'Fire Starters' is a series of in-depth feature stories on some of our top prospects in 2022, exploring their junior careers, their upbringing, their Dragons journey and aspirations for the future, written by Dylan Bolch and Nathan Sepe.
By Nathan Sepe
When you’re faced with the fierce and physical number 19 on the football field, brace yourself for some hard-hitting, muscle bruising encounters.
Ella Sciberras showcases the style of a traditional ‘old-school’ footballer, and she prides herself on that ability across every quarter of footy she plays.
Ella started her sporting career the same as most young girls, taking the netball pathway, playing in the top grades for the first few years of her juniors.
It wasn’t until 2017 that Sciberras merged into the football lane, following her brothers who were playing at the time.
“My brothers gradually quit, they didn’t end up liking it. I ended up staying and found a really good love for it,” said Sciberras.
“I noticed I already had a lot of skill towards the game, considering I hadn’t had much younger years playing.”
Sciberras’ love for footy gained more traction at the Glen Iris Gladiators Football Club, where under the wing of former Western Bulldogs player, Simon Garlick, she was able to refine and express her footballing talents.
“Ella was a very easy player to coach, highly committed, a team-first player, very diligent, and had a desire to improve from the start,” Garlick said.
Whilst the physical strength of Sciberras has been a development over time, Garlick noticed the personality traits of Sciberras early on in her career that made her a quality player from the outset.
“Ella’s biggest strength is her competitive spirit. She wanted to win every individual contest she was involved in whether it be at training or in a game, a great trait to have in football and life in general”
Sciberras began to develop the physical nature during that first year of Gladiators football when it became apparent to her that she was a tough player.
Garlick saw Sciberras as a strong overhead player, putting his main developmental effort into building this into her main strength.
“Ella was a strong overhead from her early days but importantly looked to work on this as a strength whilst also trying to improve her development areas”
Being a “relatively tall player” according to Garlick, he commended her ability to be a “clean handler of the ball at ground level”
Garlick concluded by boasting Sciberras’ “consistency in effort and performance” highlighting the nature of her game style that most other were unable to match.
“Ella would turn up week in, week out, wanting to do everything she could do to help her team win. It sounds simple, but doing it session after session, game after game is an under-rated capability.”
In 2018, Ella took the next step in her skill development, trying out for the Jim Stein scholarship program, run by former Carlton FC player Ian Aitken.
Alongside Oakleigh Chargers and Northern Knights girls, the program allowed Ella to train together with these girls for around two years.
“We did things like the RookieMe Baseline testing, so it all felt very elite from that moment,” said Sciberras.
The elite-level Sciberras began to feel in late 2019 intensified when she was referred to the Dragons by the program.
“It was quite lucky actually, or else I wouldn’t really be here”
Sciberras was introduced to the Dragons program in 2020, under the wing of assistant coach Danny Byrne for the first two COVID years.
Sciberras felt her development was enhanced by current Senior Coach Wayne Cripps, who she believed took a very selfless approach coming into the program.
“He really encourages the girls to think about what they want out of the program”
“I think even people like Michael (Wellbeing Mentor) doing the little things like talking about sleep and developing us as people, just make us happier and healthier. That’s something I really value.”
Sciberras spent most of her 2022 season playing at half-forward, combined with some time on the wing where she was versatile on the ball.
Across the 2022 season, Sciberras per game averaged 10 touches, six kicks, two inside 50’s and an astounding six tackles per game, second in the club rankings.
Senior coach Wayne Cripps was also blown away by Ella’s physicality from day one at the club, recalling funny moments between Ella and assistant coach Danny.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen someone tackle as fierce as Ella. She is so incredibly strong,” said Cripps.
“Every time Danny joined in for stoppage craft, she would knock him over every time.”