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Randall still leading from the sidelines

45 minutes into the 2020 pre-season, Adelaide co-captain Chelsea Randall ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). She spoke to about the injury, what it’s like to lead a team from the sidelines and how she is tracking with her rehab. 

Kavisha Di Pietro: When you went down with an ACL injury 45 minutes into the 2020 pre-season, what was your initial reaction and your feelings when processing the news in the days following?

Chelsea Randall: It was such an interesting 24 hours. I’m generally such a positive person and so when I went down I was pretty optimistic thinking that it was maybe just my medial (medial ligament strain). That injury still would have been 6-8 weeks, but I would have been able to get back for this season. I think the physio knew straight away, but he was trying to hold back telling me until we had scans and knew for sure. He was definitely conscious of disrupting my positive thoughts until we had confirmation. Unfortunately, the next morning we went for scans and the doctor confirmed it was my ACL, telling me I would need surgery and that I’d be out for 12 months. When you hear that it takes you a little bit by surprise, but then it’s a matter of having to work out what the next steps are and what does that mean for the next 12 months.

You’re co-captain of the Crows with Erin Phillips, who has also been sidelined with an ACL injury. When you can’t physically be on the field, how does the way you approach leadership change? 

This pre-season I’ve actually really enjoyed despite not being on the field. We’ve been running a couple of leadership sessions with our entire cohort. We’ve been delivering sessions around our trademark as a club and what we want to achieve. I’m doing a teaching degree, as well, so that’s tied into what I’m studying as well. Having that knowledge has been really handy in helping to run and facilitate those sessions and workshops with our girls. That led in to our leadership vote. We’ve now got a magnificent leadership group of seven people. It’s a large group, but I think it’s really exciting that we can come together with such diversity and lead the team. From younger players like Sarah Allan, to more senior girls like ‘CJ’ (Courtney Cramey) and Angela Foley, new additions like Jess Foley and ‘MJ’ (Marijana Rajcic) – it’s great to have some new ideas. From Erin and my perspectives, it’s about managing those girls to support the on-field leadership given we both can’t be out there and playing at the moment.

It certainly flips your regular leadership style on its head. What’s the biggest thing you’ve had to learn during this time? 

Long-term injuries and being on the sidelines puts things into perspective. When you’re out on the field, it’s one of the biggest challenges that has been taken away. At training, during the trial matches or on game day, I generally would try to be that player who sets the standard, performs a courageous act that people will follow as well as trying to lead by example. Now it’s about giving someone else that opportunity to step up and supporting them through that. It’s been great to see those young players actually relish the opportunity and get really excited. That’s been a big challenge for me not being able to be out on the field with them and lead by that example, but it’s also created an opportunity for others to step up.

At season launch you mentioned that Sarah Allan would be a smoky for the All-Australian team this year. How has her leadership grown in this time? 

I remember in 2017 when Sarah first came to the football club. She was very quiet and with lots of potential. She was a really good person but extremely quiet. We had always said that the day Sarah Allan is telling Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall what to do is the moment that we have a great team. It’s identifying the fact that everyone is on this journey and we need to bring them along with us, whether it’s the quietest or newest player or whoever it might be. We have to bring everyone along in order to be successful. That’s what occurred last year and Sarah was really able to just own the backline. She really is the last line of defence and plays such a crucial role. She has so many times where it’s a two-versus-one contest and she comes out so cool, calm and composed.

Naturally, your game day duties have changed this year. What does that look like for you? 

I’m really excited to be working alongside Andrew McLeod and assisting in our midfield coaching. I’m currently doing my Level 3 coaching accreditation as well, so hopefully I can put some of that into practice and work with Andrew and some of our midfielders. I’m hoping this will give the chance to keep continuing to learn and grow myself but also challenge me in new ways. I’m really looking forward to that and he’s certainly not a bad guy to learn off (laughs). He’s a legend of our football club and we’re very lucky to have the likes of him and Peter Caven as premiership players for our club.

Is there a particular player or group that you’ll be looking to mentor this season? 

I do a lot of work with our leadership group at the moment; continuing to challenge and develop them so we create that flow on effect. It’s really about the entire team and each day and week is really different. There may be one player that needs more assistance in certain aspects of their life – football or otherwise – and that can change each day or week depending on what is happening to them. It’s certainly a versatile role and it’s more or less just trying to assist our players to be the best versions of themselves on and off-the-field.

For those Crows fan eager to see you back on the field, where are you at with your rehab? 

I’m about eight weeks post-operation. They normally say you can run about three months post-operation, but I’m hoping to make that a bit sooner. I’m spending a lot of time on the stationary bike and doing about one session per day. But I’m looking forward to moving around a bit more and continuing to progress.