15/04/2024

Ellie Blackburn is the first Bulldog to reach 50 games. (Photo: Western Bulldogs)

An inaugural member of the Western Bulldogs and the AFLW, Ellie Blackburn becomes the club’s first player to hit the 50-game milestone.

When the skipper leads her squad out on Friday against Fremantle, she’ll be making history.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, there was plenty to reflect on from her seven seasons so far, but Blackburn was mostly proud of how far she’d come.

She was signed to the Bulldogs as one of two marquee players, alongside now Tigers captain Katie Brennan.

A largely soft-spoken 21-year-old, who’d been toiling away for Melbourne University in the VWFL while featuring in exhibition games, it’s been an unforgettable journey from then to now.

“I’ve changed a heap, particularly as a leader… it’s something that the club’s really supported me well in,” Blackburn said.

“I’ve got tons of support around me to help me be the best leader and player I can.

“I’ve grown up a lot with this football club… and it definitely feels like home for me being here. I’m so grateful for the opportunity that the football club gave me to start off with.”

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Blackburn set the league on fire from day one, playing every game across her first two seasons.

She was one of the game’s marquee midfielders from the jump, demonstrating her trademark burst out of contests on the way to monster 27 and 26 disposal games.

Even in those early 2017 days, Blackburn was turning games on their head. She kicked three goals in a slim loss to Carlton, nearly willing her team back into the contest herself.

But the obvious standout to supporters and players alike was the 2018 Grand Final, where the club claimed its maiden AFLW premiership.

Alongside a teenager by the name of Monique Conti and now North Melbourne skipper Emma Kearney, she battled against a benchmark Brisbane midfield to claim the cup.

“Playing in a grand final and winning that was pretty remarkable,” Blackburn said.

Though the premiership was undoubtedly special, you never forget your first game. Pulling on the red, white and blue in game one in front of a home crowd will forever remain special.

“I’ve got really strong memories of the first game we ever played at Whitten Oval, it was a packed crowd, 10 thousand people… against Fremantle on a Saturday night,” she recalled.

“It was a beautiful evening there. Winning that game of footy was pretty special to be a part of.”

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While back then, she was an excited youngster who just wanted to play as many games as possible, growing into her leadership has seen the game take on a new side for her.

Watching young players develop across the year and sharing the occasion with teammates means more and more each season.

“There’s been a number of moments throughout my career, witnessing some girls debut,” Blackburn said.

“Some of the magical moments… the Adelaide game last season for us was pretty special for us to be a part of.

“I’d love for someone like Lamby [Kirsty Lamb] to be [hitting the milestone] with me, she’s one game shy. I’m really proud to be the first Bulldogs player to reach 50 games.

“To wear the colours out there on my milestone is something I’m really excited about.”

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