Eleven months ago, Nicola Xenos was suiting up for Collingwood’s VFLW team in one of the biggest games of her career.
The 18-year old found her way into the team mid-season from the Oakleigh Chargers and by the end of 2019 had a premiership medallion around her neck.
Her step up to the AFLW this year was essentially seamless, and she played all six games for St Kilda before Covid-19 cut the season was cut short.
Fast forward to today, she should be playing in the VFLW and building on her development. Instead, she’s stuck indoors a long way from the playing field.
While the Victorian players are being told to stay home, AFLW players playing in interstate leagues such as SANFLW, WAFLW and AFL Queensland are benefiting from being able to get on the park, gaining valuable experience.
“I feel like I’m not doing a whole lot and being at home all the time is obviously going to take a toll mentally, which is why I’ve been trying to keep in contact with St Kilda, who are there to help us,” she said.
“Especially during these difficult times, it’s really good to keep in contact with not only the club, but the girls as well. Zoom calls, staying connected doing trivias and all those types of things.”
Xenos, like the Saints, enjoyed her debut season and by round six, both she and the team were building some momentum towards a potential finals berth.
“Initially, I was upset because I really wanted to play against Collingwood and then we had a game in Perth, which would have been really exciting,” she said.
“But as disappointing as it was, I was more than grateful for playing all six games as a first-year player.”
While Xenos admits she has had a bit of a hard time adjusting to life without football, there are others out there doing it just as tough, if not worse.
“A lot of people are going through the same thing, it’s not just me. So we just need to account for everybody in our team and the different challenges everyone is facing at the moment.”
Outside of footy, Xenos is in her first year of studying a double degree in sports science and sports management at Deakin University.
“It does come with its challenges as well. Being motivated to do your work online and contacting teachers if you need anything, it’s a lot harder doing it from home,” she say.
If you don’t understand something, you can’t just let it slide, it really teaches you to speak out to teachers and those that can help you.”
Even though there will be no VFLW this year and Victoria’s under-18s women’s competition was cut short at the beginning of the year, Xenos is looking towards to the future of women’s football in a positive light.
“It is very exciting to see how many young players coming through the ranks and the talent is going to be incredible. I’m just thinking about the positives, even though it is not a great time for us girls.
“I’m hoping there will be some normality come the end of the year.”