'I'm shocking in my first week back': Dual-sport star still a bit rusty

FITNESS won't be an issue for Western Bulldogs midfielder Aisling Utri this pre-season, but she jokingly admits the recruiting staff probably started to wonder why they chose her after seeing a few early training sessions.

While many of her teammates played in the VFLW during the winter, Utri lined up for the Victorian Institute of Sport's hockey team.

She has hopes of playing for the Hockeyroos in the future, but for now she's just enjoying playing both sports at a high level.

"I love having both, they're very different sports," Utri told womens.afl.

Utri was recruited as a cross-code rookie late in 2017 and won her first premiership with the Dogs less than six months later.

"I couldn't ask for a better club supporting me playing two sports. I've got a trip coming up in a few weeks and they've just allowed me to focus on that," she said.

"The logistics of it is the hard bit, it's not the physicality of it. It's the logistics of when I can get to training."

The VIS keeps Utri in terrific shape, and although the type of running she does in hockey is different in terms of speeds and distances, she estimates she covers more ground in hockey than on the footy field.

So what's the biggest hurdle for Utri when she gets back into the swing of things in the AFLW pre-season?

Rust.

"I'm shocking in my first week back," Utri said.

"I wonder how they gave me a shot playing football in my first week back.

"Touch is really big for me. I don't play any footy over the winter season because I'm always holding a stick.

"The first couple of weeks I try not to be too hard on myself but I'm terrible when I come back those first few weeks."

Utri won't have to worry too much. While the men's pre-seasons traditionally start with pure fitness and strength, Bulldogs AFLW coach Nathan Burke plans to bring out the footballs from day one.

The focus for Burke and his side will be primarily on the basics of the game.

With such a young side, Burke says the gameplan will be pretty simple, with a focus on speed, fitness and taking the game on.

All three aspects are elements which Utri excels at.

"You can't work on your fundamentals enough. Hitting targets, picking (the footy) up off the ground and teaching the nuances of different positions," Burke said.

"We'll start to roll in the gameplan side of it once we have an understanding on what we are like with our fundamentals. We can't put in a really technical gameplan if we can't execute it."

FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game

Utri will get more of a chance to play through the midfield this season after Monique Conti departed for Richmond.

The midfielder's pre-game ritual is listening to ABBA to pump her up, but when she's out on the field she's always studying what tricks her opponents use.

"Bri Davey is probably one of the hardest (opponents to face). She's just so strong and so smart," Utri said.

"Emma Kearney; I really like her as a friend but I really hate playing on her." 

Utri will get to face both Davey and Kearney this year in rounds five (v Collingwood) and round seven (v North Melbourne).