Love of the game inspires De Angelis to chase AFLW dream

LAST year, Eastern Ranges midfielder, Gabriella De Angelis used football as a method of stress relief to calm her nerves.

Now, the 17 year-old has instilled the belief in herself to try and achieve her ultimate goal, thanks to her love of the sport.

“I do (have my sights set on AFLW),” she said. “Since about last year… I said I was just going to play and just go back to loving the game because I’ve always played because I love the game. “So now I’m just going to give it my best shot and see how I go.”

De Angelis discovered her love of the game at a very young age when she began playing Auskick. Even after taking a hiatus from the game, she admits that she still loved playing and was glad that she picked up the sport again.  

“I was playing Auskick at Donvale and then moved with the boys in under 11s and under 12s I think for two or three seasons, and then I stopped because I didn’t think there was anything, I didn’t know there was a girls competition,” De Angelis said. “So I had a break for a season and a bit and then someone told me they were playing footy. “I joined Whitehorse and stayed there ever since and I’ve just loved it.”

Along with Whitehorse, the 17 year-old also played with the Eastern Ranges, represented Vic Metro at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships and now pulls on the boots for the Southern Saints in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

When she was approached to play for the Saints, she was in shock. De Angelis also experienced a feeling that she has become accustomed to in Aussie Rules, feeling the nerves before her first hit-out with the side. But she admits that after she overcame that hurdle, she has enjoyed being a Saints player.

“When they said St Kilda wants to talk to you, I didn’t believe it,” De Angelis said. “I love the game but I never thought it would really go anywhere. “I was really nervous at the start (of my first game) and then I got into the game, I kicked a goal. “I’m really enjoying it there.”

The opportunity to play with the Saints comes after she finished playing with the Eastern Ranges this year. While she admits it’s sad to finish off at the club, this season in particular was one to remember.

“It was my favourite Academy season,” De Angelis said. “I don’t know if that’s just because it’s my last one but I really, really loved it. “I felt I improved a lot more so yeah I really enjoyed it.”

She attributes this improvement to learning off both the older and younger players in the side. De Angelis admits that she often turns to them for advice on her game, which shows the camaraderie of the TAC Cup Girls side.

“I love playing with them because they push me to do better things. “I can look up to even the ones that are younger than me, their skill, their knowledge. “I just love learning from them.”

De Angelis got the opportunity to play with some of her Eastern Ranges teammates in the “Big V”, as they travelled up to the Gold Coast to face off against the best female footballers in the country. The 17 year-old overcame some heartache last year to make the side, but is glad she got to represent her state this year.

“I didn’t make Metro last year, didn’t really expect to and I didn’t really expect it this year so I’m over the moon to get another opportunity,” she said.

Not only has De Angelis played representative football, but she also used to play representative basketball. Like many other TAC Cup Girls players, she juggled basketball and football for many years. After some deep thought, she decided to make football her sole sport.

“It was a very tough decision (to give up basketball),” she said. “In Year 11, I was playing rep basketball and footy and they got a bit too much so mum said ‘you have to choose’. “I’ve stopped playing basketball now to focus on footy.”

Now in Year 12, footy is still the focus for De Angelis, but she also has another career path in mind for the future.

“Eventually, I’d like to go into the police force but I’ve just got to work out what I really want,” the Vic Metro representative said.

At the moment, De Angelis is enjoying her time at the Southern Saints and has excelled in both Eastern Ranges and in Vic Metro colours. In her most recent game for the Saints, De Angelis recorded 10 disposals and laid three tackles. Her side next plays Hawthorn on Saturday at Trevor Barker Beach Oval.

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