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The Start of something BIG!

History is in the making folks. This weekend kicks off the first ever AFL Women’s competition. Finally girls are getting the chance to pour their passions into a footy career the way boys have been doing for over a century. This is exciting stuff for everyone as the sport grows bigger and everyone is included in the fever.

Super-psyched about the season we’ve gone straight to the people at the centre of the hype – the players. Collingwood’s Steph Chiocci and Nicola Stevens talked to Kidzone about their excitement for the new competition and the future for girls in footy:

Can you tell us about your football journey so far? I began playing football in 2006 when a friend invited me down to training at the Diamond Creek Women's FC. I haven't looked back since! There was only one team at the Club then so it was straight into a senior women's team unlike today where there are youth girls’ teams and senior teams in different divisions across the state.

How do you think the introduction of a women’s AFL comp will encourage girls to play the sport? I expect more and more girls to take up the sport from a young age. Numbers were soaring already, but now that there is a clear pathway from Auskick to the AFL Women's competition I expect that numbers will continue to rise; girls can finally aspire to play at an elite level!

You were captain of the Western Bulldogs exhibition match (and in your own club), what are a captain’s responsibilities during a match? It is important that a Captain lead by example both on and off the field. You need to ensure you're a positive role model for your teammates, club and women's football in general. Responsibilities include communicating with coaches and teammates as well as ensuring you're adhering to game plans and structures. I am very vocal on the field; mostly giving encouragement and positivity which I believe is extremely important.

You are also an AFL coach, what top tips do you have for all young footy players? I encourage all youngsters to continue to focus on the fundamentals; foot and hand skills. The better you are at skill execution the more valuable you become; fitness, game sense and knowledge come afterwards in my opinion.

Who have been your role models in the game? My role model is Susan Alberti. Whilst she isn't a female footballer (although she did run around with the Doggies cheer squad back in the day!) she is as passionate as anyone and her story is remarkable. What she's given to our great game is invaluable. In terms of footballers; my role model is Chris Judd. In his prime he was unstoppable and I loved his professionalism.

What are your hopes for the season ahead? Ultimately, to win the premiership in the Inaugural AFL Women's season!

Where do you see women’s footy going over the next decade? I see the AFL Women's competition being a full time competition in 10 years’ time where female footballers provide many fans across the country with a highly skilled, competitive and entertaining brand of football.

Can you tell us about your football journey so far? I first started playing football when I was 9 at my local Auskick clinic. One year of Auskick was all it took for me to fall in love with the game. I decided to join Pascoe Vale FC, where I played two seasons of football in the EDFL until the end of under 12s. Unfortunately, the option for me to continue to under 14s wasn’t available. I went on to play soccer, basketball and every sport in between, but my love was always with football. By the time I was 15, there was an opportunity to play football again in a new Youth Girls Competition. Since then, I have represented Victoria in four U18 National Championships. I played for the Western Bulldogs in a series of Exhibition Matches across the last few years. I currently play VFL for Melbourne University and I am loving every minute of playing for Collingwood FC!

You were Collingwood’s first draft pick, what was it about your gameplay that impressed the Collingwood selectors? Collingwood were looking to lock in key position players early in the draft, and lucky enough for me, a key defender was exactly what they were after! The skills and attributes they were after were the ability to read the play, intercept mark, and use the ball effectively from the half back line.

You got to play under the captaincy of Steph Chiocci and now you are Collingwood teammates, what can you tell us about Steph as a teammate and captain? Steph is the kind of person everyone would love to have in their team. She is approachable, well respected and incredibly talented. She’s a leader in many ways, having high expectations of herself and demanding that from others. I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to follow her along her journey.

What position do you like to play in? Half Back Flank. I love being able to see the game unfold in front of me. It allows me to be defensive and accountable as well as use my decision making and foot skills on the rebound.

What are you looking forward to this season? So far I’ve loved every minute of this journey with my teammates, and creating history as the first ever Collingwood AFLW Team. I’m looking forward to putting into place everything that we have worked towards over the pre-season and seeing how hard work and dedication leads to success. There would be no better result than to be premiers of the first ever AFLW Competition!

How influential would a women’s AFL league been for you as a young girl? It is fantastic that there is now a focus on providing the same opportunities for men and women. My dream of becoming an AFL footballer was quickly shattered when I looked at the TV, read newspapers and magazines and realised that I couldn’t make it my reality. Dreams are much more achievable when you can see the opportunity in front of you, which now all young females can.

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