Leadership isn't something that Rosie Dillon actively seeks out, but it continues to find her.
The 2020 joint Best & Fairest was voted into St Kilda’s Emerging Leaders group – a new addition to its leadership model this pre-season – alongside Tarni White and Nicola Xenos late last year, marking her first official leadership role at the club.
Dillon previously served as co-vice-captain of Hawthorn’s VFLW side in 2019, stepping into the role after “pull[ing] her finger out” to get in shape and piece together a campaign which ultimately saw her drafted to the Saints.
The Emerging Leaders group will accompany St Kilda’s streamlined leadership team led by captain Hannah Priest, vice-captains Kate Shierlaw and Rhi Watt, Tilly Lucas-Rodd and newcomer Bianca Jakobsson.
“You look at those girls and you see them and know them as your leaders. You definitely view them in every aspect of their life as being elite and being able to lead,” Dillon told saints.com.au.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot of mature leaders – not saying that I’m not mature, but I’m not quite there yet! – in the core leadership group and I think Tarni, Nic and I bring a bit of diversity and a fresh perspective to that.
“We obviously have a lot to learn and a lot to learn from those women, but at the same time I don’t think we should completely change who we are. That roughness around the edges is always authentic, so I think that’s something good to bring to the table.”
While Dillon says the edges will be buffed out in time, being able to come into the leadership group during the formative stages of her career will be beneficial in the long run.
That rawness – and even “immaturity” in terms of experience compared to the rest of the leadership group – hasn’t shown on-field for Dillon, whose voice at stoppage and around the ground is held in high regard by her teammates.
The 25-year-old strung together a solid display last Friday against Richmond (10 disposals, five clearances, one goal) in what was her first game following pre-season ankle surgery.
“I guess I’m pretty honoured to be thought of in that way,” Dillon said.
“I just enjoy playing football and I have a lot to say out on the field. I think the girls notice that a bit, so I reckon that’s where that (nomination to the Emerging Leaders group) has come from.
“I wish I was pretty vocal towards the opposition, but unfortunately I’m not brave enough for that, especially facing the likes of Emma Kearney through the middle.”
The tenacious midfielder will be joined by Nicola Xenos in the club’s Emerging Leaders group, whose connection with the young winger predates being drafted to the Saints.
Dillon served as Xenos’ backline coach at Oakleigh Chargers for two seasons before the pair both ended up at St Kilda just three selections apart at pick No. 24 and No. 27 respectively at the 2019 AFL Women's Draft.
“It’s been a nice journey with Nic. She definitely listens a lot more than when I was her coach,” Dillon laughed.
“In our first pre-season at the Saints it was a bit strange. It was hard to change over that relationship into (that of) a teammate and even a mate, but over the past two seasons – especially being in rehab together – we’ve been brought a lot closer and I can call her a mate now.
“She likes my stupid jokes and she talks to me, so I really like that!
“Personally, in my view of Nic, and Tarni as well, they just let their actions speak so loudly. The way they hold themselves around the club... they put themselves in the best possible position to get a role like the one they’ve got.”
As to whether they’re similar traits which saw Dillon's teammates nominate her for a place in the Emerging Leaders group?
“I hope so, but I think that’s just being a good teammate. It goes hand-in-hand for me.”