Many young aspiring Aussie Rules players await their fate, crossing their fingers to be picked in the AFLW’s draft taking place on 6 October at 7:00pm on Zoom.

Nicola Xenos knows all too well the nerves of waiting for your name to be called out after being drafted into the inaugural St Kilda team in the AFLW.

Neos Kosmos sat down with the young sports star to chat game day routines and the impact footy has had in her life.

What drew you to Aussie Rules?

“I started playing a bunch of sports when I was younger but seeing my brothers play, it really just drew me to that physical nature of the sport and I also really enjoyed playing basketball. I really found that footy brought the best out of me and at the end of year 11 I decided that I would take up my journey in footy rather than basketball because I thought that I would have more of a chance at making it at a professional level.”

It’s game day, what do you do to get pumped up before the match?

“I like to stay pretty calm before a match. I feel if my nerves build up it all gets a bit much so I just stick to my normal routine which is stretching, rolling, listening to some pump up music right before the game to get me in the zone. Also getting in a lot of touch before the game with handballing with coaches or with another player. Those are some of the little things I like to stick by and don’t really go beyond those to ensure that I prepare myself the best I can.”

What are some of your favourite training songs?

“It really depends! We have a playlist at the club that we press play on and literally any music that comes up on that I’m happy to listen to. So anything like dance or house music or techno, like songs you would listen to when you go out.”

View this post on Instagram

@nicolaxenos 💪

A post shared by St Kilda Women’s (@stkildafcw) on

What do you find most challenging about the game?

“From a game aspect, probably coming from under 18s last year and not having a lot to compare to would be the case of the game. It steps up a whole lot so I just think getting used to that can take some time and it definitely was a challenge but I knew that if I wanted to play at this level that that was what I needed to do.
Off the field, getting into the environment you’re in and its nothing I’ve ever been a part of as such at a professional level so not really knowing anyone coming in you really have to step out of your comfort zone, especially mine because I’m not really out there as a person. Making those new connections  with the players and all the staff involved and especially your coach, having that relationship is really important and that’s what I learnt coming in as a new player last season.”

What has been a highlight in your football career thus far?

“This season, apart from getting drafted by St Kilda was being part of the first ever St Kilda team playing the women’s competition. I know that’s history and it’s a proud moment when you step onto the ground for the first game and you’ve everyone back at the Moorabbin home ground where all the men used to play so that was really special and probably one of the best games I’ve ever played, despite the outcome I thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere and everyone that came really brought it to life.”

How has footy impacted your life?

“Speaking more on this year more than anything, I obviously met some amazing people, friends for life even though it’s only been one year. I’ve loved every bit of that and the culture that we’ve built at St Kilda has been really special. It was incredible to be a part of and we have such amazing people involved within the club and even my teammates that’s really something that’s impacted my life lots.

Also to appreciate how hard I’ve worked to get to this point in my life and yet I know it’s only the start but to know that I’ve worked so hard and I’ve got so much time ahead of me, it’s taught me to work hard for my goals and you can’t settle once you’ve got what you’ve got.

It’s also provided me with good learning experiences and an outlet from my schooling and my university. At the moment it’s a bit different in these times. I love footy so it really helps me mentally as well and keep a positive mindset.”

What is something you learned about yourself through playing the game?

“Being at such a professional level you have to learn how to conduct yourself both on and off the field. You have to act in a professional manner whatever you do. You have to train very hard each training and you have to work hard for your spot. You can’t just think that you’re going to be guaranteed to play every single week you have to work hard. There’s a lot of people that are in the same boat as you and are fighting for that one position so that’s definitely something I’ve learnt.”

What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

“I think as a team and a collective at St Kilda footy club we’re just going to work from what we achieved in the last year, I think the foundation we built was good. Obviously that’ll include playing more games and just building the culture we’ve initally created initially and especially with the new girls coming in with the draft less than a week away. Including those girls and helping them build as well. We all know that it’s been a hard year this year, so we just have to come out firing and ready for next year.”

What do you think is the biggest misconception of women in football?

“Probably that we’re not hard enough to play the sport, there’s a lot of people that have their say but I never got to play with the boys when I was younger so I don’t really have much to compare with but the girls go just as hard as the boys, if not harder. Probably that we’re not capable of being at a professional level at the AFLW, but we’ve shown that from where it started to where it is right now that it has grown so much. There’s still so much to evolve over the years and that it’s going to become such a good sport and a lot of people are going to start falling in love with it. It’s exciting to see what we can achieve in the years to come.”

Favourite way to unwind after a game?

“I just go through all my recovery and everything I need to make sure that I don’t wake up too sore. Depending what time we play, getting a good feed in after the game and making sure I’m drinking water. Just doing those little things that you can’t forget about and it is easy to forget about them after a game when you’re tired and a bit restless.”