'I've been so lucky': Pies' young gun on top of the world

IN HER third game of AFLW footy, Collingwood forward Eliza James stole the show in attack.

Running rings around her opponents, her speed created an excitement for the Pies akin to the excitement that is a prominent part of James' personality. 

"I've been so lucky to go into such a great team with the best coaching staff and the best teammates," James said.

"They're always helping me learn, and I get to watch them and how they play. I've been so lucky so far that I fit into such an amazing club." 

New Magpies Alison Downie (left), Eliza James, Eloise Chaston and Sabrina Frederick sing the team song after a win during round one, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Taken at pick No.29 in the 2021 NAB AFLW Draft, James is a quick, persistent forward who adds another dimension to the Pies' attacking line. Earning a round one debut against Carlton, the 18-year-old has maintained her spot in the side since. 

"To be honest, I wasn't expecting to play round one, and when I found out that was just a massive confidence boost," James said earnestly.  

"To keep my spot has been terrific and I'm enjoying every minute of it. Hopefully, I continue to keep my spot." 

Against the Cats on Friday evening, James earned her first AFLCA coaches votes for her 12 disposal performance which saw her kick her first AFLW goal. 

"The feeling was amazing, getting my first goal. Especially since majority of the girls got around me. They really showed me the love and made me feel so good," she said.

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Eliza James is surrounded by teammates after snaring her first ever AFLW goal

It was her speed in attack that set her apart on the field, getting into dangerous positions and helping to set up teammates while simultaneously pressuring an experienced Geelong defence.

In a forward line with big marking players like Sabrina Frederick and Sophie Alexander and the crafty Chloe Molloy, James' speed has only made the Collingwood forward line more difficult to contain. 

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This is something her coaches and teammates have pinpointed, too. 

"They've just encouraged me to use my speed and my agility. They've told me that I've got the legs for it, so to use it and to use my power as well," James said. 

In order to maintain this game style, James is dedicated to a personal goal of improving her fitness levels and solidifying fundamental skills and has the support system to do so. 

"Chloe Molloy and Sabrina Frederick are so, so good with helping me learn," James said of her new teammates.  

(L-R): Collingwood's Aishling Sheridan, Sabrina Frederick and Eliza James sing the team song during round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"They're both such great role models, and they're very experienced players, so it's great to train with them, and also play with them because I get to learn a lot about the game from them as well like watching how they play and what they know." 

Her enthusiasm and energy exists both on the field and off for James, with an underlying determination to continue to improve with every training session and every game. 

In the meantime, James will continue to use that speed and agility, driving her legs and "hope to kick a bag soon". 

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