Mon's magic mindset: Why cross-code Tiger has gone to another level

AT JUST 22 she's played at the country's highest level for two separate sports, and whilst she's already among the NAB AFLW's most decorated players, she's decided this is her year to really give the game her all.

Monique or "Mon", as her Richmond teammates affectionately call her, has mastered the art of juggling a career in the WNBL (Women's National Basketball League), while maintaining her status as one of the AFLW's strongest midfielders, but decided to commit to footy this season and complete her first ever full pre-season since she was drafted in 2017.

Having already won the Tiger's best and fairest award in both their years of competition, as well as best on ground in a premiership with the Western Bulldogs, among various other accolades, Conti still has an itch she needs to scratch.

Monique Conti at Tigers training on January 12, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

"I really just feel like our group and our club is just onto something and that we are going somewhere, I wanted to be solely and fully be a part of that journey," Conti said.

"Obviously, I've been part of it the past two years, but there's a different feeling here this year and I want to make sure I'm a part of it."

When asked what it is that makes this season her time to hang up the basketball shoes and focus on the Sherrin, she attributed it to a shift in mindset which has seen the cohort at Punt Road "get on the same wavelength".

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"We've all sort of balanced our energy in a good way, there's not too much hype, we're not overthinking, we're just prepared and going into a season feeling that way is really reassuring," Conti said.

"We have relaxed a bit, we all just want to make sure every session is a really good one, and we'll come in with our heads down, work hard and just get better every session, but everybody is on that same page.

"This year you can really feel that difference."

I really just feel like our group and our club is just onto something and that we are going somewhere, I wanted to be solely and fully be a part of that journey

Monique Conti

Before Conti entered the AFLW system, she was part of the Australian team that won gold at the 2016 FIBA Under-17 World Championship and was named in that year's All-Tournament Team. She also won the WNBL Rookie of the Year Award in her first WNBL season with the Melbourne Boomers in 2017, the same year she was drafted by the Western Bulldogs.

In 2020 she moved to the Southside Flyers for basketball and to Richmond for footy, where she won a WNBL Championship and the Tigers' best and fairest. 

While studying psychology at Swinburne University and having so many other balls in the air, it was the niggling feeling that she wasn't reaching her full potential in the AFLW.

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"I was completely used to juggling both at a high level and having zero time to myself, or to focus on just one sport, and I actually miss the juggle, I really do," Conti said.

"I was playing both sports that I really loved, but sometimes you don't get that opportunity to sit back and reassess and think, 'Where could I be putting all my energy in right now?'

"So, I think that's what really helped me make my decision - let's focus on my footy and see what I can do with the pre-season and see where this club can go this year."

Admitting that since the decision to focus on Australian Football, she's had time to start reading again and having some space to study, Conti also said completing the full pre-season has shown benefits already.

"I think my body is so much more adapted to the football game," she said.

"I feel like it's changed a whole lot. I feel much fitter and stronger and it's just good to get my hands on the footy for a pre-season instead of on the round ball.

"I've seen improvements in my pre-season, week by week, and hopefully it transfers onto the field on game day."

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On the Tigers' 38-point round one win over St Kilda, Conti said it was the perfect execution of their new mentality.

"There was a different vibe throughout the whole training week, at the captain's run, and in the change rooms before and after the game," she said.

"Going in, knowing we are ready and to be rewarded with success off the back of that feeling is just really reassuring and the confidence that comes from that is huge."

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Conti scored a perfect 10 in the round one voting for the 2022 AFL Coaches' Association's AFLW Champion Player of the Year award, racking up 29 disposals, nine clearances and 17 contested possessions which saw Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield tweet, "If Richmond win enough games Conti may just win the League B&F".

Conti said she was flattered but quickly deflected back to the team.

"Oh, I was really, really honoured that he was saying that about me, it was really awesome," she said.

"I think the best thing about it though is that he's watching women's footy and he's putting it out there that he's watching it as well. He's showing he respects it and he's all about it, that's my favourite part."

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