As the reigning AFLW Best and Fairest winner, and the most experienced player on Brisbane's list, Ally Anderson would be forgiven for carrying some ego. That, however, couldn't be further from the truth. 

It's been a long seven months since the medal was placed around Anderson's neck. In that time the woman who did the placing, Emily Bates, has journeyed south for a new opportunity, breaking up one of the longest midfield partnerships in the competition.  

But it's a chance for a new start, for both players. 

"I've been playing with Emily for seven years, and even longer in the state system," Anderson told

"I really miss her, and I miss that vibe that we have, but we're still friends… so no bad vibes there." 

An unexpected problem that Bates' absence has thrown up, however, is Anderson's pre-game warm-up routine. 

"She was my warm-up buddy," Anderson said.  

"Every game we would do a very specific warm-up, so I was really sad. We had a practice match, or not a practice match just like a little mini game a couple of months ago… I think I was on the bus, and I was like 'what I do?'" 

"I recruited one of the girls, Jade Ellenger, and she was happy to do the warm-up. So now she's stuck with me for the season. Yeah, I'm very specific about it." 

Not long after the conversation, Anderson and Ellenger could be seen working through an almost ritualistic warm-up before their training session began. 

Another partnership that Anderson developed in the off season was sessions with running powerhouse Orla O'Dwyer. As a result, Anderson shaved a massive 30 seconds off her best 2km time.

"It is about improving yourself and I think I've come back from my nice little break and gotten a lot better in terms of my fitness and strength. It's something that I am always looking to work on." 

"I feel like a lot of that was also running with Orla in the preseason," she added with a chuckle. 

That physical improvement has been supported by a proper off season, one that was much needed after two seasons in 2022, both of which Anderson's Lions pushed deep into finals. 

"I think that having like six months off, and a few months I went overseas for it, so just feeling really refreshed, coming back and yeah, all the girls are the same. We just feel refreshed," Anderson said. 

Jetting to Europe just a week after November's Grand Final loss, there hasn't been much chance to dwell on the bad, or the good. Just to get away from footy for a little while. 

A third Grand Final loss, while painful, offers motivation for this season. And the best and fairest win is a reminder that Anderson's best footy emerges when she's working for her teammates. 

"There is obviously that bit of pressure of, you know, I just want to perform again and just be consistent for my team. I think as long as I have that sort of mindset, that 'for the team' mindset, then I don't really feel like that pressure will affect me." 

And now it's the beginning of a new era at the Lions. New facility, new-look team, and a desire to get back on top. 

"This is my eighth season at the club. It just feels totally different, and in a really good way."