Nicole Hales is the life and soul of the Magpies’ VFLW side.
The Greensborough junior became the first Collingwood player to notch up 50 games at the level in their recent victory over Port Melbourne.
Hales has remained a vital part of the club’s VFLW program ever since its inception in 2018, and is proud to be a key part of the club successes.
“It means a lot,” said Hales, when speaking to The Inner Sanctum‘s Kicked Vics podcast.
“Growing up as a kid wanting to play footy, and now having the opportunity, playing 50 games in the VFLW is something that I thought would never happen and I’m really proud about it, so are my family and friends.”
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After playing a key role in securing the Magpies’ first-ever VFLW flag, Hales swapped one Melbourne powerhouse for another, joining Casey following the cancellation of the 2020 season.
“I think I just wanted a change, coming off the VFLW premiership in 2019, I didn’t get drafted that year and I lost the love a little bit.
“I just wanted to step back and enjoy footy instead of doing insane things. At the end of 2020, Casey approached me and said, ‘Do you want to come down?’ I said, ‘Yeah, alright, I’ll do it!’ It was a good decision for me at the time, and it got me back to where I love footy.”
“I really loved it down there. It was a bit further out than Melbourne for me, but the club is awesome, their facilities are amazing, coaches, the players.
“I loved my time there, but it wasn’t for me in the end, so I made the move back to the Pies which was nice.”
Now back at Victoria Park after featuring 12 times in the red and blue, Hales is looking to take the club she has always supported back to the biggest stage.
The defender is hopeful that the playing group at the club can take them to the ultimate glory once more, something she is happy to be a part of.
“Absolutely, I think the club culture at the ‘Pies’ is awesome, the girls are really great.
“We are supportive of one another, we have fun before and after training, during training as well.
“Obviously, when it’s serious we switch on, but when we can have a bit of fun we do. It’s really important in clubs and throughout the season and finals that you build a really good culture, and then you’ll get where you want to be.”
“Finals obviously is always different. It doesn’t matter which team has won the most games, if you’re up the top or down below in the finals fixture, they just come out and play for their club.
“That one game, if you’re going to continue on or if it’s your last game, there’s a massive hype about it.
“It’s actually a really awesome experience to be in because everyone is on edge, it’s crazy because you’ve got the crowd pumping you up, it’s unreal.”
Across her VFLW career, Hales has cemented herself as one of the biggest names currently plying her trade in the competition.
Approaching the prime of her career at the age of 26, Hales believes she has something to offer at the top level of Australian rules football, a dream she harbours hopes of achieving.
With the next AFLW season slated to start in August, Hales is in support of the change in time, and hopes to be a part of the first season in which it takes effect.
“I’ll definitely nominate this year. I’ll probably have more of a chance being an older player, they’ll probably need some oldies in their team!
“Definitely just putting my name out there would be smart, I’m loving footy at the moment so I think it doesn’t matter if I get drafted or not, just having the opportunity to maybe be drafted is really great. I will put my name in, might be early as well the draft with the season starting!
“I think it’s awesome that they are changing to later in the year weather-wise, I think that the AFL will get much more out of it.
“It’s a bit crazy that it’s happening straight away, definitely they’re going to take VFLW players out of the program or maybe manage them if they are drafted through the VFLW.
“It will be a bit of an interruption, but it may even give more people an opportunity to play VFLW as well who may not be getting games, so that will be really cool if they can come in and show what they are all about.
“Overall, everyone will still focus on the end goal of making finals or winning games in general, and just keeping a good culture through the club. It’s all a mystery, isn’t it?”