Adelaide’s Eloise Jones might not look it, but she is one of the most experienced players in the AFLW.
At just 22-years-old and with 34 games played, she’s now one of the competition’s most well-journeyed. The current record is held by teammates Stevie-Lee Thompson and Ebony Marinoff, who’ve played 44 games each as of Round 3.
It’s helping her brilliant start to the season, feeling more confident in her role every time she walks out onto the field.
Watching the likes of Jasmine Simmons, Teah Charlton, Abbie Ballard and Hannah Munyard come through has changed her perspective and approach in her place in the team.
“It’s a bit strange, I’m one of the old girls,” Jones told media on Monday.
“I know, I’m 22 now, so in the overlook of things you feel a little bit older. But it probably steps in a bit more with our younger girls coming through.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the system for a couple of years now, and just watching the development of those girls come through as well.
“Emotionally I’m not really mature, I’m still a kid at heart. But when you do step onto the field you still feel like you’ve got a role to play.
“There’s definitely girls on the team that I do look up to and would love to learn more off. In retrospect I’m more of a middle-age you could say!”
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While Jones has traditionally played as a half-forward flanker, responsible for linking up play by foot between the midfield and forward line, this season she’s found the ball in her hands more often.
She broke her disposal record in the Round 1 win over Brisbane with 16 touches, and followed it up by doing the same against West Coast in Round 3 with 20.
Part of that has come from her own improvement, while the other part of it has been a structural change from coach Matthew Clarke.
Thompson has taken up a permanent post as a winger after spending her first five seasons bouncing between the forward and back lines. Erin Phillips has struck a greater balance between her time in the centre bounce and her role as a lead-up centre half forward, averaging just over 17 disposals, seven marks, and having kicked one goal in three matches.
It’s given Jones more of a chance to be more assured in her own role, regaining confidence while also relying on the support of her star teammates.
“20 disposals is the most I’ve ever gotten into my whole entire life, so I was obviously happy with that result!” Jones laughed as she reflected on the win over the Eagles.
“I came off the back of shoulder surgery a couple of months ago, and I think I worked really hard in rehab on that. I called mum and dad after the game and mum goes, ‘why don’t you bloody play like that [every] week?
“This year we’ve seen people slot into different roles and take them on board and really excel in them.
“Doc’s [Clarke] been really good at shuffling people around and giving them opportunity in every spot. People are starting to settle in and find their home on the field.
“I’ve really enjoyed the winger role up there. Stevie’s a fantastic person and player, and to learn off her has been really exciting for me.
“Flip [Phillips] as well, she’s got heaps of knowledge, that old lady. She’s been really exciting to learn off as well.”
Adelaide will next face off against fellow unbeaten side Melbourne at Norwood Oval on Saturday, January 29 per current fixturing.
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