Geelong Cats 2024 VFLW Leadership Group (left to right): Abby Favell, Liv Stewart, Poppy Schaap. Photo: Arj Giese

Geelong has unveiled a three-person leadership group for its VFLW program in 2024, with Poppy Schaap, Liv Stewart and Abby Favell set to lead the way.

All three players will share the load, with no formal captain or vice-captains named among the group.

Schaap and Favell were part of the leadership group last season, while Stewart has impressed with her growth as a player and leader to be added to the group in just her second season of VFLW football.

Schaap, a former Geelong Falcon and Vic Country representative, spent two seasons with Carlton’s AFLW program in 2022, before returning to Geelong in 2023 to join its VFLW program.

The skilful midfielder/forward has shown great leadership since joining the Cats, rallying her teammates on and off the field, and setting the standard at training.

Favell impressed in her first season at Geelong after crossing from Box Hill, finishing runner-up in the Club’s best and fairest award and receiving the 2023 Deakin University den Hollander Geelong Cats VFLW Scholarship.

A hardworking midfielder, Favell’s breakout season was recognised more broadly when she was also named in the initial squad of 30 for the VFLW Team of the Year.

Stewart, who made her debut in Round 11 last year, has impressed with how she has taken her game to a new level over the pre-season.

The former Western Australian has well and truly found her footing in her new state and new league, and has impressed with her work ahead of the ball how she rallies the group on and off the field.

Geelong VFLW Senior Coach Elise Coventry said Favell, Schaap and Stewart all emerged as clear leaders during the player-and-staff nomination process.

“As we went through the results of that, it became really clear who our top three leaders were, as recognised by the group, and then also how clear it was in their reasoning for it,” Coventry said.

“All three bring different reasons to why they’re such strong leaders. Amongst that group, they’re really even across the board and have so many different strengths.

“So rather than appointing just one of them to lead the group, the three of them will do it as a team and bring their strengths together and become a really strong group.”

Coventry said that Schaap had made the most of her pre-season after an injury-interrupted 2023 and was shaping to have a great season as a player as well as a leader.

“Poppy leads the group from what she does with her actions, but also her voice. She’s confident with what she says and does. She doesn’t overdo it, when she does speak, the girls stop and listen,” Coventry said.

“It’s not just the motivational side of things, she knows her footy really well and is a student of the game. You can tell she brings information from lots of different places to try to make herself and the group better.”

Favell joined the Cats' AFLW program as a train-on partner last year and will be a great connector between the VFLW-listed and AFLW-listed Cats.

“Abby is a quiet achiever, so she’s not the one that will stand in front of the group and speak to them, but she will lead by example and then quietly get around her teammates to support them and help them with their growth,” Coventry said.

“What she does on the track sets a great example. From as soon as she arrives to when she leaves, she does every little bit she can to get better. She is now broadening out and helping her teammates do that as well.”

Coventry said Stewart had started showing signs of the leader she could be halfway through last season as she settled into her new home in Victoria.

“The feedback from the playing group was just that she is so empowering, supports them and makes everyone feel welcome,” Coventry said.

“That’s important, because it’s a very fluid group, the VFLW. We have players from Coates League come in and out, we have players from AFLW come in and out, and Liv just makes sure that every time players come in and out of the program, they feel part of it and it’s a comfortable place for them to be.

“Her footy has come a long way as well. She obviously got a feel for it last year and understood it a bit more. Liv has had a massive pre-season, looks really fit and strong, so keen to see what she does on the footy field as well.”

Geelong’s VFLW team opens its 2024 campaign against Carlton this Saturday at GMHBA Stadium, as part of a double-header with the Cats’ VFL team, with first bounce at 11.15am.