There’s always an element of surprise when it comes to your debut.

It might be getting your shot earlier than expected, the increased intensity of the game at the top level, or a special someone in the crowd cheering you on.

For Lauren Magee, it was all three.

The Irish AFLW recruit got the call up last week, named to run out in the red and blue just a few weeks after arriving in the country.

And while playing her first game of Aussie Rules was obviously on the agenda this season, she certainly didn’t expect it to come in Round 4.

“I was over the moon,” Magee told Melbourne Media.

“I just thought it was going to be a lot longer down the line.

“I was obviously hoping and optimistic that I would get an earlier chance but then also realistic that I’ve only been here a month and a bit.

“I couldn’t believe it. I just thought I’d keep pushing, but I still had it in my head that it would be at least a few more games until I’d be able to play.”

Earning her spot in Melbourne’s side came with plenty of hard work, but Magee will be the first to admit there’s more to do.

Despite an extensive sporting background – Magee plays Gaelic for Dublin in the GAA – the quirks of AFLW will take a bit more getting used to for the 23-year-old.

“It was a bit confusing, things like the interchange and warming up again as a group at half time,” Magee said.

“Stuff like that unsettles you a bit in terms of match preparation, because it’s so different from Gaelic, but at least now I know what to expect.

“I think as the game went on, I was adapting to it more, and now it’s about more game time, game experience and game play.”

While all of her family were tuning in back home, there was one member that wasn’t missing out on the action.

Magee’s aunty Denise, who lives in Sydney, made a quick dash to the airport when she heard of the news – but it’s not the first time.

“My dad’s sister has been living in Sydney for years and I haven’t seen her for about two years,” Magee said.

“She’d been asking about matches and stuff, but she didn’t know I was playing. 

She booked a last-minute flight when she realised I was playing and it was a really nice surprise.

“She did that for me when I played in an All-Ireland Final – she arrived home and no one had a clue she was coming home until the day of.

“I had no clue and I seen her in the crowd. It was lovely and really good to see her.”

With 14 Irish players now part of the AFLW competition, the interest in Ireland is fast-growing.

Weekly matches are currently being shown on TG4, and in the midst of lockdown, Magee said it’s providing some much-welcomed relief, regardless of who’s playing.

“More people are interested in general,” she said.

“They’re learning the rules and learning the game, not just watching it for the sake of it.

“They’re getting more joy out of it because they actually know the rules rather than just watching it and not knowing what’s going on.

“They’re showing a different game each weekend and people are watching every game, whether they support a girl from their county or there are no girls at all from Ireland playing.

“It’s something interesting – it’s good for them and a bit of a distraction as well.”