Lighter, fitter, faster: Rocky's remarkable weight loss story

AHEAD of Richelle Cranston's third NAB AFL Women's season, the Geelong star had already completed a remarkable weight loss.

Next on her agenda was greater time in the midfield.

To do that, she had to straddle the line between developing her long-distance running without losing the power and strength that's her most important asset.

It's a delicate balance. 

Lose too much weight and she'd be able to run all day but not able to burst from packs with as much power.

Don't lose enough weight, and she would be have to play predominantly forward with stints on the bench, as she had done in her first two seasons at Melbourne.

As it is, Cranston has lost 36 kilograms in nearly five years – dropping from 106 to a low of 70 – since deciding to focus seriously on football.

She's since added another four kilograms of mostly muscle to her frame after overshooting the mark somewhat.

"Even going back to season one of AFLW, my body looks a lot different. I think I was still 85 kilos in season one. I don’t think I'll be able to lose much more weight," Cranston told womens.afl.

The move to Geelong over the 2018 off-season led her to working with the Cats strength and conditioning coach Monica Kelly, who's highly regarded by the playing group and infamous for her strenuous running programs.

"I knew there was more chance for me in the midfield at Geelong. Melbourne's starting midfield was Daisy (Pearce), 'Paxy' (Karen Paxman) and 'Junior' (Elise O'Dea), so it's pretty hard to crack into," Cranston said.

"I hate running. I hate it so much, but I knew that I had to get good at it, it doesn't matter how much I hated it, I just had to do it. I didn't miss any running sessions and I probably did a few extras to help me out.

"I started doing a lot more high-intensity stuff at the gym to get my aerobic capacity better. I'm currently in a conditioning block at VFLW training and I'm running with (teammate) Renee Garing, she's super fit, so that always helps.

"This year I really surprised myself. We had a 1.2km shuttle test instead of a 2km time trial, and I came third behind Nina (Morrison, a noted endurance athlete) and Renee, which I was really shocked at and wasn't expecting. The hard work is starting to pay off."

While her strict training regime – including tracking everything she eats – is becoming second nature, there's still hurdles along the way. She still allows herself the occasional chocolate bar, as well as burgers after matches with teammates.

"I know I really haven't hit the best I can give yet. I think the fitter I am, the better I can play football. That's what drives me through it," she said.

"I do have those little fights with myself, it's like the angel on one side and the devil on the other side saying, 'you're cooked, you can't do this'.

"One trick I use is comparing ridiculous sets. We did one at Melbourne which was brutal, it was a 400m lap in one minute and 15 seconds, then you had a minute off, then you had to go again. Eight times. So now every time I do something hard, I think, 'this is easy compared to that'.  

"There's things I can do now with running that during the first year of AFLW, I would have just said, 'get stuffed, I can't do that.' It's come a long way, but I still think I've got a long way to go."

Cranston is an ambassador for Fit for Footy, a sports training app that provides free footy drills, strength and conditioning programs and hydration and nutrition programs.

They are all personalised to age, gender and body weight, as well as the level of fitness and football played by the user.

Cranston herself was involved with the shooting of videos used in the app, including several alongside clubmate Patrick Dangerfield.

When working on her weight loss and fitness before entering the AFLW, Cranston had to research her own nutritional and fitness information, most of which wasn't relevant to females or Australian rules footballers.

"I would have absolutely loved to have this app five years ago. For people who want to get better at football, this is fantastic, and I would have loved it. I use the app and I like the fact you can look at a timetable and there's also things for injury prevention," Cranston said.

"It has the different levels too, if you're just trying the sport out or if you're really serious about your footy."

In terms of her winter football, Cranston is aiming to play as many VFLW games as possible for Geelong, although she will be restricted by the rule whereby clubs can only field 12 AFLW-listed players a match.

"Fitness is the main thing I need to work on, because the fitter I get, the better I'll be as an inside mid, but I want to work on my forward craft," she said.

"The aim is to be able to rest there and not have to go to the bench too much for my breaks. I also want to work on goalkicking, I didn’t kick too many goals at all this year, so I want to be a scoring mid who covers the ground a bit better." 

The Fit for Footy app can be downloaded from the App Store