RENEE Saulitis is determined to cement her spot in a St Kilda side aiming to climb the AFLW ladder.
The teenage small forward played three of a possible nine matches for the Saints in her debut season as she adjusted to senior competition.
Now the Warrnambool export is working towards being a regular in the Nick Dal Santo-coached side.
The Saints will host Richmond in the 2022 season-opener at Frankston on Friday night as the competition, in its sixth season, expands to 10 rounds for the first time.
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"I am very excited and we have a new look this year with new coaches and new environment," she told The Standard.
"We have a new playing structure and people playing in different positions as well and the way we move the ball and defend is different.
"I just want to play more games than I did last year and hopefully the quality of those games is better as well.
"It definitely gives you confidence, having had a season under your belt, and you can look back on what you did well and what worked and just go from there."
The AFLW remains a semi-professional competition with players juggling training with other jobs.
Saulitis said as a university student and casual worker packing boxes at a warehouse she could juggle the demands.
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"I am on as a casual at the moment so I am called in whenever is needed and they are pretty flexible with my footy so that's good," she said.
But the former Greater Western Victoria Rebel is eager to see the competition, which will welcome four more teams next year, become a full-time profession.
"The AFLPA have set out what they're trying to achieve in the future, I am not sure exactly what each step is but we're trying to go full-time soon," Saulitis said.
"In the future hopefully I can still be around (in the system) and I can experience that."
Dodging COVID-19 is an added stress for players.
Virus protocols have impacted other summer competitions, such as the Big Bash League and NBL.
Both have postponed games and the NBL has also been forced to put teams, such as Perth Wildcats and New Zealand Breakers, on long road trips due to border restrictions limiting travel into their home bases.
"We're trying to stay away from COVID as much as possible because if you get COVID you have to miss that week's game," Saulitis, who will be used in a forward and wing rotation for the Saints, said.
"It can be tough at times when we have to sit back at home and avoid COVID and go to work and hope to not get COVID as well.
"We're sort of doing all this for a part-time job which is kind of hard for people (who also have full-time professions)."
St Kilda and Richmond enter their round one clash "in a similar boat".
They both finished last season with 3-6 win-loss records, the Tigers edging out the Saints on percentage.
Saulitis said St Kilda, which will play four of its first five games in Victoria, was wary of the Katie Brennan-captained team.
"We expect them to be hard competition and they're sort of at the level we are, only a few wins last season," she said.
"It would be great if we could get the win and gain some confidence for the next few rounds."
The AFLW season-opener will start at 7.15pm Friday and be televised live on Channel 7, Foxtel and Kayo.
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