Portaro aims to take game to “next level”

TOP-AGE Eagle Bianca Portaro is enjoying a promising start to the 2024 SANFL Women’s season, and is hoping to build that consistency throughout the year to give herself the best chance at reaching the top level.

A midfielder at junior level, Portaro is gradually returning to her roots in the Woodville-West Torrens midfield after starting the year inn her familiar defensive SANFLW role. In her first four rounds, Portaro has averaged 12.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 5.8 tackles and 2.0 inside 50s as the Eagles started the year with a 1-3 win-loss record.

Portaro said she was looking forward to rolling through the Eagles’ midfield at times this season, having spoken to Woodville-West Torrens coach Narelle Smith about the plan over the preseason.

“I used to play midfield, but everyone sort of does in the junior league,” Portaro said. “Playing defence I actually really enjoy it watching the ball and just coming off.

“I’ve also been speaking with Narelle that I’m going to move into the mid a little bit this year and have some mid minutes so I’m really excited for that as well but I liked that I learnt defence first and now I have the opportunity to play both as midfield is a very generic position for every young teen to want to play.”

Portaro’s start in Australian rules football is not too dissimilar to many, having grown up with a football mad family where he father and brother played. Unfortunately the future Eagle did not have a girls team to join at age 11 which was ultimately what both her and her father wanted over joining a mixed team.

Instead of missing out on the opportunity, the Portaro family took it on their own bat to start a team which allowed the youngster to chase her dream in the sport she loved.

“At my junior football club, Fitzroy we didn’t have a women’s team so me and my dad started up a team and we won the grand final in the first year so it was really good,” Portaro said. “First junior years I always played up so I was always the younger player and then I won a premiership with my sister and my cousins and my dad as the coach so it was really good.”

From there, Portaro moved into the Eagles’ Under 16s and eventually the senior squad. After playing half the season in Development League and then seniors in 2022, Portaro played 11 of 12 matches last season, and her form earned her a spot in the extended State Academy squad for 2024.

“That was very exciting,” Portaro said of her State Academy invitation. “Because I really want to take my footy to the next level and potentially get drafted, so being in that gives me the opportunity to get looked at by scouts and just getting my name out into the system really.”

A Port Adelaide supporter Portaro looks up to former men’s skipper and 350-gamer Travis Boak for his strong leadership and his heart, traits that the blossoming Eagle hopes to replicate in her footy.

“He’s played so much footy because he’s looked after himself very well,” Portaro said. “I like to aspire to play a bit like Sam Powell-Pepper in and under, hard at the footy just throwing your body on the line.”

Uniquely, Portaro is left-handed but right-footed which has brought about it’s own challenges. Gradually learning to get on top of the right ball drop, the Woodville-West Torrens teenager said she did not know any different as she just followed her initial teammates when first picking up a ball.

“I just started kicking on my right because everyone else was doing it,” Portaro said. “I can still kick on my left stationary, but it takes that extra thought piece to do it.”

Developing that area, along with her fitness are ways she has looked to improve over the off-season and maintain the momentum throughout 2024. As for her strengths, Portaro said her repeated efforts, speed and aggression were the traits she was most proud of.

As for the greatest influence in her career, it was a no-brainer with her father and grandfather both supporting her from the start.

“They’re very strong footy fans, they played SANFL themselves,” Portaro said. “They’re always around me, ringing me, got to strive hard and put in the hard work and they’re always around supporting me.”

In 2024, Portaro is hoping to take her game to the next level and reach the AFL Women’s. However in the mean time, spending more time on-ball and making the final cut for the State Academy squad are the short to medium-term goals.

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