Reigning VFLW premiers Collingwood are in the box seat to win it all, again.
The Magpies have finished the home and away season undefeated, winning 14 games straight all across Victoria. From Geelong to Footscray to Williamstown to Tullamarine, the Pies have conquered all challengers.
All the more impressive is that they’ve done it under a completely new coaching panel.
Head coach Chloe McMillan has taken the step up after holding various roles across Collingwood’s AFLW and VFLW programs, and she’s setting records left and right.
McMillan has taken the Pies to their first undefeated VFLW season, which is subsequently the first undefeated season in the competition since Darebin’s 18-0 2016 season.
The Falcons continued that strong form into finals, not dropping a game on their way to a flag.
Joined by senior assistant Brett Alexander from Hawthorn, as well as assistants Emma Kent, Kim Ledder and Lisa Roper, the Pies will be looking to do the same.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, McMillan is prepared to do it the hard way if they do lose their first game of the season to Geelong this weekend.
“Whatever path you take, everyone is just excited to keep playing,” she said.
“We’ll probably be more shattered once the season’s over that we can’t get together for training and all that sort of stuff.
“The girls are keen for whatever path it takes and whatever journey it is, to keep embracing it and having fun along the way.”
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Having spent time with both the AFLW and VFLW programs, McMillan boasts finals experience of her own.
Now coach of Williamstown Penny Cula-Reid led Collingwood to the Premiership in 2019, and to do it again under new leadership would be an extraordinary feat.
Cula-Reid was no pushover in the coaches’ box, but McMillan has more than filled the big shoes her contemporary left behind.
“I’ve been lucky to experience what I’ve experienced so far,” McMillan said.
“Stepping up into the head coaching role is a lot more responsibility and probably just the little extras you find yourself doing.
“It’s something I really enjoy, just checking up on all of the players, making sure off the field they’re going okay, and then helping them on the field. It’s been good to really get to know another group, a different group other than just the AFL girls.
“It helps that I’m across both programs, and wanted to feel both groups connected to each other.”
The task ahead
McMillan isn’t the only coach in the line-up coming into finals knowing what it takes to win a flag.
Senior assistant Brett Alexander was a part of the Box Hill Hawks coaching panel that won the 2018 VFLW Premiership, along with good friend and current St Kilda AFLW assistant Patty Hill.
Alexander sees the coming weeks as an opportunity to show faith in what the players have already done well so far.
“We’re looking at approaching the next four week block with believing in what we’ve shown we’re capable of doing so far,” he said.
“We’ve played in different conditions at various times throughout the year, we’ve played different forms of opposition and different styles. Our brand has stood up in all the different conditions and all the different styles, so we think we’re in a really good place.
“You might have turnover each week of different players each week, but the way they connect with each other each week, whether that’s on the training track or game day, it’s been a big part of our success so far. We’re just looking to keep rolling with that.”
Despite having beaten this weekend’s opponents Geelong twice already, Alexander isn’t giving his side any room to get complacent.
He’s well aware of the run and carry the Cats can use on the outside, as well as the quality and amount of their forward entries.
“It’s another good challenge, but we don’t take them lightly,” Alexander said.
“Our defence has been fantastic this year. They withstand so many forward 50 entries and they work really well as a back six, and they’re supported as well by the midfield group.
“We’re sure Geelong as well will have a couple of changes this week, we’re expecting a couple of AFLW players to come in.
“They’ve had some success over the years, we [Box Hill] played them in the grand final in 2018. They’ve certainly had that finals experience before.”
Collingwood will host Geelong at 12PM on Saturday at the Holden Centre. The match will be streamed live and free on the VFL Youtube channel.
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