I hope I make people better and I leave a better person as well.”
COLLINGWOOD captain Steph Chiocci now laughs at the fact she's leading the club she was once taught to hate.
Chiocci grew up in a passionate Carlton-supporting family that despised the Magpies.
"It was drilled into you that you don't support the black and white, no matter who they were playing," said the 30-year-old, who was recruited from VFLW club Diamond Creek.
Known as one of the AFLW's strongest leaders and a genuine role model for teammates and youngsters learning about the game, Chiocci is well aware of her responsibility as one of the faces of the competition.
"To be Collingwood's first AFLW captain is an honour," she said. Chiocci's connection to the club has been further strengthened this year with the AFLW team playing selected home games at Victoria Park, the club's spiritual home in inner-city Abbotsford.
"You do feel that bit of a tingle. I feel very lucky we're able to run out there," she said.
A typical day for Chiocci during the AFLW season sees her leave home at 7am for her full-time teaching job. She then heads to the Holden Centre for training, meetings and dinner with the team before heading home at around 11pm.
"It's time-consuming, but I do love it. I wouldn't change it for the world," she said.
Chiocci understands the key role she is playing as one of the AFLW's trailblazers.
"I hope the girls are following me and I can make my mark, whether it's how I play, how I prepare or just being a friend," she said.
"In 40 or 50 years, I'll be able to sit back and marvel at what's been built in the AFLW.
"I hope I make people better and I leave a better person as well."
By staff writer
I'm 100 per cent all the time…on the field, in what I do at work and sometimes in life in general. That's in my DNA…that's part of who I am
A YEAR spent travelling convinced Leah Kaslar to make the most of all aspects of her life, including her footy, her work and her relationships.
The Brisbane Lions defender, in her first season as club captain, works as an environmental scientist on contaminated sites, focusing on water treatment.
Her love of the land and need to protect it came first from her grandparents and was later underlined when she spent most of 2011 overseas.
"I'm 100 per cent all the time…on the field, in what I do at work and sometimes in life in general. That's in my DNA…that's part of who I am,"
Kaslar, a fierce defender who leads the Lions' backline, has played in all 19 of the team's AFLW matches since the competition started in 2017.
The 33-year-old enjoys her role as a mentor and leads by example. She is competitive by nature (she won the team's most competitive award in 2017 and the club values award last season) and loves the physical side of her game, which she calls 'beast mode'.
Kaslar has helped build a strong culture and positive environment at the Lions.
"Being able to positively influence people is huge."
She takes pride in "doing all the little things right" to help the team.
"You might as well make your mark in everything you do."
By Sarah Black and staff writers
I want to build a legacy at this club that outlasts me
LOOKING up at the Reg Hickey Stand at GMHBA Stadium as captain of Geelong’s AFLW side is a childhood dream Melissa Hickey “never thought would happen.”
“I get a smile as I drive into town and you can see the stadium and the lights. There are so many reminders of Reg around the club,” said Hickey, who joined the Cats in the off-season.
The veteran defender is big on family. Reg, her grandfather’s cousin, captained and later coached Geelong. He was involved in four premierships with the club.
Melissa Hickey will wear the No.18 jumper for Geelong, the same number Reg wore as a Cat and her father carried when he played for South Mildura.
After two seasons with Melbourne, Hickey made the decision to leave the club where she was “happy and comfortable” to be part of the history-making Geelong expansion side.
Although she grew up in Red Cliffs outside Mildura in Victoria’s north-west, Hickey’s family ties with the Cats made her arrival at Geelong feel like a homecoming.
Hickey is looking forward to pulling on the blue and white hoops after being sidelined since round six of the 2018 AFLW season recovering for a left knee reconstruction.
Hickey, who now lives on Ocean Grove, never once considered giving up the game she loves so much through her “long and lonely” recovery.
She wants to make a mark at her new club.
“I want to build a legacy at this club that outlasts me,” she said.
By Marni Olsson-Young