Steph Chiocci struck up a bond with Brianna Davey when she made the switch from Carlton to become a Magpie in 2019. Writing for aflplayers.com.au, Chiocci shares her account of her co-captain’s rise to stardom, which has culminated in being recognised as this year’s AFLW Players’ MVP.

Before the season started, I sensed that Bri was going to take her game to another level.

She got her body right and came back really fit after lockdown, so it came as no surprise that Bri elevated her game to new heights this year.

We knew we hit the jackpot when Bri came to Collingwood two years ago.

We had lost some players in the season prior to that, so to get someone of her calibre — a best-and-fairest winner, an All Australian, a leader — across to the club was super exciting.

It takes a lot to stop her. I’ve seen her storm through one, two, three tackles and dish the ball out, and not many girls can do that. Then you’ll see her smothering the ball, laying a tackle herself, and it inspires the girls.

She is resilient, and very dedicated to her own craft. She’s been tasked with adversity and tough times over her journey through injury, but she’s persevered to piece together this amazing season.

She picks us up on her shoulders and says ‘Girls, come with me’.

She leads by example and she’s really personable.

Then, when it comes to game day, she’s so focused on her own performance because she knows it will lift the group. If she’s playing well, we’re usually playing well.

The girls adore her, she is a great person to be around. She’s very caring and loves to get around the group.

Sharing the captaincy with Bri is like a breath of fresh air. Initially, a lot of people would have thought we were chalk and cheese. We play quite differently, but we’re very similar in terms of our care for the group and care for each other.

“She picks us up on her shoulders and says ‘Girls, come with me’”.

We’ve got a special bond.

She gets the best out of me and I like to think I get the best out of her. We’re forever bouncing ideas off each other, we’re usually on the same wavelength and united in our approach to different scenarios.

There is an age gap there, and we’ve come from different experiences in our past, but we certainly get along really well off the field. I consider her a very good friend to me, and I’m sure she feels the same way.

She can switch off; she has a great work-life balance which I think is really important.

She’s studying to be a teacher at the moment and knows when to look after herself, but also when it’s time to come into the club and work hard.

She’s very sociable, likes to get around her friends, spends a lot of time with her partner and is very family orientated.

Family… it’s one of our values and something we’ve worked towards with our coach, Steve Symonds.

Bri and I are both pretty big on making sure it’s authentic and organic, which is something we’re striving towards, and it feels that way.

We’re a very close-knit playing group. A lot of people say that, but I’m being genuine. That family feel is coming to fruition.

Bri’s move to the club last year was seamless, but she said it herself; she was trying to find her feet and feel her way through the new environment and teammates. She’s not an extrovert, in fact, she’s quite introverted at times. Her growth from last year has been enormous. We are so fortunate she’s here.

It’s an environment she’s been able to thrive in, and I have no doubt that she can continue to build.

If you’re comfortable, you’re valued and you work hard like Bri, the sky is the limit.

She’s very vocal and has a strong voice, which makes the team better. She’s not afraid to make the hard calls and call girls out.

She’s been known to give a spray or two on the field, but it’s always very well received because you know her intentions are to improve the team. I’ve been on the receiving end of a spray from her, and I absolutely respect that.

We usually have a giggle after the game because she ends up apologising for it, but we absolutely love it because we know it will continue to make us better!

I’m extremely proud of Bri, but not surprised she has won this award.

I’ve seen the work she puts into her craft and commitment to her teammates to be the best that she can be. She’ll continue to build upon this form into the future.

I hope that one day, she will be a premiership captain for this footy club. If it’s not in my time, then I’m looking forward to the day she can lead this team to the ultimate success.