Steph Chiocci poses during St Kilda's official team photo day at RSEA Park on August 5, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

INAUGURAL Collingwood AFLW captain Steph Chiocci will face the Pies on Sunday for the first time since crossing to St Kilda.

Alongside her in Saints colours will be three-time Magpies best and fairest Jaimee Lambert, now at her third club after playing season one at the Western Bulldogs.

It'll be a game of mixed emotions, the pair having caught up with a big group of Collingwood players for Sunday night dinner before hostilities commence.

"I'm super excited to be taking on the Pies. We had dinner with a lot of the girls over the weekend, we're still really close friends, and no doubt there'll be a bit of banter, but there's so much respect there," Chiocci told

"Obviously I loved my time there, they're really special people, and the club is so special to me and the people are really special. But to go out there and represent the crest and have a good crack at them, I'm really looking forward to that challenge.

"We know how they want to play, they're a very good team and it'll take our best to beat them, but it'll be a great challenge for our group."


Usually one to let her actions do the talking, a grinning Lambert immediately pointed to Chiocci when asked which of the pair is more likely to get sucked into some push-and-shove with former teammates.

"I wouldn't have thought so, mine'll be a bit of fun. I think they'll try and get stuck into you, 'cos you're the more physical one. I'll just have a laugh, I think," Chiocci responded, only half-indignantly.

The 30-year-old Lambert is now the senior figure in a young and inexperienced midfield.

"Being at Collingwood for six seasons, you get very comfortable, so this was definitely out of my comfort zone. Much like Steph, it was a little bit closer to home, the commute is much nicer," Lambert said.

"I actually played basketball from a very young age with Deanna Jolliffe, so that was cool to come back and play alongside her in a different sport. Just a change of scenery.

"T(yanna) Smith coming back from her knee, Olivia Vesely, but even someone like Hannah Stuart – who's unfortunately just done her knee – this was only her second season.

"There's so much room for improvement from all players in the midfield, the forward line too, and backs like Serene Watson, I feel like I've even taken her under my wing, so it's been good."

Jaimee Lambert celebrates a goal during the match between St Kilda and Port Adelaide at RSEA Park on September 17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Chiocci has held either a sole or joint captaincy role for her seven AFLW seasons, and now slipped into a leadership group position in her first year at St Kilda.

Turning 35 in December, she remarked it was the first time she'd been the oldest in a squad, having been 29 when the AFLW began.

"It was put on me to whether I accept [the leadership role] or not, knowing full well I was coming here to focus on my footy and just help the less experienced players progress in their careers," Chiocci said.

"But it was a no-brainer for me, I said yes and accepted, and I'm really enjoying that, working with some really unique people from unique backgrounds.

"You've got our captain (Hannah Priest) – who only started playing a few years ago and she's a teacher as well (as Chiocci), so we bounce ideas off each other – to Molly McDonald, who's in her fourth year and who's growing every week."

The Saints are 0-3 to start the year, with Collingwood, the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn to come in the next few weeks.

"It's not ideal, but we've been really in it the last two games. North Melbourne was tough, they're going to be a really tough team to beat this year, they're in contention," Lambert said.

"But it was really disappointing losing to Essendon and Port Adelaide, we were in it right till the end, and we just had a lack of composure and lack of experience, which really cost us.

"As we all know, their defensive unit has been unreal for the last however long, but they do have cracks – no Lauren Butler, no Ruby Schleicher (both foot injuries) – and I think their forward line is something we can really attack. Our defence can rebound and drive it forward, and I think it'll be a really good midfield battle, so it'll just be a matter of who can score more goals on the day.

"It's not all doom and gloom, we're in these games. We've got a really exciting game against Collingwood, and bloody oath, we can beat them, so bring on Sunday."