Port fan Ifould setting “baby steps” for 2023

SOUTH Adelaide top-ager Holly Ifould is not putting too much pressure on herself in her draft year. The hard-running speedy winger came on in leaps and bounds last year, going from virtual unknown, to solidified South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s player. After spending the first fortnight at Development level, Ifould made her senior debut, and then held her place for the next 10 games, even squeezing in a semi-final appearance.

“I was definitely nervous at first,” Ifould said of her debut. “I was like ‘oh my gosh’ I definitely wasn’t expecting it, especially being picked later than everyone else. But it was so good, the vibe was so good, everyone was so uplifting. Had a really good first game so I think that really encouraged me to keep going.”

Ifould is a relative newcomer to the came, first picking up a footy as a “fun thing” during Year 8 in 2019. Though admitting she “wasn’t the greatest” in terms of skill, she worked her way into her local club at Willunga and quickly progressed from juniors into seniors.

“I started there in 17s and halfway through the year I started playing 17s and Opens because we lacked numbers,” Ifould said. “After that season I started one season at club, then got asked to come out for the Development for 16s at South. Initially I didn’t get picked to play seniors until a little bit later, but then came out and I played last season at South. Started off in Development and then I got up to League which I definitely wasn’t expecting to.”

Ifould not only held her place, but was able to contribute on the outside with the 170cm winger averaging the 8.6 disposals, 2.4 marks and 2.3 tackles per game. She saved her best for the two grand finalists, averaging 13 disposals and five marks between Rounds 7 and 9 facing Sturt and North Adelaide. The 17-year-old would play her first senior final in her debut season, and though the Panthers went down to Glenelg, she enjoyed the experience.

“We did try really hard, we knew the competition would be really hard, especially with a young side,” Ifould said. “We almost cracked Glenelg in the second to last round, and that’s who we were versing in the first round (of finals) so that gave us a little bit of hope. Obviously got knocked out, but the vibe was definitely there when we went in, but unfortunately got knocked out.”

Ifould is no stranger to success, having the unique story of winning two flags in one day. First fronting up for the 17s side at Willunga, before also having to step up to the senior team. It was the highlight of her footy career, with another earning the call-up to the State Academy for 2023.

“This is my first time getting to do State Academy, I didn’t get to last year because I came in late,” Ifould said. “I’m keen, I was really happy to find out I’d been nominated into State, which is so cool because this is what I’ve been working to.”

Ifould said though she has traditionally been a winger, she expected to expand her versatility in the upcoming season, spending time both off half-back and inside 50. Her strengths lend to a utility role, while she continues to learn more about the game itself.

“Definitely my speed and my running (are strengths),” she said. “I would like to say I can run pretty far and as a winger I think I can get away from the ball pretty quickly from the contest, so definitely my speed.

“(My improvements are) just a bit of game sense, or just trying out different positions. I love the wing, but I think I can become more versatile with my skills, so definitely going a bit into the forward, a bit into the backline.”

A passionate Port Adelaide fan, Ifould has grown up engrossed with the skill and flair of Robbie Gray, and while she was sad he had retired, was just as excited when the Power’s women’s side entered the AFL Women’s competition.

“It was really cool actually,” Ifould said. “I knew that it was going to take some time for them to build, but I definitely think it was cool just to see how the AFLW league is growing in general. I loved that Port has come into it, means I don’t have to barrack for Crows. But even just having Erin Phillips there and a few of our more older players there, that’s really cool, leading the younger players as well.”

Ifould said her father had the biggest influence on her career, supporting her in the unconventional switch from Calisthenics to Aussie rules football, even coaching her at Willunga. Quick to provide feedback on her game, Ifould said he had been supportive throughout her relatively new junior career. As for the reason behind the switch, she said the community was a “better vibe”.

“We’re not as competitive against each other, we all work together as a team and I really like that, that’s probably my favourite part,” Ifould said. “I was a bit fed up with Calisthenics and really liked footy. I was so glad I’ve come into it and seeing where I’ve come, and all the people and relationships that I’ve made, definitely worth it.”

Entering the 2023 SANFL Women’s season, Ifould has some set goals she can achieve, across both her club and state teams.

“Just to firstly continue playing League,” Ifould said. “I would really like to get into the State and be able to do that, I think that would be really cool. “I think it is my draft year, as much as that would be cool, but I think just baby steps with goals and continue growing my skills rather than setting too higher goals. Just continue to do that and making my goals higher as I go.”

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