Magpies not hurt by ‘brutally honest’ CEO

Collingwood star Ruby Schleicher says Magpies chief executive Craig Kelly was being “brutally honest” when he made controversial comments about the AFLW’s growth.

Schleicher said Kelly was heavily invested in women’s football and the players felt strongly supported by the club despite his comments in a heated radio interview last month that also followed the Magpies’ withdrawal of their Super Netball licence.

Kelly said the high cost of running an AFLW side made expanding the season difficult after players and coaches expressed disappointment the length of the 2023 season would remain at 10 home-and-away rounds.

“I keep hearing this. Stop saying it. You and others. Stop saying we’ve got it wrong,” Kelly told ABC Sport 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’.

“There’s only a certain amount of money that goes around. Every time we put on another weekend of footy it costs a lot of money. What I’m saying is we’re on the right pathway.”

Schleicher said Kelly did not address his comments with the Magpies players following the interview, but they backed his vision for the club’s women’s program.

“I think Ned (Kelly) is a super enthusiastic character, and what people don’t see is when he’s (at the club) and comes out on court, he has a kick and handball with the girls,” Schleicher said.

“He’s brutally honest in the way of the truth about where we are as a team … we probably haven’t performed up to where we could the last couple of years, and I guess he spoke to us about where we are commercially as an AFLW team.

“He’s been brought in to make the club as successful as it can be, which is going pretty well so far, and he wants us to be a part of that.”

Schleicher said the players were “fully focused” on footy despite the new season beginning without a new collective bargaining agreement and were in communication with the AFLPA delegates about how negotiations were faring.

The Magpies will play in the season opener against reigning premier Melbourne at Ikon Park on Friday night, with captain Brianna Davey and Britt Bonnici returning to strengthen the side after long lay-offs with ACL injuries.

Melbourne premiership captain Daisy Pearce will be one of six women to unfurl the club’s premiership flag before the game, with new vice-captain Tyla Hanks saying Pearce remained an important contact for the club’s leadership group.

“I’m sure I’ll lean on her at certain times throughout the year,” said Hanks, who will play her 50th game on Friday.

“But (Pearce) really empowered and developed a lot of people, and she’s left a good legacy for others to step into those shoes and see what we can do.”

Originally published as AFLW 2023: Magpies not hurt by ‘brutally honest’ CEO Craig Kelly

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