Magpies AFLW vice-captain defends CEO after criticism


Collingwood vice-captain Ruby Schleicher has come out in support of Craig Kelly weeks after the club chief shot down calls to expand the AFLW season.

The looming eighth iteration of the women's football competition has kept its 10-round fixture, despite players and coaches urging for the season to be extended.

Kelly criticised calls for season expansion, claiming it was unrealistic to expect rapid growth for the competition in its current financial state.

"I keep hearing this. Stop saying it ... Stop saying we've got it wrong," Kelly told ABC Radio in July.

"We can't just squeeze the lemon and start handing out the cash that we haven't got as a whole competition so I'm saying to all our girls, 'let's keep investing let's keep going forward'."

Schleicher said Kelly didn't address the interview with the playing group but has made his commitments to the AFLW team known.

"We had a meeting with him prior to (the interview) where he discussed where we're at as a group," she said on Tuesday.

"He's brutally honest in the way of the truth around where we are as a team. We probably haven't performed up to where we could in the last couple of years.

"He's been brought in to make this club as successful as it can be. He wants us to be a part of that, he sees us as a big part of that.

"He doesn't want anything less than that.

"He's a super enthusiastic character. What people don't see is, when he's in there and has a kick and a handball with the girls."

Players and coaches claim the 10-week fixture creates uneven competition.

Western Bulldogs captain Ellie Blackburn said some clubs could be given an easier run through the season.

"With fixturing, you might get the luck of the draw - more home games and things like that might fall into place," Blackburn told AAP.

"Playing every team once is something you look forward to - that makes it a bit of a competitive balance.

"The other element to it is injuries. If you get injured in the short term, it probably rules you out for a fair chunk of the season because it's only 10 games."

AFLW players also enter the season without a pay deal in place.

The AFL Players Association is pushing for the minimum salary for AFLW players to be increased to $70,000 from $40,000 by 2026.

Schleicher said the team won't be distracted by the pay dispute.

"We have eight AFLPA delegates to look after that," she said.

"For us, it's not really a thought right now. Our full focus is round one and playing games and delivering really good footy on the park."

Collingwood will kick off the season against defending premiers Melbourne at Ikon Park on Friday night.