AFLW 2022: Ruby Schleicher says more pay will reduce ACL injuries, Erin Phillips cleared

With four new teams entering AFLW next season, some industry figures are concerned at how the addition of 120 extra players will impact to the league.

Four teams will enter the AFLW next season – the competition’s seventh – with some industry figures concerned at the effect of introducing some 120 extra players to the mix.

Stream every match of the 2022 NAB AFLW Season Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.

But the quartet is anything but laying low, already announcing signings and plotting their assault on the seventh season of the burgeoning competition.

One club figure told the Herald Sun recently that they were not only concerned at potential dilution of depth of talent as Hawthorn, Essendon, Port Adelaide and Sydney enter the competition, but a need to negate potential injuries to young players as they enter elite training programs — many for the first time.

Symonds said he was bracing for expansion clubs to come hunting for his talent.

“That’s always going to happen — we’ve got four new teams coming in and you always fear you might lose a couple of players along the way,” he said on Wednesday.

“The facts are that most teams are going to lose a couple of players. We’re all getting our heads around that.”

He said that he considered the competition to be “evolving”, and at a stage where “coaching is really strong, and players are getting a lot faster, fitter and stronger”.

He said he had developed a game plan in anticipation of the high-pressure matches as players continue to develop their decision-making and skills, with an eye to the final weeks of this season and beyond.

Collingwood will enjoy the rare treat of two lengthy breaks between its loss to North Melbourne in Tasmania in Round 7 and its upcoming matches against the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide.

Symonds said it could not have come at a better time after three consecutive trips interstate, and he hopes that some fluency will lead to good fortune.

“Our ability to get our feet back on the ground and be able to have a bit of down time and regroup has been really important for us,” he said.

“The vibe among the group has been really good … we’re starting to reset and refresh which has been great.

“With a lot of change that has gone on, and travel, they’ve been able to cater to their work and study commitments outside as it starts to stabilise a little bit, as well.

“It just gets some consistency back into what we’re doing … for our staff as well, to know what we’re doing week by week. Hopefully things can stay consistent (with the fixture) in the back-end of the season and we can get some fluency into what we’re doing and hopefully from that our form will improve and our game will improve.”

Co-captain Steph Chiocci is a chance to return after missing two games with achilles soreness, while key forward Sabrina Frederick could also play after booting four goals in the opening round of the VFLW season after she was sidelined due to Covid protocols.

Star calls for financial fix to solve AFLW’s ACL curse

Collingwood All Australian Ruby Schleicher says better pay for AFLW players could help lessen the ACL curse amid a continuing injury toll for the league’s best players.

Schleicher is one of the game’s emerging young stars but admits she is concerned many of the league’s drawcards, including great mate Brianna Davey, have been cut down by an ACL tear.

Adelaide AFLW legend Erin Phillips dodged a third reconstruction after a scare on Saturday afternoon but Schleicher is aware too many of the game’s stars are tearing ACLs.

An ambassador for ex-Hawk Richie Vandenberg’s The Hidden Sea wine brand, she said part-time women could not hope to spend enough time shock-proofing their bodies given work and study commitments.

Stream every match of the 2022 NAB AFLW Season Live & On-Demand on Kayo.

New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now.

Asked about the most urgent priority as the league expands to 18 teams next year, she believes the pay to spend more time on “pre-hab” and strength might help the female game’s scourge.

“The first thing that comes to mind is the amount of ACLs that are being done across the lead. I am best mates with Breezer (Bree Davey) and it was heartbreaking to see her go down,” she said.

“If you look at the league and Erin Phillips, Bree, Ash Brazill, they are the physically strongest players but they are the ones doing it. It helps us if we have a fuller year of training around us.

“At the moment we are here for four months and then we are off and we do have some contact with the club but no direct help or access to facilities for physios. We go out on our own.

“The year-round access would be important, as would a longer pre-season and more scratch matches leading in. This year we had one scratch match and one intra club. For your body you need more to be conditioned to playing matches in 35 degree heat.

“Development year-round for AFLW players comes with being paid year-round and god knows what that looks like, but it is a massive one and it would see injuries come down if we were cared for year-round.”

The AFLPA wants full-paid AFLW professionals by at least 2026, with Schleicher excited by the prospect of 18 teams next year but aware what it could do to the competition’s standard.

“I was having a conversation with (AFL defender and Pies AFLW coach) Jordan Roughead on the plane home from Maroochydore and realistically next year we will see a drop in the standard. Everyone knows that. The quickest way we can get the league up and running is having girls full time and Roughy convinced me the girls should be full time next year.

“It’s not realistic for that but for girls to actually put out a high level of footy and train as professional athletes, it does need to be on a full-time basis. The sooner the better, I would love it to be when I am still playing.”

Crows superstar learns injury fate after knee blow

— Simeon Thomas-Wilson

Erin Phillips has avoided a serious knee injury in a big boost for Adelaide.

But when she returns for the Crows is unknown despite her avoiding an ACL tear.

The star Crow came off the ground in the final quarter of Adelaide’s convincing win over GWS.

She landed awkwardly in a marking contest and after handballing the ball to a teammate she left the field and did not return.

Phillips has suffered two ACL ruptures, one while playing basketball and the other in the 2019 Grand Final for the Crows.

But scans on Sunday revealed that the 36-year-old had only suffered a sprain in her left knee.

Crows Women’s Head of Football Phil Harper said the club was relieved that the injury wasn’t as bad as initially feared.

“Erin is a professional in every sense of the word and will give herself every chance to come back as quickly as possible,” Harper said.

“We’ll monitor her progress in the coming days before determining a return to play date.”

The Crows, who are top of the ladder by percentage, have three home and away games to play in the AFLW.

They take on Fremantle in a battle of first against second next week, with Phillips extremely unlikely to play despite the good news.

Phillips had 14 disposals before she had to leave the field.

The former Australian basketballer has averaged just over 17 disposals this season for the Crows.

Originally published as AFLW 2022: Keep up to date with all the latest news

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