WHILE the Australia Football League Women's [AFLW] competition structure is still up in the air, one thing that's certain is the upwards trajectory of Maddy Collier and her West Coast Eagles.
The Perth-based AFLW side returned to the training paddock on November 4, to prepare themselves for the 2021 season, which is expected to start in February.
"The first couple of weeks was all about getting back into a footy rhythm, as not many of us played during the off-season over here," Nowra product Collier said.
"It's also given us a chance to get our fitness to where it needs to be, while also getting to know the new girls and coach."
As the Nowra High School alumna alludes to, the Eagles appointed Daniel Pratt as the club's new coach during the off-season, taking over from inaugural mentor Luke Dwyer.
"Daniel has brought in a new game plan which emphasises using the ball quickly whenever possible,"," the AFL South Coast junior said.
"As a team, we are still adjusting to the different style of play he's implementing, which has also had a focus on defence, as that was his role with the men's program last season.
"Daniel's very direct in his approach to the game, rather having a quick explanation on a topic before moving on - means there's no waiting around.
"LD [Luke Dwyer] used to like to slow it down and explain each concept thoroughly.
"The differing styles have been a benefit to the whole group, with us all building on the momentum from last season."
With the AFL expected to release its draw for the fifth instalment of the women's competition, the Eagles have stepped up their training.
"Everyone has been giving their all so far [during pre-season] and we are so much better across the board than we were this time last year," Collier, who played all but one game during the Eagles' debut season, said.
"With most of our group having a year together under our belts, the synergy is already there.
"The next evolution for our group is building on those strong bonds and challenging one another to take that next step, to help the team progress.
"Everyone is invested in the culture, which was started by LD last year - he developed the foundations of it and now Daniel has made his own small tweaks to it.
"We have the same team values as last year, which is a great sign and shows we are all on the same page.
"None of us really know what the 2021 season will entail but we are all excited to take it up a notch, whenever we get the chance to step on the field."
From a personal perspective, having already gone through four AFLW pre-seasons [three with GWS and one with West Coast], Collier has taken a new approach this year.
"There's no doubting 2020 has hit everyone for six," she said.
"So this year I've really tried to concentrate on taking it all in and being as positive as I can.
"It's important to also not get caught up in football, as there are more important things in life.
"Every pre-season you do, it gets a little easier, so this time around I'm trying to pass on my experience to the newer girls and emphasise to them to not overthink things and just take every day as it comes."
With 20 AFLW games already to her name, the 25-year-old believes she is ready to make a move to the midfield this season.
"A personal goal for me this season is to have a crack at the midfield," she said.
"I've been training in there so far and have loved it.
"However, I'm happy to play wherever I can be the biggest asset to the team.
"I also want to go into each game with the right attitude and not be afraid to fail - which I have been guilty of in the past.
"Then as a team, we obviously want to play finals - as every team does but the main goal for us it to play our brand of footy each and every week.
"If we play to the best of our abilities that will be a success for us and if we happen to win the match, then that's a bonus.
"On the flip side, if we win by not playing our style, we'll probably count it as a loss.
"It's all about being better than the day before, growing as individuals and building as a cohesive unit towards a common goal."
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