Dual sport Smith looking to juggle loves

BRISBANE Lions Academy talent Ella Smith is looking to follow both her sporting passions into the future, with the high-level athlete excelling at both Australian rules football and rowing. Having to juggle them currently – with the latter causing her to miss the final AFLW Under 18 Championships match – Smith has found a good balance to work between them. Her football journey is just over five years old and she has certainly made impressive strides.

“I started back in I think it was 2016,” Smith said. “Just playing at my local club at Sandgate Hawks and played all my junior footy there and then I came across to Aspley, so got some chosen rep teams along the way … and then for the past two years now I’ve played in the Under 19 Lions Academy team and the Under 17s as well. “Then all through this year working hard with that and my other sport rowing that I do, so just to do where I am here now.”

Smith was the sole Brisbane Lions Academy member in the AFLW Academy, joining two other Queenslanders in the exclusive squad. The hard-nosed midfielder with a high endurance level said she had loved learning under incoming Port Adelaide coach and Brisbane Lions premiership player Lauren Arnell, as well as former Gold Coast and Collingwood AFL Men’s player Sam Iles in the Queensland squad.

“We’ve been coached by amazing people like Loz Arnell who’s now gone to Port Adelaide so that was really good to have that level of knowledge above us and just learning more things,” Smith said. “With Sammy (Iles) again, just really good to get more development.”

Joining up with the Gold Coast Academy to form the Queensland squad has been a really enjoyable experience for Smith who thrives playing with like-minded players hoping to become the best possible footballers they can be.

“It’s good being able to have a massive group of girls of who all are so similar, and really want to play hard and go to the next level with their footy, so it’s good to make new friends who are from everywhere around the state,” Smith said.

Having cut her teeth as an inside midfielder over the years, Smith has been mostly utilised in an outside role in 2022, to add an extra string to her bow, and to tempt her into using her speed to best impact a gmae.

“I’ve played a good bit on the wing, most of it has been on the wing actually, just using my endurance and really trying to work on that outside footy,” she said. “I love going through the mid as well just trying to get in and under. Just more versatility is always good.

“I think just really backing myself and backing my speed (is an improvement),” Smith said. ‘I’ve got really good endurance but sometimes I just don’t back myself to just straight out of a contest to get forward. “So to have more belief in myself and knowing what I can do good.”

Alongside her endurance, Smith said she had a neat left foot kick and was able to consistently get to the right spots to best use it, but was hoping to add more metres gained to her football.

As for inspirations in her football journey, the midfielder turned to her family and those around her who helped her along the way.

“Family wise, my brother and my dad have played footy all their lives and everything and my grandad, and my uncle as well,” Smith said. “Having knowledge from everywhere has been able to help me develop. “Just playing with such good girls, especially last year lots have been drafted now. So to know now that’s the next stage that can happen, it’s really good.”

As for her future, Smith is hoping to continue along the same path she has travelled thus far, and achieve as much as she can in both her sporting pursuits.

“Definitely to be drafted is my number one preference, that would be the main goal, and then also backing into rowing as well, so I’ve got a lot in that as well, but definitely getting drafted this year is the main goal,” Smith said.

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