RUBY Schleicher earned her first All Australian nod in 2021 for her breakout season as an attacking defender. All of that started in round one with a key role holding the competition's leading goalkicker Darcy Vescio to one goal and four disposals.
This year the Collingwood defender was right back where she started, lining up directly on Vescio for a new edition of their 'friendly rivalry'.
Despite taking the footy world by storm last year with her impressive run out of defence and delivery forward, Schleicher has been challenged by head coach Steve Symonds to find the defensive balance in her game once more.
"A massive part of my game is attacking, creating drive off the half-back line for my team, but I mean, I'm a defender, so I'm going to defend first," Schleicher said.
The Pie won the head-to-head battle in this reprisal, holding Vescio goalless while gathering 15 disposals, taking eight marks and kicking a goal of her own, scooping up the four premiership points in the process.
She also points to fellow defenders Lauren Butler and Jordyn Allen as "two of the most underrated players in the game" who provide her with confidence and support across the backline.
GET YOUR TICKETS Why you must secure your seat in advance
The belief Schleicher has, not only in herself but in her teammates, is something she thinks will help the playing group bounce back from the loss of co-captain Brianna Davey to a serious knee injury which will see the club's reigning best and fairest winner sit out the remainder of the season.
"Had something like this happened last year, I'm not sure if we would have had the belief in the group yet for us to handle something like this. I mean, you can see how many times Bri has single handedly pulled us through to win games," said Schleicher.
"I think we're in a much better position this year than we would have been last year to go 'alright, we're equipped for this, we're going to find a way to do this'."
2022 FIXTURE Every match, every round
Collingwood's midfield depth is enviable, so while Davey is irreplaceable, the Pies are well placed to still lean on a powerful onball brigade.
"There are certainly girls who can stand up and support our ball-winners like 'Chops' [Jaimee Lambert] and 'Britta' [Brittany Bonnici] in there, and hopefully we can find a bigger body to throw in there," Schleicher said of movements in the midfield.
But for now, it's the cliched one week at a time, with eyes on St Kilda in round two.
Did you head to the footy over the weekend? Tell us your thoughts! Take the survey now