Excitement levels are peaking according to AFLW vice-captain Ruby Schleicher as the Pies prepare to take on reigning premiers Melbourne in Friday night’s season opener at Ikon Park.
It will be the sixth time in eight seasons that the Club has kicked off the AFLW campaign, with Schleicher saying it was one of her favourite times of the year.
“We were discussing it last night as a playing group the weeks that you really enjoy the build up leading into games and round one is absolutely that feeling and then finals games as well,” she said.
“Between that you’re getting to work, and you’re just focused on the week by week so it’s one of the enjoyments you get that you really need to make sure you embrace and enjoy every minute of it.
“We’re really fortunate to play in the opener the majority of the years and it’s such an exciting feel.”
The Pies face a big test in the opener with the Demons coming into season eight on the back of their maiden premiership last November.
However, after a semi-final appearance last year, and the boost of returning leaders Brianna Davey and Brittany Bonnici from knee injuries, Schleicher said the Pies were eagerly awaiting the challenge.
“We’re really lucky we get to start off our year taking on last year’s best so there’s no bigger challenge and we’re really looking forward to it,” she said.
“It’s no secret the two players that come back in Bri and Brit and how important they are to our game and to the team.”
Both the Captain Davey and Vice-Captain Bonnici have missed over 18 months since suffering ACL injuries and only returned to full training with the group last month.
While it’s been a long journey for the pair, Schleicher believes both will quickly re-establish their status as two of the most damaging players in the competition.
“It’s been so tough for them with the two seasons in one year, they didn’t just do their ACLs and miss a year of football, they’ve missed a year and a half,” she said.
“They have been chomping at the bit trying to get back out there but they’ve had to be so patient, and I think being really close friends with both of them aside from football you can see how much it takes from them mentally and emotionally as well.
“They just seem like they haven’t skipped a beat, when you see them in training you kind of step back and remember why they were up there with the best of the best before they did their knees and I have no doubt they’re going to pick up exactly where they left off.”
Schleicher herself also confirmed she will be there on Friday night despite a lingering ankle issue.
The 25-year-old will resume her post as one of the side’s vice-captains and is excited about working with new leaders Jordyn Allen, Lauren Butler and Mikala Cann who were recently added to the leadership group.
“I’m good to go, feeling really good and had a good session on the track last night so really excited,” she said.
“In the way of captains and vice-captains it’s the same as last year and we’ve got a year of working together under our belts, so we know how each other operate and generally where our minds are at.
“It’s really exciting now that we’re supported by the young girls coming through in Jordyn Allen, Lauren Butler and Mikala Cann, they’re really up and coming young stars of the competition and I think they’ve show that in the last couple of years.
“They were pretty shy characters coming into the team and now they speak up and everyone listens. They’re really valued players.”
NAB AFLW Round One
Melbourne v Collingwood
Friday 1 September, 7:20pm
Ikon Park, Wurundjeri