There’s something different about Darcy Moloney this pre-season.

The 18-year-old walks around the club with a smile from ear-to-ear; her confidence is sky-high and her football is turning heads.

Football is bringing her joy and it’s noticeable. It’s her happy place.

“I reckon it’s (pre-season) going pretty good at the minute,” explains Moloney.

“Definitely a lot better than how I was doing last year and I think as a team we’re doing a lot better.

“I’m enjoying it way more, just loving it, I love being here, I don’t like leaving.”

That's not to say that Moloney’s first season at the Cats went poorly.

The former Geelong Falcons captain, who was taken with the club’s first draft pick in 2020, debuted in Round 1 and played six of a possible nine games.

But Moloney admits that something just didn’t feel right.

“I’m a perfectionist and I have really high standards for myself so I found coming in, especially as a high draft pick, I was like, ‘I have to prove to everyone why I was picked high.

“I said to myself, ‘You have to play Round 1, you have to keep getting picked, you have to get this many disposals, you have to play here.’

“I had these really unrealistic standards and I found that I wasn’t enjoying it.”

Second-year Cats Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney and Carly Remmos running at training at Deakin University's Elite Sporting Precinct.

Following the conclusion of the AFLW season, Moloney decided to explore how she could change the way she approached her footy.

During the VFLW season she sat down and focused on her mindset.

“In VFLW, the pressure’s obviously off you a little bit, so I had a bit more time to be like, ‘I think it’s my mindset’," Moloney said.

“I had a bit more time to put things in place to make sure that next season I wasn’t feeling the same way.

“I know in my head I’ll always work hard, I know I’ll always do that, but the one thing that could possibly keep me back from reaching my full potential is my mindset.

“I just knew I had to get on top of it early, especially early in my career, so I can make the most of my career.”

Darcy Moloney took the opportunity to focus on her mindset during the VFLW season. Photo: Arj Giese

Working with the club’s sports psychologist, Moloney is taking the pressure off herself and instead focusing on the process.

“You know Jess Fitzgerald (Western Bulldogs), Ellie McKenzie (Richmond) had great years in their first year and I was like, ‘I want to do that, I want to be really good in my first year, I want to surprise everybody,’ and I expected it all to happen in one year," Moloney said.

“But everybody’s journey is different.

“I think for me it’s going to take me a while to reach my full potential and if I just keep putting in the hard yards now it’s going to be so rewarding when it finally does happen.

“I just need to enjoy the process and enjoy working hard.”

She has also found an ally in teammate Georgie Rankin.

Darcy Moloney says Georgie Rankin (left) has been a great support this pre-season.

“She’s (Georgie) someone that’s always there for a chat, always there for me to talk to," Moloney said.

“Sometimes I’ll be really frustrated in a drill and all I have to do is look at her and she’ll give me a look and I’ll be like, ‘It’s ok’ and I’ll be good to go sort of thing.

“I think Georgie’s been a lot of help but there’s a lot of people that have really helped me.”

Moloney and her team have been working extremely hard this pre-season and the Colac local is excited for what’s to come in 2022.

“I think we’re looking really good, I’m excited," she said.

“I think all the changes we’ve made this year are really positive and it's really predictable.

“Everyone’s flying on the track and training really well so I’m really excited.”