Top junior puts pressure aside to continue shining

FOR SEVERAL years now, Ella Roberts has carried the moniker and pressure of being one of the top junior footballers in the country.

The Peel Thunder product, originally from Margaret River, was named player of the 2021 NAB AFLW Under-19 Championships before her 17th birthday.

The forward/midfielder stole the show at just 15 in the WAFLW Grand Final, booting two goals in Peel's first women's premiership triumph.

YOUR CLUB'S TRADE BREAKDOWN Ins, outs, draft picks, verdict

"I guess it was a little bit of pressure coming into this year, having to maintain that good, consistent footy. I kind of just think if you play your best footy, nothing else matters," Roberts told womens.afl.

AFLW draft class: Ella Roberts

02:49 May 5. 2022. 9:00 AM

Get to know the Western Australian forward ahead of 2022 NAB AFLW draft

"I was lucky enough to win the MVP last year, I think it was a bit of a fluke, not going to lie, but I just tried to not put any pressure on myself and maintain a consistent high level."

To make things more difficult, Roberts started the season on the sidelines, having fractured her left ankle in three places late last year.

Surgery wasn't required, but the subsequent moon boot and crutches was frustrating for the active 17-year-old.

"I fractured my left ankle playing association basketball, just a silly landing, and fractured it in three spots," she said.

Ella Roberts runs with the ball during an AFLW National Academy match between Australia U18 and U23 All Stars on May 8, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"It wasn't great, but I had three months of no contact, then I got back into it a while ago, and that was so good. I missed footy so much.

"It was super annoying. I didn't really want to play, but Mum said I should to keep fit over the off-season, so I kind of blame it on her a bit," she finished with a laugh.

Roberts is one of four, with one older brother and two younger, and the Fremantle-mad family of six made the permanent switch from Margaret River to Perth this year.

It's meant a new SEDA school for year 12.

Ella Roberts in action during the match between Western Australia and the WAFLW All Stars on April 16, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"My dad was working in Perth as well, so there were multiple reasons, but footy was probably the main one. The family were up for it as well. I feel a bit guilty, but they love it," Roberts said.

"My older brother is, in a way, like my best friend. I wanted to be like him when I was younger, that's why I started playing footy (Auskick in Margaret River), just following in his footsteps. 

"My two younger brothers, love them lots, they also play footy. There's a lot of footy in the household, Mum and Dad love it, we probably talk about it every day. A lot of sport, and a lot of footy."

Roberts is an incredibly well-rounded player, a strong contested mark standing at 175cm, clean at ground level, and an explosive midfielder around the stoppages when required.

Ella Roberts with the MVP medal after the U18 AFL Championship match between Allies and Western Australia on April 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

But she's not perfect. 

In the lead-up to last year's under-19 championships clash with Vic Metro, Roberts had the sinking realisation she had brought the wrong sports bag from the hotel to Trevor Barker Oval.

PLAYER MOVEMENT Who's going? Who's staying? All the latest news

She managed to shake off the pre-game panic to finish with 31 disposals, six inside 50s and two goals.

"I had another bag, opened it up, and my laptop was there. My heart sunk, I was panicking a bit, I think I shed a few tears and thought I wasn't going to play, because I knew I wouldn't be able to go and get it," she said.

"I left my footy boots, jersey, shorts, my warm-up top, everything at the hotel. They had to get a taxi to get it. Two minutes before the bounce, it got here. I was so stressed, but you have to block that stuff out and focus on the game."