One of the biggest highlights for the West Coast Eagles this season has been young gun Ella Roberts, who has cemented herself as one of the best young players in the AFLW.
Featuring in 10 games in the royal blue and gold, Roberts proved to be an important part of the Eagles’ forward line. This season she averaged 13.4 disposals, including a career-high 22 disposals in the loss against Melbourne.
Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum, Roberts spoke about her journey to the AFLW as well as her first season at the Eagles.
Roberts started her journey playing at Margaret River south of Perth for most of her junior career before joining the Peel Thunder. What drew Roberts to football was the creative freedom that comes with the sport.
“I think everything about footy,” Roberts told The Inner Sanctum.
“The fact that you can just go out there and get white line fever and kind of just do whatever you want, tackle, you can take an amazing mark or something, the feeling of adrenaline you get.”
Starting at Peel Thunder in the WAFL at the age of 15. The experience of playing against women from such a young age made the jump to the AFLW a little less daunting.
Roberts’ time at Peel was a successful one, winning back-to-back premierships with the club in 2020 and 2021.
“I think having that experience against those bigger bodies definitely put me in a good mindset but obviously the pace in AFLW is a lot quicker and a lot stronger but definitely puts me in good stead,” she said.
“We came from wooden spooners to premiers, so to be able to turn that around in a season and to be premiers and then go back to back was really special.”
Despite growing up a Fremantle supporter, hearing her name being read out on draft night was a huge relief with the pick making the West Coast fanatic Roberts family very happy.
“It was a lot of relief, I had been hoping that West Coast would choose me so it was definitely the best night of my life. It was just so good,” she said.
“My whole family was [West Coast supporters] so they were stoked for me but I had no problem changing from a Freo supporter so that’s alright.”
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There was a familiar face when Roberts joined the Eagles with Peel teammate Kate Bartlett also being picked up. The connection between the pair was on show from the pair’s very first game.
“It’s so good. We link up with each other quite nicely so we know how each other plays so to be able to have two years of experience with each other, I think you can definitely tell in the AFLW games,” Roberts said.
Since joining West Coast, a few of the girls at the club have become mentors for Roberts guiding her through her first AFLW season.
“So far at the club, Bel Lewis and Emma Swanson have been really good for me, taking me under their wing,” she said.
”They’ve taught me so much on the field and off the field so I’ve been really lucky to have them.”
Roberts made her debut back in Round one when the West Coast Eagles took on Port Adelaide at Mineral Resources Park, with her performance one to remember setting up teammate Bartlett for a final quarter goal.
“It was unbelievable, everything I’d hoped it would be. The atmosphere, Port Adelaide’s first ever game so it was really special to be part of history, and to get the four points was an even better way to finish off the day.”
Speaking post-match in the club’s final game for the season against Melbourne, West Coast coach Michael Prior spoke on Roberts’ influence over the season.
In what was a game that the Eagles would rather forget, not managing a goal for the entirety of the game, 17-year-old Roberts was a real standout.
“Ella Roberts has been fantastic for us. If anyone else manages to win the Rising Star [award] ahead of her I’d be absolutely gobsmacked,” Prior said.
“I thought her effort today shows that she’s grown again to play in a forward line and do what she did with the amount of ball that was down there wasn’t very much.
“We thought her efforts were pretty spectacular today.”
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