast.

"It's been a wild ride in terms of coming into the system straight out of school, I kind of feel really lucky that I did get drafted at 17 and I've rode the wave that some of the boys have - the opportunity to begin their AFL career at such a young age and just learn and grow as a teenager.

"Obviously, I love playing footy. And to be able to have done it for six seasons ... 50 games has certainly come up fast. But I'm just really proud and just really lucky that I was part of the inaugural season and have played every game since."

Therein lies the first element of good timing. With an age requirement heading into the draft, Marinoff was old enough to enter and was drafted with pick number seven by Adelaide around a month before her 19th birthday.

The next element of good timing was another that Marinoff had little control over: growing up during a time where she was allowed to play footy throughout her junior years.

That inaugural draft included the stories of women who played junior footy with boys before having to stop because there was no competition for them. There were women who challenged the systems that barred them from playing and set the precedents to allow girls to play. There were women whose first love was footy but had to pursue other sports simply because of the opportunities available.

But then there were players like Marinoff.

She began playing at age five with the boys at Lockleys Football Club in Adelaide before moving to an all-girls team -- Morphetville Park -- at age 14. Two years later she won the first of three consecutive premierships with the Roos while also making state teams and playing in the exhibition match for Melbourne against the Western Bulldogs in 2016.

Here was a player who had never been forced to stop playing footy, something that in 2016 was a precious rarity that has only become more commonplace with each passing draft.

While she was old enough to enter the draft she was still a teenager. However, due to another nugget of good timing, she wasn't intimated by the prospect of playing against women.

"I was actually really lucky that I'm born in late November. How state teams and things like that work, you have to be under the certain age by December 30, which obviously, I always turn that year older at the end of November. So I actually stopped playing state youth girls and whatnot in 2015, because I was not eligible anymore. So I played women's footy, all the way through 2016. I was playing with women before I got drafted for the whole year," she explained.

While friends of hers like Lily Mithen and Kat Smith got another year of youth state games under their belt, Marinoff was playing against women. At the time, the now-24-year-old admits it sucked to be unable to pull on the South Australian jumper but it was a twist of fate that held her in good stead.

"I think I was very lucky because when I came into AFLW, I played in the mid but I had played against these big bodies, these women, for more than a year, my draft year was literally just playing against women," she said. "So that held me in really good stead and like I said, I wouldn't have been the player that I was in the inaugural year and as well as playing with the boys so yeah, very lucky."

Adding to the richness of the story is the fact that Marinoff has been able to achieve so much with the team she grew up supporting. An Adelaide girl through and through, she recounted watching games with her grandad at AAMI Stadium as a kid to now being an integral part of the club's history.

While she was quick to downplay the milestone, saying she had a few matches to go before she could compare herself to the likes of 407-gamer Shaun Burgoyne, her 50 games are equivalent to around 100 in the men's.

With so few opportunities to play games in this semi-professional, condensed season, the half-century is a testament to Marinoff and the success she and her Crows teammates have enjoyed.

Marinoff will continue to create history, already becoming the first player to reach 1000 career disposals earlier this year, just as the competition itself will continue to grow and develop.

With six years down and at least another six to go, Marinoff will always be part of that special cohort of players who were old enough to be drafted, but young enough to carve out a significant AFLW career.

She not only has the skill, the strength, and the tenacity of an exceptionally good footballer but has had the good fortune of existing in the right place and the right time to be allowed to be an exceptionally good footballer.

And with time on her side, there is plenty of more history for her to make.