Don’t be near Pia Staltari when you’ve got the ball on the footy field.
The Sandringham Dragons draft prospect loves to tackle.
In the 2021 NAB League season, she averaged 5.4 tackles, including five hauls of at least seven, and it was the improvement in her defence that pleased her the most when reflecting on her campaign.
“I definitely saw a noticeable pressure difference in defensive stats, my tackle numbers really went up which I was really pleased with because I wanted to improve,” Staltari said.
She was given an opportunity to play in all parts of the ground for the Dragons and has been thrust into the midfield in three of her four games for VFLW side the Southern Saints, a position she hopes to play going forward.
“It was awesome,” Staltari said of her time at the Southern Saints.
“It was a real shift from the NAB League on the older and bigger bodies, but it was unreal, I have absolutely loved every game.
“I have developed more and more each week – when I got there we played match sim[ulation] in my first training there. I was out of position a few times but from then until now I am able to get into structure a lot quicker and be in the right position.
“I like being in the mid, I think I have a bit of endurance to build to be at that level in the VFLW and AFLW.
“I want to be a versatile player that can go anywhere and be accommodating but I enjoy that mid and half-forward role.”
Staltari has also seen a notable growth in her leadership this year.
As an older head within a young squad at Sandringham, she has placed the onus on herself to display her seniority.
“I think I improved on my leadership a bit –– I wasn’t a part of the leadership group but you don’t have to be part of that group to lead the team so I was able to get the girls where we needed to go at training.”
She believes that thirst to be vocal started developing when she was part of the West Coast Eagles Academy in Perth.
Initially from Western Australia, and an Eagles fan, no less, Staltari came through the Marist Football Club, and was given the opportunity to train alongside current AFLW players when part of the academy.
“That was really cool. I played with some older girls who are now playing AFLW, so I thought it was really good to play with them at a younger age and get a bit of exposure.
“Being a part of that made me able to play with a bit more confidence. I was a lot younger than them but they allowed me to be inclusive and confident and loud so I can show some leadership skills.”
At the end of 2018, she moved across the country to Melbourne, where she had never been for longer than a week at a time, due to a work opportunity for her dad.
That made the experience of playing against Western Australia a “weird” one during the national championships.
The girls’ carnival was cut short due to COVID-19 complications in Melbourne, but Staltari played two games for Vic Metro as a forward before it was postponed.
She’s pragmatic when asked about her prospects of being drafted on July 27: “I think I’ve got the skills down pat to play AFLW, I’d like to think.
“I’ve got some hope, I don’t have the expectation to get drafted.
“Hopefully one of the teams see I have some talent to give. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Away from the field, Staltari works at Village Cinemas and a Mexican restaurant, and is in her first year studying exercise science with an eye on a career in occupational therapy.