Captain Campbell like a “proud parent” of AFLW draftees

EARNING the respect of her peers, Eastern Ranges skipper Ava Campbell is no stranger to being around successful players. She has seen a number of teammates rise up to AFL Women’s level over the past 12 months including Mia Busch, Mia Austin and reigning Eastern captain, Bridget Deed. For Campbell, despite being younger than her predecessors, said she feels like a “proud parent” watching them run around at the elite level.

“Honestly you sit back like a proud parent because you’ve seen them at the worst of times and you’ve seen them at the best of times,” Campbell said. “For them to have success and reaching their goals, you have nothing but to feel proud for them. Very excited for what’s to come.”

Coming into the year, Campbell was coming off the back of a big preseason, where she was nominated as the Ranges’ captain. One of the title contenders and running hot undefeated at the first community break, Campbell described the off-season as “unreal” with a different group of players in 2023.

“A lot of our overagers and top-agers were drafted last year or have just stopped playing and got into the VFLW competition,” Campbell said. “The preseason has been unreal, I definitely think it has been different with Trav (Travis Cloke) leaving and Ash (Close) coming in, but he’s brought a really good different aspect to our culture and our community so I’ve been really enjoying it so far.”

In her four games thus far, Campbell averaged 17 disposals, five marks and three rebound 50s, playing in her traditional centre half-back role. Those it was one position she expected to play coming into the season, Campbell said she “won’t be complaining” if Close throws her up the other end.

The 174cm top-ager is no stranger to competing in the defensive half of the ground, with her aerial ability one of her strengths in her game.

“Definitely my marking has improved out of sight,” Campbell said. “I would say that is one of my strengths in the game. My kicking as well, and I think my ability to read the contest. As an athlete I still have to work on the athletic side of things, definitely my endurance and my sprinting and that sort of thing. I think that’s similar to a lot of girls in our age. Definitely improving that athletic side.”

A Collingwood supporter, Campbell said she looks up to the likes of Stacey Livingstone and Ruby Schleicher, with the latter playing a similar offensive half-back role to the Eastern Ranges captain. Over the journey, the wellbeing and coaching staff at the Ranges have provided great mentorship, as well as those closer to home.

“I would go to say my friends and my parents (are my biggest mentors),” Campbell said. Definitely my mum and dad have been my biggest mentors in terms of balancing everything. Obviously I lead a very busy life with Year 12 and footy, and all sorts of commitments so I’d definitely say my parents.”

As for how she feels about the captaincy? Campbell could not be more excited.

“(I’m) Very, very fortunate and as I said it’s a great group of girls and I’m really honoured to be leading them and hopefully we do very well this year,” she said. “But I was very, very excited for that role.”

Eastern Ranges return to the Coates Talent League Girls competition on Sunday, May 28 when they take on Dandenong Stingrays in Frankston.

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