COLLINGWOOD'S returning star Chloe Molloy feels more primed than ever to mix it at AFLW level after a better-than-expected recovery from a serious Lisfranc injury in her right foot.
A "pumped" Molloy, 21, will play her first AFLW game in almost two years on Sunday when the Magpies host new team West Coast at their spiritual home at Victoria Park.
Though admitting to feeling a few butterflies, the gun utility is excited to simply be playing just months after doubting whether she'd be able to walk properly, let alone play the game she loves at the highest level.
"The foot's travelling really well. I can still kick on it. A few months ago I thought I wouldn't even be able to walk or kick a footy again, and I'm doing that quite easily. I actually have a left foot now," Molloy told reporters at the Holden Centre on Wednesday.
"It's coming along better than I thought it would. I thought I'd experience a few more hurdles than I did …
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"I feel more ready that I ever have. I've only got one season to base it off but I'm more excited than I probably was with the first one.
"Especially having a season off, you're able to sit back and appreciate the game and the sport. When it's taken away from you it (gives you) fire in the belly and it makes you even more hungry to get out there.
"I'm also looking forward to running out with the team because it's been quite a rough three seasons. We're not going to shy away from that. We have not performed to the standard that we wanted to."
The return of Molloy and the recruitment of former Carlton captain Bri Davey have Collingwood fans dreaming of their first AFLW finals appearance. Molloy is desperate to help the Magpies get there, but is also mindful about tempering expectations.
She wants to keep it simple, play her role, put the team first and impact when she can.
"I don't want to put too much pressure or expectations on myself because I tend to do that myself – a lot of self-pressure," said Molloy.
Much interest also surrounds Molloy's role in the Magpies line-up, given she can play anywhere. A mid/forward role seems most likely.
"She just lets me know where she wants to play, really, and I just try and work it out," quipped Collingwood's new coach Steve Symonds, who is naturally delighted to have Molloy at his disposal.
And who could blame him, given the No.3 pick in the 2017 NAB AFLW Draft enjoyed a sensational debut season in 2018, finishing runner-up in the NAB AFL Women's best and fairest and winning the Pies' best and fairest, All-Australian honours and the NAB AFLW Rising Star award.
Molloy expressed gratitude to the Pies for their management of her recovery and return to football in the VFLW last year when she was nursed through on a three-weeks-on, two-weeks-off arrangement and became a member of the club's VFLW premiership team.
The youngster recalled her first game back at state league level was "pretty average". She felt like she'd forgotten how to use her body and was understandably rusty with her running patterns.
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But things clicked for her in her second game.
"I was like, 'You know what, Chloe? You're actually going to be OK. You're probably better off for having an injury and having a year out,' as silly as that sounds," she said.
"It gave me a lot of confidence. I'm fortunate that I did play the VFLW games because I didn't really want to come (straight) back into the pinnacle of it all. It was nice to dust a lot of cobwebs off."
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Molloy believes she has also benefited from her time on the sidelines during last year's AFLW season, when she was given the "amazing opportunity" to work as an opposition analyst and in the coach's box on game day for the Pies. It also made her feel useful when she felt useless, like "broken goods".
"It allowed me to go beyond my team and expand my knowledge of other players and given me that edge over certain players. It was a really cool experience. It gave me a different perspective on everything," she said.