FROM a young age, if Charlie Rowbottom wanted to get her hands on a ball to play any sport, she had to fight for it.

With her father and older brother James, who has now played 93 games for Sydney over five seasons, both sports mad, nothing was easily given to the ultra-competitive Rowbottom.

"There was a bit of piggy in the middle, and I was mostly the pig," the 20-year-old chuckled during the week.

Although it was undoubtedly an annoyance at the time, it fostered a drive in the former No.1 draft pick that has seen her ascend to one of the game's premier midfielders in just her third season.

Ahead of facing Greater Western Sydney in a critical round nine clash at Heritage Bank Stadium on Friday night, Rowbottom is currently the No.1 clearance and contested possession player in the League and No.2 for tackles.

The pack behind her contested ball-winning ability includes League best-and-fairest winners Bri Davey, Maddy Prespakis and Emily Bates.

And although Rowbottom’s powerful 179cm frame is a nice asset, that's just a small part of the package that has seen her rapid improvement.

Gold Coast midfield coach Sam Iles told Rowbottom had a drive to succeed like few others her age.

"She's always reaching out for extras," Iles said.

"Not just extra skills, but extra vision, watching AFLW players, watching AFL men's players, asking questions like, 'What do I do here?'

"She's just got such a drive to be the best player. She might not say that, but for me that's why she does it. 

"She loves playing footy and wants to be one of the best players and she's so driven to get herself there."

He's right, Rowbottom doesn't want to say it. In fact, she's beyond deferential when asked about her ability and rapid success.

She points to her midfield teammates in Claudia Whitfort, Lucy Single and Alison Drennan as major contributors to her individual impact.

But there's no escaping the competitiveness.

"I've been pretty aggressive to the ball my whole life, no matter what sport I've played," she says.

"Footy is really good for that because you can tackle, unlike netball or basketball (which she played as a junior).

"Growing up in a competitive sport environment with an older brother, and younger sister, there's always competitive backyard rivalry."

Iles has worked with her since the day she got to the SUNS just on two years ago.

Rowbottom, who chose to nominate Gold Coast rather than stay in Victoria, was talented and quickly displayed she had the work ethic to match.

This season she has been incredibly consistent, currently in equal seventh in the AFL Coaches Association's AFLW Champion Player of the Year Award, and only once gathering less than 23 disposals in a game (when she had 19 in a win over Collingwood).

"She's powerful, she's physical, she's competitive," Iles said.

"But I think the thing that puts her above a lot of the other players in the comp is her clean hands and how good she is around the contest under such high levels of pressure.

"Her ability to keep driving her standards … to fight through close attention rather than complain, she just knows she's got to get better.

"She understands where she wants to get to, but more importantly how she can get there.

"She draws people to her. You're naturally going to draw people to you because you're talented, but she's such a good person and such a good character and has such drive, other players see what she's doing and want to jump on the back of it and do extra, and she'll also grab players and get them to do extras as well."

While the numbers are terrific, perhaps the greatest compliment for the season seven Suns best and fairest comes from her coach Cameron Joyce.

"I think a lot of players just want to play with her," Joyce said.

"She motivates players on the field and off it.

"She does a lot of work in her preparation. I've been rapt in some of her growth and development off the field this year, growing her leadership and support for others."