Collingwood superstar Chloe Molloy has proved that there’s no position she can’t play.
Starting life in the AFLW as a defender before returning from injury as one of the most exciting forwards the competition has seen, she’s now made the midfield her own too.
Now, she’ll go head-to-head with the likes of Ellie Blackburn and Kirsty Lamb as her Magpies take on the Western Bulldogs in a sudden death elimination final.
The move was prefaced by season-ending injuries to midfield superstars Bri Davey and Brit Bonnici.
Davey, the league best and fairest co-winner in 2021, ruptured her ACL in Round 1 of season six, while Bonnici suffered the same fate when the Pies faced the Dogs just weeks out of their previous finals campaign.
Alongside defender Ruby Schleicher and young gun Mikala Cann, Molloy has risen to the challenge and guided the club to finals again.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, she explained how she made the transition between seasons.
“When Breeza [Davey] went down in Round 1 last season, I think I knew in myself I’d probably be playing more midfield minutes,” Molloy explained.
“I trained in the off-season a bit different, I trained more like a midfielder than I would a forward or a defender. It wasn’t a shock to me, it was more just a challenge in critiquing my own game. I’ve never had to watch myself as a midfielder.
“I’ve loved it, I think I’ve brought something different when I’m in there. Half the time, I don’t know what I’m doing, so it makes it hard for the opponents to know what I’m doing!”
Moving between the midfield and forward lines, the 23-year-old has made pressuring her opposition a big part of her game in season seven.
Molloy has averaged a career-high 5.1 tackles while still kicking six goals – just two less than her tally in the same amount of games last season.
She is also averaging 2.9 inside 50s – another career-high. While she’s found a good balance between being offensively and defensively minded, she explains it was almost unintentional.
“[Tackling] wasn’t [something I focused on], because I thought I’d be more of an offensive midfielder,” Molloy said.
“There was one game where I laid a high number of tackles, and within three rounds I’d beaten my career tackle count! It’s not a surprise though, because in the pre-season we had done a lot of work with [development coach] Chris Gamble, who’s taken on a fundamentals role.
“I know that I’m a competitor, so putting me in the midfield, if the player’s got the ball I know I want it more than they do. To do that you’ve got to tackle.
“I think I have surprised myself with the numbers I’ve been able to put up, and it’s instilled a different sort of confidence in me. I guess I have shocked myself a bit.”
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Collingwood comes into the biggest AFLW finals series the competition has seen yet in a unique position compared to years gone past.
While the injuries speak for themselves, the club will playing an elimination final in an eight team, four week finals for the first time in league history.
The Pies have been in this situation before, but a win in those games meant a preliminary final spot – a semi-final against Adelaide looms next should they beat the Bulldogs.
Having to take on the next month from the bottom half of the eight is just the next challenge for the club.
“Heading into finals, the word finals for me gets me excited. We don’t work that hard to get to Round 10 and for it to all be over,” Molloy stated.
“We’re not going to get this far to throw it all out now. I think people might count us out, but I’m definitely counting us in with how hard we’ve worked and the look in the team’s eyes.
“Stranger things have happened in this part of the season. I’ve always said it, if you finish minor premiers or you finish eighth, you’re there, you’ve got a chance in finals.
“We did it the hard way, but I don’t think it’s the hard way, it’s the long way. It’s still a chance to get there and be one of the two teams battling it out for the premiership.”
The last time Collingwood hosted a final at Victoria Park, it walked away victors after an exhilarating match with rivals North Melbourne.
A historical footballing ground, and one that holds countless meaning for the club, it has once again become a location that the opposition dread travelling to.
The Pies hold an 11-3 win/loss record at their home ground over the past three years – a fact that’s not lost on Molloy and the playing group coming into this week.
It’s another opportunity to showcase their premiership credentials in front of their home fans.
“Vic Park is now the home of women’s football for Collingwood. I love Vic Park,” Molloy said.
“I walked in before training, and was saying to one of the coaches, ‘we play good footy at Vic Park’. I think we’ve got good memories that last time we [played] the Doggies at Vic Park, which I know they’re going to use as motivation. I respect them as a side.
“I know we’re going to get a good crowd down there. It feels special when we play there, and I think we know the ground really well. It plays into our hands.
“To be honest, I don’t think you could have scripted it any better to be a home final. Even the pressure of it being an elimination final is a privilege. It’s a do-or-die attitude.
“You just go in and swing and hope that you hit, and we’re doing everything to make sure that happens.”
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