FOR MANY years now, Ella Roberts has carried the nickname and the pressure of being one of the best youth footballers in the country.
The Peel Thunder product, from Margaret River, was named player of the 2021 NAB AFLW Under-19 Championships ahead of his 17th birthday.
The striker/midfielder stole the show aged just 15 in the WAFLW Grand Final, scoring twice in Peel’s maiden women’s triumph.
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“I guess it was a bit of a pressure this year, having to keep this consistent good footy going. I just think if you’re playing your best footy, nothing else matters,” Roberts said. women.afl.
“I was lucky enough to win MVP last year, I think it was a bit of a fluke, I’m not going to lie, but I just tried not to put pressure on myself. and to maintain a constant high level.”
To make matters more difficult, Roberts started the season on the sidelines, having fractured his left ankle in three places late last year.
The surgery wasn’t necessary, but the moon boot and subsequent crutches were frustrating for the active 17-year-old.
“I broke my left ankle playing association basketball, just a stupid touchdown, and broke it in three places,” she said.
“It wasn’t great, but I had three months without contact, then I got back into it a while ago, and it was so good. I missed football so much.
“It was super boring. I didn’t really want to play, but mom said I had to stay in shape in the offseason, so I kinda blame her,” she concluded with a laugh.
Roberts is one of four, with an older brother and two younger ones, and the crazy family of six from Fremantle made the permanent switch from Margaret River to Perth this year.
This meant a new SEDA school for year 12.
“My dad also worked in Perth, so there were a number of reasons, but football was probably the main one. The family was in on it too. I feel a little guilty, but they love it,” Roberts said.
“My older brother is, in a way, like my best friend. I wanted to be like him when I was younger, that’s why I started playing football (Auskick in Margaret River), following his tracks.
“My two younger brothers, love them a lot, they also play football. There’s a lot of football in the house, mum and dad love it, we probably talk about it every day. Lots of sports, and lots of football.”
Roberts is an incredibly complete player, a solid contested mark at 175cm, clean at ground level and an explosive midfielder around the saves when needed.
But she’s not perfect.
Looking ahead to last year’s Under-19 Championships clash with Vic Metro, Roberts realized she had brought the wrong hotel duffel bag to Trevor Barker Oval.
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She managed to shake off the pre-game panic to finish with 31 eliminations, six inside 50s and two goals.
“I had another bag, I opened it and my laptop was there. My heart sank, I was freaking out a bit, I think I shed a few tears and thought I didn’t. wasn’t going to play, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to pick him up,” she said.
“I left my football boots, my jersey, my shorts, my warm-up top, everything at the hotel. They had to take a taxi to collect it. Two minutes before the rebound, it arrived. I was so stressed, but you have to block that stuff and focus on the game.”