Cats captain in doubt to play in historic opener

GEELONG captain Melissa Hickey is far from certain to lead her team out for the first time in Saturday night's season-opening clash against Collingwood at GMHBA Stadium.

Hickey, 34, is in the final stages of rehabilitation from a torn ACL in her left knee, sustained while she was playing for Melbourne in round six last season.

Saturday night's match will be Geelong's first AFLW game. Hickey, who crossed from the Dees in the off-season, has family ties to the Cats. Club legend Reg Hickey was her grandfather's cousin.

"I've got a couple of things I still need to tick off. We'll find out (Thursday). There are a few things and a couple of tests, so we'll see," Hickey told womens.afl at the AFLW season launch in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.

"If you ask the player, they'll always say they want to play. But it won't be up to me.

"A long-term injury is inherently frustrating. You always want to be back quicker than you are, so we'll just have to wait and see."

Hickey and the other team captains attended the launch, where former AFL female football development co-ordinator and now West Coast's high-performance female academy co-ordinator Jan Cooper was named this season's AFLW premiership cup ambassador.

The AFL's head of women's football Nicole Livingstone said the AFLW competition was encouraging female football growth around the country.

More than 530,000 women and girls are now playing football around the country, a third of all participants. In Victoria in 2011, there were 55 women's and girls' teams, with that number jumping to nearly 1100 in 2018.

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"It's been 43 weeks since we last had AFLW, and isn't it great to have footy back," Livingstone said.

"Season three is about opportunity. We now have 300 women training in high-performance facilities in the AFL, competing in professionally organised elite competition, enabling them to be great athletes, great teammates and also great role models in our community.

"This year, our country's most talented female footballers will continue on their journeys, knowing not only are they playing for themselves and their clubs as they chase the premiership cup, they also are laying the foundations for the future."

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan welcomed expansion clubs Geelong and North Melbourne to the competition.

"The start of the new footy season is always full of aspiration, expectation and change and hope," McLachlan said.

"We have two new clubs, new captains, new coaches, new talent – including champions from other sports – and we have new rules, which we hope enhance aspects of our game.

"All of this will give players the best chance to play the game they love to the best of their ability."

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