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Versatility the key for AFLW Magpies

Sarah Black (AFL Media)  January 9, 2018 4:00 PM

The Grind: Two teams combine In this segment from The Grind Ep4, the AFLW team get the opportunity to train with the men. We hear from Brenton Sanderson and Lynden Dunn on the experience.
Collingwood's first draft pick Chloe Molloy arrives at the Holden Centre with the ability to play in a range of positions. Image: AFL Photos. - Collingwood,Collingwood Magpies,AFLW

Collingwood's first draft pick Chloe Molloy arrives at the Holden Centre with the ability to play in a range of positions. Image: AFL Photos.

An in-season tweak to the game-plan saw Collingwood rocket home with three wins from its final four games in the first NAB AFL Women's season.

The Magpies had originally chosen to structure their 16-a-side team without wings, and saw their much-vaunted forward line of Moana Hope, Jasmine Garner and Jess Duffin constantly double-teamed as a result.

A rejigging of the set-up was all that was needed to kick-start their season.

Coach Wayne Siekman believes the next step the team needs to make is to become more versatile.

"I've challenged every player to make our list the most versatile in the competition. I want every player to be able to play two or three positions," Siekman told AFL Media.

"We can't be tied down by having players who are one-position only, especially in AFLW with 16 on the ground and five on the bench. One or two injuries on big grounds in hot conditions can affect the team badly.

"If you've got six or seven one-position players, it limits the team. Come game-day, if we lose a player, it could actually benefit us because we've got enough coverage, whereas other teams might not."

A case in point is highly touted forward Chloe Molloy. The 19-year-old came to prominence playing for TAC Cup side Calder Cannons at the start of 2017, when she was the competition's equal best-and-fairest (alongside now-Blue Bridie Kennedy) and leading goalkicker.

She then transferred her success to VFLW side Diamond Creek, dominating her first season of senior footy by tying with Western Bulldogs captain and Darebin forward Katie Brennan as the league's leading goalkicker.

With all that behind her, you'd expect the confident young forward to be taking her spot alongside Hope inside 50, but that may not be the case.

"Molloy is extremely raw. She was such an excitement machine in the TAC Cup [and] was able to back that up in the VFL Women's this year. But she's extremely raw in terms of her football brain – she's still learning," Siekman said.

"[In a recent practice match against Hawthorn's VFLW side], she played down back and looked comfortable with reading the flight of the ball and attacking off half-back. She went forward and took contested marks, went through the midfield and won some clearances.

"She could play anywhere. She could play inside, outside, up back or forward. It's exciting, because wherever she goes, she keeps taking it in her stride, improving and developing."  

There were a few big changes to the Magpies' playing list for the 2018 season. The club lost best and fairest Nicola Stevens and runner-up Alicia Eva, with the pair requesting trades to Carlton and Greater Western Sydney respectively.

As part of a three-way trade involving the Western Bulldogs and the Giants, Collingwood secured former first-round pick Jaimee Lambert from the Dogs.

"We lost Alicia but we gained Jaimee. That's a massive win, given the fact we probably lacked one A-grade, top-class, inside midfielder, as Alicia is more of an outside mid and half-forward," he said.

"Ash Brazill's looking like someone who could play Nic Stevens' spot [across half-back]. She's come from netball where she plays wing defence, and is used to having just a second to read the flight of the ball. In footy, she's got three or four seconds to judge the flight of the ball.

"Darcy Guttridge was the All-Australian under-18 captain this year, played half-back for Vic Country and is a left-footer like Nic Stevens. Imagine what she could be like in three years' time."

Another young Magpie on the rise is 20-year-old Brittany Bonnici, who was recently named vice-captain alongside experienced midfielder Emma Grant. Steph Chiocci will once again lead the Magpies.

Bonnici, a former Vic Metro captain, impressed with her fierce tackling and willingness to take the game on in her first AFLW season. Her efforts culminated in a NAB Rising Star nomination in round six.

"She's a terrific leader and person. For all the setbacks she's had (she suffered a string of concussions in 2016), she's continued to have a team-first approach and the players rate her highly as a leader," Siekman said.

"We've lost Alicia from the leadership group. She was an outstanding leader with a great football brain and voice. But Britt's actually very much modelled her game around Alicia, having been coached by her at Calder Cannons.

"She leads by example, puts her head over the ball, doesn't shy away from the contest, gives her all and protects her teammates."

Collingwood takes on Melbourne in a practice match on Friday, January 18, at the Holden Centre, ahead of its round one, season-opening clash against Carlton on Friday, February 2, at Ikon Park.