Maddy Collier's only goal in the 2022 AFLW season is to see her team through to greater success.
The Nowra product is currently going through the final stages of pre-season preparation, and high on confidence after the West Coast Eagles' nine-point win over the Fremantle Dockers in the practice game on December 21.
With the season set to begin on January 7, almost a full month earlier than normal, Collier said it has been "a bit of a transition" to shift pre-season back, but she is nonetheless pleased with how her preparation is coming along.
"Even though it's a similar time of year, usually we'd have two weeks off for Christmas break, but this year we've got one week and then we're back into games," Collier said.
"It's been a bit different, but overall pre-season's been really good. We as a team have come a long way from where we were this time last year. We've got a really healthy list, which is good, and everyone's training pretty well."
Though last month's match against Fremantle was a practice game, during which sides often experiment with players in different positions and new tactics, the result will give the Eagles a much-needed shot of confidence after a battling 2021 campaign.
West Coast finished 12th on the 2021 AFLW ladder with two wins and seven losses from its nine games.
This year, Collier said her teammates are champing at the bit to get back on the field for their opening clash against the Brisbane Lions, who are the current premiership holders.
"They've been a really strong team in the competition for a number of years now, so I think we see it as a great challenge that will put us to the test," she said.
"We can test out what we've been working on through pre-season, and I guess it is a tough draw to start off, but in saying that, last year we had a really great first half against the Lions. There's nothing to say we couldn't do that again this year ... we're all pretty excited for it."
The 26-year-old has historically played as a forward, but shifted to playing in the midfield and as a half-back ahead of 2021. After her success in that role last season, Collier re-signed with the Eagles on a one-year extension.
"That was a good move," she said.
"Just before pre-season started last year, they said I'd be training predominantly in the midfield and on the wing, and I also ended up going a bit back as well. I think that suited my strengths as a player pretty well, and there's a few similarities between half-forward and the wing anyway.
"It was really good, I really enjoyed last year, getting to play on the wing and down back. I think it worked out well, and as a team we're all getting to know our positions and how we work with each other.
"That wing role, I'm pretty comfortable with now and have a good idea of how it works. It's nice to be in a spot where the whole team is getting used to their positions and starting to work together."
As a senior in the Eagles side, Collier is also a member of the team's leadership group, meaning younger players will look to her for guidance in high-profile or tense matches.
But this added responsibility doesn't weigh on her mind, and Collier simply aims to lead by example and play her best football - a view which she has grown to understand more in recent years.
"The way I lead is just by doing what I'm doing, I don't really change anything," she said.
"In the last 12 months or so I've started to understand that a bit more. When I've been in leadership roles previously, I tried to change what I was doing and it didn't really align or feel too genuine.
"I think good teams have more than just the leaders in the leadership group. Everyone should be able to speak up, everyone should be able to feel like they can contribute anyway. I think that breeds more success than just leaving it on the leaders' shoulders."
Over the last few years, Collier has firmly established a career and home for herself in Perth. But she maintains strong connections with her family in the Shoalhaven, and visits whenever possible.
"I did manage to get home in April, I headed over for a few weeks," Collier said.
"It was really good to catch up with family and friends and reconnect with everyone over there. But since then I haven't managed to get home, I've been pretty busy here. It would be great to get home, but I chat with mum on the phone every day and I'm pretty close with the family."
The West Coast Eagles will get their AFLW campaign underway on Sunday, January 9, against the Brisbane Lions at Perth's Lathlain Park. The match will begin from 8.10pm AEDT.
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