Skipper’s mental battles through Pies’ failures
Collingwood captain Steph Chiocci has opened up on the mental battles she's faced during the first three AFLW seasons.
The Magpies have struggled in each of their campaigns, winning just three games in 2017 and 2018 before a team-low one win, which came in the final round, last year.
As the losses piled up, Chiocci did it tough.
"I won't lie, it was really, really difficult," Chiocci told the Herald Sun.
"I was always very well supported by my teammates and the other leaders but it does come to a point where you reflect on your own leadership."
Chiocci wears her heart on her sleeve. She cares deeply about her football club and about her teammates.
But that care meant she carried weight of disappointment on her shoulders, which led to a scathing personal assessment.
"My own personal performance on-field hasn't been good enough," Chiocci said.
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"I took the brunt of the frustration and the anxiety amongst the group and that's just my natural personality - I really care about my teammates.
"A lot of people would say that I really just needed to focus more on my football, so that's kind of what I'm doing now.
"I'm not being selfish, I'm not going out there and just focusing on me but I'm definitely putting myself and my body and my mental health first at the moment because I know if I'm the best athlete I can be and in good spirits, recovering well, then I'm going to be better for my teammates anyway and they're very supportive of that."
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Despite all this, Chiocci had no hesitation in putting her hand up for the captaincy this season and will put into practice the tough lessons she's learnt over the past three years.
"I was pretty vulnerable going into this season in terms of our leadership process … I was pretty upfront and I accepted it wasn't good enough the past three seasons (but) I really want to drive us forward and I do think I'm the best person for that along with the other girls (in the leadership group)," Chiocci said.
"I've learnt that you don't have to tick all the boxes as a leader and as a footballer.
"What I mean by that is we all have strengths and there's obviously areas to improve on always but you don't have to be anything that you're not and other people can help to pick up that slack.
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"You've got to work together with other people and I think I've learnt that and started to embrace what my strengths are rather than focusing on what I'm not good at."
Chiocci is confident this season will be different.
With new coach Steve Symonds in charge, boom recruit Bri Davey on board and the return of 2018 Rising Star winner Chloe Molloy from injury, there's excitement about what 2020 has to offer.
"There's a little bit more belief. There's still that unknown - we don't talk a lot about Round 1, the ones that have been there from the start know we haven't won a Round 1 clash and that obviously plays on some of our minds but … we know if we play the way we want to play, our best footy can beat a lot of teams," Chiocci said.