AFLW U17 Queensland Player Focus: Ella Calleja

WITH the second AFLW U17 Championships match up in Queensland happening during the week, the Gold Coast Suns Academy made it two from two with a strong 31-point victory against the Lions Academy, Suns 2022 AFLW Draft prospect Ella Calleja has drawn attention for our player focus as one of the best on ground, the athletic forward/ midfielder made her presence felt with her leap arguably her most eye catching trait.

ELLA CALLEJA

Height: 171cm
DOB: 20/11/2004
Position: Forward/Midfielder
Club/s: Yeppon Swans/Gold Coast Suns Academy

Strengths: Vertical leap, athleticism, kicking, versatility, upside
Key Improvement: Marking consistency

Ella Calleja (left) flying for a grab against Courtney Browne. Picture credit: RF Photography/AFL Photos

Q1:  7 Disposals (5 kicks and 2 handballs), 1 mark, 1 clearance

Calleja started the game in the centre and was not really moved about for the quarter, only rotating from the bench for a short spell mid quarter. Calleja really showed a great game sense, particularly around stoppages, just being where the ball was heading and getting first hands to the ball but sometimes not able to take possession or dispose of it before being tackled. This craft translated well around packs as well, where she could find the spot the ball was going to roll out and contest it well. 

Calleja’s leap was displayed a few times in the first quarter, flying higher than any other player around the contest a couple of times but not being able to hold the mark, she could direct where she brought it to ground to advantage her teammates who were running past, or would give her the opportunity to follow up at ground level.

One piece of play from Calleja was particularly memorable, as she led to the defensive 50 flank, getting good separation on her opponent and taking it easily on the chest, she then kicked well in front of teammate Alana Gee so she could run onto it easily, and then Calleja ran past for the handball and followed up with another great kick inside 50.

Q2: 3 Disposals (2 kicks and 1 handball), 1 mark

After being involved in seemingly everything in the first quarter, Calleja was quieter to a degree in the second, not winning as much of the ball but still getting to the right spots around the contest and stoppages, but unable to keep hold of the footy at times. She got up for an impressive specky attempt early on the quarter, getting her foot onto the mid-back of an opponent, but was unable to hold the mark. Showing her courage, there was a moment where she sat under the ball as it came in from a kick and held the mark as an opponent came in and knee’d her attempting to mark it.

Another memorable run from Calleja came from the quarter as well, getting onto a kick that had gone over the top of a contest, Calleja picked the ball up in a clean grab, going for a run through the middle and kicking well to a one on one at the top of her forward 50.

Q3: 1 Disposal (1 kick), 1 mark, 1tackle

As the intensity of the contest increased dramatically in the third quarter, Calleja found it more difficult to impact the game with her usual outside role, and accordingly adjusted to start winning more of it in congestion. Whilst she was not able to clearly dispose of the ball when she won it in congestion, she did well to create a contest and stop the Lions winning it easily, generally trying to tap the ball out into the path of an oncoming teammate. There were a few times through the quarter where Calleja deserved a free kick as she was pushed in the back or taken high when trying to exit traffic after winning the ball, but unfortunately wasn’t given the appropriate reward.

Q4: 7 Disposals (5 kicks and 2 handballs), 2 marks, 1 goal

Playing the entire fourth term as a forward, Calleja saw her best return for the game where her ability to win the ball at ground level with clean one grab pickups made it difficult for defenders to stop her winning it. It was often this ability that saw her win the ball, able to read it well and be the first there, then turning and kicking forward, or handballing when she was under pressure and had someone calling for it. Calleja pushed up the ground and impact as a leading option, getting used once as a kick from the boundary line into the corridor.

She was just as dangerous inside 50, with her goal being an impressive contested mark at the top of the goal square, after her teammate quickly kicked it in from a deliberate out of bounds, then converting it as a good reward for her days efforts.

TOTAL STATS: 18 Disposals (13 kicks and 5 handballs), 5 marks, 1 tackle, 1 goal

SUMMARY:

Whilst Calleja may not have been overly consistent in her accumulation through the four quarters, she has an undoubtedly impressive athletic base that allows her to fly high for marks and go for one on one foot races, as well as an impressive work ethic to be around the ball constantly. Calleja’s use of the ball by foot was particularly impressive, especially when she was given the opportunity to get into space and go for a run, to go with her smart use by hand when held up in a tackle or pressured off balance. As she continues on her path to the 2022 AFLW Draft, Calleja will look to develop her marking and ground ball work, with a good ability already to get her hands on it.

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