Invited to test at Combine

Bunbury football product and former South West Academy of Sport athlete Ella Smith has enjoyed a breakout year, after seeing opportunity in adversity. The Claremont football star is now firmly on the road to the AFLW after being invited to trial at the Combine taking place in WA, ahead of next month’s NAB AFLW Draft. 

If there was a silver lining to the COVID-19 shutdown for AFLW draft prospect Ella Smith, it was having more time to zero in on her fitness.

After losing her job, the young leader spent her days in lockdown running and surfing in between studying towards a primary education degree through Curtin University.

The former South West Academy of Sport athlete will now head into the NAB AFLW Draft Combines in top condition, after being one of 12 WA women selected to test at the State Combine taking place in Perth on Wednesday September 30.

“It was a blessing in disguise really,” Smith said of the lockdown.

“It gave me a bit more time to really focus in on my fitness and now I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, the strongest I’ve ever been.”

It has undoubtedly been a breakthrough year for the young leader, who was voted in as captain for the Claremont Tigers, which compete in the West Australian Football League Women’s competition.

“I was just so grateful,” Smith said.

“It is a huge opportunity, especially as I was just 19 when I got voted in. That is pretty young to lead a club.”

Smith has long been a trailblazer. As a 16-year-old Bunbury schoolgirl, she created history by being the first female to earn a place in the South West Academy of Sport’s football program.

She encourages young women aspiring to the sport’s greatest stage to make the most of the opportunities that come their way.

“The talent pathway for female footy has increased and it is only going to get better and better,” Smith said.

“So, I guess, take every opportunity that’s thrown at you, especially the resources you’ve got now, the level of coaches you’ve got development wise.

“Use the people you’ve got, use the resources you’ve got.”

Smith, who is now back working, is thankful for the opportunity that Claremont has given her and praised the team and supportive leadership group she is part of.

“This year, we’ve really focused in on our family at the club and I think that is such a strong attribute that most clubs need to be successful,” Smith said.

“There hasn’t really been many hard challenges with conflict or anything because the team is just so mature and everyone just wants to get better.”

Pictures: Tony Lendrum