First female to earn a place in football program

Bunbury schoolgirl Ella Smith has made history by being the first female to earn a place in the South West Academy of Sport’s football program.

“It’s very exciting,” Smith said.

“It’s just another learning curve for me and just another step to achieving goals.”

As a SWAS scholarship holder, the trailblazing teenager will receive high-level support to develop as an athlete as she pursues her dream of playing in the AFL Women’s competition.

The 16-year-old will attend specialist training to fine-tune her skills in an elite training environment close to home.

And according to SWAS football head coach Jamie Douse, it’s likely other young women could join Smith in the high-performance football program in the future.

“With the existing talent pool and the growing popularity of female football in the South West, I have no doubt there will be more female athletes offered scholarship opportunities,” Douse said.

“Ella was chosen for the SWAS program because she was selected in the WA female talent academy. She also meets the scholarship selection criteria around character and work ethic.

“Ella has a good level of skill and understanding of AFL, works hard and is always looking to improve on her existing skill set.”

For the Newton Moore Senior High School student, the support from SWAS comes at a time when she is working to progress through football’s ranks.

Though Smith has long shown a love and talent for football – kicking around a footy with her dad and brothers as a youngster, and playing football at school with the boys – her rise through the ranks of the sport began only in the past few years.

The teenager’s achievements include playing for the Perth Angels and being part of the WA female talent academy.

She is currently playing for South Fremantle Women’s Football Club, and included in the State 18s squad.

Most recently, the talented half back and half forward was selected to the travelling party which will head to Queensland next month for the second round of the national under-18 women’s competition.

“Then hopefully go on to under-23 state or even get drafted in the next few years. That’s the big goal for AFL Women’s,” Smith said.