After a frustrating 2016-17 campaign that was ended prematurely by a serious hand injury, it's been a different story this term for Melissa Maizels who has firmly established herself as Perth’s number one choice between the sticks.
A string of impressive performances have followed an intense off-season during which the agile shot-stopper continue coaching at her hometown club.
Her injury setback meant that she took on more of a coaching-based role with NPL Victoria outfit Alameine FC, earning further credentials in the process.
“I ended up coaching the U13s and U18s, with their games back-to-back on a Sunday," she explained.
"It was unreal to coach again. I’ve been coaching for seven or eight years and I got my B-Licence from the Australian Institute of Sport, so it was really exciting for me to get in and put into practice a lot of the things I learned from that course.
“I actually didn’t play too many regular-season games at club level, which allowed me to take a step back from being a full-time professional player and really hit the gym and get my mind right.”
And the 24-year-old insists that although the injury was a tough pill to swallow, it actually proved to be a catalyst in terms of her taking her game to a whole new level.
“The injury was really tough, but it’s something that happens in football,” she said.
“It provided a lot of extra motivation over the break to recover from it and make sure that I improved in all those areas that I needed to work on so that I could come back and make a better case for myself this season to the coaching staff.”
And while she admits that she isn’t satisfied with the number of goals she’s conceded, Maizels has been pleased with the improvement in certain areas of her game that have contributed to her being ranked second in the Westfield W-League for saves made thus far this term (29).
“I’ve been really happy with the key areas that I wanted to work on, such as my positioning," she said.
“I’m happier than I was last year, but there is still a lot to improve on and [we have] a lot of unfinished business as a team.”
Maizels was also swift to heap praise upon the club’s new goalkeeping coach, Glory icon Jason Petkovic, for his role in her development during the second half of 2017.
“He’s been awesome," she enthused. "I’ve loved working under 'Petka'. He’s very mellow and he calms me down. I can get a bit intense and worked up, so he really helps me out in that aspect. I love his style; he’s very old school, which I tend to thrive with.”
Aside from her personal progress, the reinvigorated custodian could not be prouder of her teammates’ efforts in a what has been a gruelling campaign.
“People don’t realise how relieved we are to be home and have a run of home games in front of our amazing fans," she said.
"It’s been super-tough to keep heading over east, but to be sitting in the top four with our final three home games to come is a real testament to the hard work of the girls and the coaches.
“When we sat down and worked out our goals at the start of the season, we wanted to take a good portion of our points from the back end of the campaign, so the fact we’ve been able to be position ourselves in fourth after the flurry of away games we’ve had really sets us up to keep this form going. We’ve built a great foundation and now we need to capitalise upon it.”
Bobby Despotovski's side face Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Saturday in yet another W-League blockbuster as they look to climb up the table ahead of the three consecutive home games with which they will round out the regular season.