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Schleicher's lucky break

Sarah Black - AFL Media  December 6, 2017 12:15 PM

Doco: Our Debut Take an inside look at Collingwood's groundbreaking inaugural AFL Women's league season. From round one disappointment to an exhilarating first victory, each moment is captured as we learn the stories behind this history-making group of footballers and support staff.

If not for two broken vertebrae in her back, Ruby Schleicher would be on a basketball court in the United States, rather than training in Melbourne's summer heat during her second pre-season with Collingwood’s AFL Women’s team.

Schleicher (pronounced Sly-sher) captained Western Australia's under-18 basketball side and was on the brink of a scholarship to an American college, before fate intervened in the form of two painful injuries.

She broke one vertebra playing basketball and then six months later, broke one on the other side while surfing with her mum and aunty in Perth.

"I went to get up on my board and I couldn't do it. I was in so much pain I could barely do anything. My aunty had to help me in to shore. My mum's a nurse, so she gives no sympathy at all," Schleicher said with a laugh.

"You have to tell the college you're speaking to about any injuries you may have, and after the second injury they said it was too much of a risk and they couldn't take me, which I'm now pretty stoked about because I'm playing AFL Women's."

The 19-year-old played five games in her first AFLW season, primarily as an undersized second ruck (she's 175cm) behind housemate and All-Australian Emma King. In 2018, she's preparing to play in the backline, a position the utility is much more comfortable in.

"I knew where my place was and I knew I was the backup for Emma, so there wasn't any conflict," she said.

"It was great to have her at home because if we were looking at footage she'd say, 'In this scenario, you want to be standing on this side.'"

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Ruby Schleicher and Holly Whitford train on Wednesday. Photo: Collingwood Media.

She crossed the country when drafted by Collingwood in October last year, joining fellow West Australians King, her East Fremantle teammate Caitlyn Edwards and her former East Fremantle coach Nikki Harwood, who was an assistant coach at the Magpies.

It was a definite learning curve for an 18-year-old used to living in a big family (she's the third of four children).

"For the first six months living out of home, I cooked lemon chicken with brown rice, quinoa and steamed veggies every night. And by lemon chicken, I mean it was a bit of lemon and pepper on the chicken. It was absolutely shocking and I had no idea what I was doing," she said.

Schleicher has her sights firmly set on Collingwood's round two clash against Fremantle, back home at the new Optus Stadium in Perth.

To that end, she's relishing training, especially the three-day camp the Magpies went on in Gippsland in Victoria’s east. Players were given three minutes to transfer their essentials from their big packs to smaller ones (Schleicher initially forgot to grab her undies, but snuck a few pairs in when no-one was looking) and phones were confiscated.

"On Friday night, they said they'd be around to wake us up at 6:30am. Then at 3:45am, one of our coaches comes in banging a pot with a wooden spoon. Some of the girls looked like they were about to murder someone," she said.

"We had to do eight sets of hill sprints. The worst part wasn't the waking up, it was the fact we finished our second conditioning session at 9am, but it felt like it was 4pm.

"It sounds corny, but we went in as a team and came out as a family. We learnt so much about each other, because we didn't have our phones on us, there was nothing you could do but talk to each other."

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Schleicher trains during Collingwood's AFLW camp in Gippsland. Photo: Luke Henry.