Virtual road-trip helping Pies home

CLOSED state borders due to COVID-19 may be making life tough, but Collingwood's AFLW team are doing their part to share the love with their teammates. 

A number of the Pies' AFLW list – Erica Fowler, Jordan Membrey, Maddie Shevlin, Stacey Livingstone, Ash Brazill – currently live in Melbourne, but have most of their families based interstate. 

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Key forward Sophie Alexander has organised the playing list to track their kilometres covered – either through walking, running or cycling – in a quest to equal the distance (roughly a 1980km road-trip) those affected would have travelled to return home.

Ebony O'Dea and Ruby Schleicher managed to return home to South Australia and Western Australia respectively, but are also doing their part to chip in.

"One of my friends is a personal trainer, and she posted on Facebook that she was 'travelling' around Australia with her clients through the kilometres they covered at home," Alexander told womens.afl

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"I was thinking about the girls who are stuck in Victoria. Erica Fowler is in my five-kilometre radius, so we've been able to kick together, and I've seen the effect of not being able to visit home has had on her and the other girls. 

"I thought we should do something nice to let them know we are thinking of them and keep everyone motivated in their running. Just get morale up, really."

The virtual road-trip snakes north to Fowler's hometown of Peregian Beach, just south of Noosa. 

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"Sharni Layton's been doing a blog tracking where we're going and making up a story along the way. It's pretty funny," Alexander said. 

"Sophie Casey's from Albury, so we passed through Albury. Someone else's grandparents are from somewhere else around there, so we visited them too.

"Every Sunday, I'll put a message in our group chat asking for everyone's kilometres, and they'll send them through. I'll add it all up, send it through to Sharni, who'll come up with a story the next day about what we did." 

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It's the latest team-building initiative the Pies have employed, following a Shevlin-led foray into TikTok videos and a group of players jumping on the Fortnight video game bandwagon.

"Ruby played her prelim the other day (for East Fremantle in the WAFLW), so 'Chioch' (Steph Chiocci) posted a link to her game so we could jump on and watch it," Alexander said. 

Collingwood was a vastly improved side in 2020, but ultimately lost their hastily arranged semi-final to North Melbourne in a thriller on the eve of the season cancellation.

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"Starting the season off with a win gave us some momentum, and the game plan Steve (Symonds, a new senior coach this year) brought in worked for us. It suited our personalities and game styles, it was really fun," Alexander said.

"I can't watch the final again, it's too heartbreaking. People say how the intensity steps up in finals, but you never really understand it until you play in one.

"In a way, it's probably a good thing that we did lose because it's going to make us hungry when we do come back and play. It's such a long and tedious off-season, so it's helping us work hard."