Back-to-back flags incentivise Metcalfe

IN the final 30 seconds of the 2022 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Grand Final, North Adelaide defender Ella Metcalfe could hardly believe what she was witnessing. Despite the Roosters going into the decider as favourites after having the week off following a victory against Sturt in the qualifying final, they were jumped early by a red-hot Double Blues outfit. Slowly but surely they worked their way back into the contest to run over the top of their opponents and celebrate a memorable premiership.

“It was like the last 30 seconds and us defenders were on the ground and it was down in our forward end,” Metcalfe said. “It was very surreal, because we were down for half the game and then in order to get back up it was all the girls in the backline were cheering before the siren even went. It was good, a very special moment.”

Despite still being down at the final break, the Roosters had edged to within two points after being down by as much as 21 points just 47 seconds into the second term. From that point on, North Adelaide booted 6.5 to 0.2 to run away with a 7.6 (48) to 4.6 (30) win, including three unanswered goals in the last term.

“At three quarter time Krissie (Steen, head coach) just 100 per cent backed us in,” Metcalfe said. “She knew that what we needed to do and I think we all just came out and we were just like ‘alright we can do this’. We know what Krissie’s told us what we need to know, and we just put it into play and it paid off.”

Metcalfe is a relative newcomer to football, having only been playing a few seasons, and going from untapped talent to premiership player. Turning 21 next month, the defender is still young in footballing terms, and has gone all in with her football.

“Started back in 2020 was my first season,” Metcalfe said. “I was at local club Broadview and the next year in 2021 I got into the list for North and then I was playing netball and tennis still at the time. Then in the 2022 season I decided to put everything towards footy and more time into it.

“I think it’s because I got to see such a professional environment at North. It was a good way to push myself and work harder. I just enjoyed being around all the girls and the skill base of it. I think it’s good and it’s nice and different compared to netball and tennis.”

Metcalfe admitted there was a lot more running with football, but she enjoyed the extra kilometres in the legs, which helped her with her own personal fitness. She immediately loved the professionalism of the Roosters and the “push” to make every player better. That competitiveness meant Metcalfe always felt in danger of losing her spot in the side.

“I think every week I was like ‘am I going to be able to make the team?’,” Metcalfe said. “I think as the games went on, my confidence got a bit better and I wasn’t so ‘if I stuff up, if I try and take it on, if I’m going to get caught, is that something that’s going to hurt me getting a position?’ but nah it was good.”

Unfortunately Roosters co-captain Erin Sundstrom went down with a dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury mid-season, then in better news youngster Amelie Borg was drafted to Port Adelaide, meaning restricted time throughout the 2023 season. That opens the door for Metcalfe to have an increased role as she looks to improve yet again this season.

“I think this season with so many people getting drafted and injuries I think I’m needing to step up more in a leader in the backline,” Metcalfe said. “Use my voice a bit more and I think that’s something that my defence coach really wants me to work on because I’m not the most vocal person on the ground, but I think trying to stick to playing behind the ball and cutting off, that would probably be something I would like to do.”

In the upcoming season, Metcalfe will look to live up to the club’s mantra to be daring and take the game on, using her strengths of reading the play and intercepting to best impact for her side.

“I want to be able to set up more attacking from the half-back line and try and just be more aggressive in the way that I play because I know that I’m quite in my shell a bit and kind of just go to the first or whoever I think is the best option, but instead try and go for a bit more,” Metcalfe said.

“I love a good overhead mark and I’ll always push myself to go for it and have a leap, and just disposal with foot. I think especially this preseason I’ve been trying to work on getting that accuracy in my kick and getting it low and direct a lot more. I want to work on that.”

After tasting premiership success in 2022, there is little doubt about what the Roosters talent is eyeing off in 2023.

“Back-to-back premiers would be ideal and also just to grow as a squad,” Metcalfe said. “Just keep building because we just came back from preseason camp and just growing on the connection that we will have as a team, both our League and our reserves team just getting the atmosphere in the club going as well.”

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