Brisbane Lions vice-captain Nat Grider (Picture: AFL Women's, Design by Will Cuckson)

After the retirement of Emma Zielke following the 2021 premiership win, Breanna Koenen was installed as captain of the Brisbane Lions AFLW team. Partnering with her for the first time in Season Seven is Natalie Grider who has rising up the ranks at the football club within the playing group due to her leadership.

The Inner Sanctum spoke exclusively to Grider about becoming a vice-captain of the Lions, Koenen’s captaincy and the expansion of the competition in Season Seven.

“One thing that we (Koenen and Grider) both always talk about is we are still learning and she’s been our captain last season and this season but it’s still not even twelve months in the role given the two seasons in one year,” Grider explained.

“She’s such an incredible person that’s why the girls voted her in, she’s amazing, she leads both on and off the field in what she does.

“She brings a lot to the table in making sure we are a really close and tight-knit group, she constantly checks in on everyone and probably worries more about her teammates than herself sometimes.

“I guess that’s why everyone loves her and I know she will do an incredible job this season and hopefully I can just play my part in helping her along the way.”

Being a life-long fan of the club she now is the vice-captain of, Grider has realised a dream she didn’t ever see as a reality.

“It’s pretty exciting for me, to be honest, I obviously grew up supporting and loving the lions and went to most of the home games as a ten-year-old onwards,” she said.

“It’s not something I ever dreamed was possible, really there was no competition back then anyway so to think back to I guess what I grew up loving and to see myself a part of this club now is really exciting.

“I’m really honoured to be apart of the club and to be able to be in this position as well is something I’m really grateful for.”

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Grider then explains the importance of her role within the team as well as what it is like to be surrounded by great leaders such as Koenen, reigning AFLW W-Medallist Emily Bates as well as Lions midfield talent Ally Anderson. The strength of this group is extraordinary considering all players except for Grider have player 50 games in the league.

“It’s obviously super exciting and I’m really honoured to be in that position at such an incredible club and that the girls backed me in,” Grider said.

“It means a lot then the leaders I have alongside of me in Bre, Emily and Ally are all incredible players and even better people so it’s definitely a good group that are there to support each other and hopefully lead the team to success at the end of the season.”

Running personal best times at training and coming back to pre-season training incredibly fit, Bates is looking to claim back-to-back W-Medals come awards season. Grider explains how driven Bates is to achieve this feat.

“It is really exciting, she’s a pretty competitive person as well, I daresay her winning the W-Medal won’t stop her by any means from getting better,” she said.

“She’s had a really good pre-season, you would have seen in the articles she’s hitting PBs (personal bests) across the park in all aspects and so I’m excited to see what she can deliver this season and be a big part of team success for Season Seven.”

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The expansion of the competition to the full conglomerate of 18 teams this season is a tantilising prospect for supporters and players alike. The addition of Port Adelaide, Sydney, Hawthorn and Essendon means more players get to live out their dream playing Aussie Rules football at the highest level.

“It’s amazing that in just seven years we’ve grown the competition to 18 teams,” Grider said.

“It speaks volumes on the talent that’s coming up through the pathways and the support that we have from sponsors from the fans and all of that to grow the competition to get where we are now.

“To have more opportunity to have more girls that come through playing footy is really exciting and it continues to build the participation in the AFLW around the country because I believe it is the best sport going around for girls and hopefully the rest of the nation starts to see that pretty quickly.”

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