Young stars leap towards dream

Two of the Limestone Coast’s brightest stars on the football field are one step closer to their AFLW dreams after receiving some exciting news last week.

South Gambier’s Neave Delaney and Millicent’s Ella Little will swap their Limestone Coast Women’s Football League guernseys for the Woodville-West Torrens colours in the 2022 SANFLW season.

The pair have worked tirelessly at their games over recent years and are reaping the rewards. Both players were ecstatic to receive the big news.

“I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity,” Little said.

“It has probably not sunk in yet and wont until I move to Adelaide.”

“I am very happy and excited for the opportunity ahead,” Delaney said.

The young stars hope to follow the same footsteps as East Gambier’s Brooke Tonon, who made the move to the big city and helped Glenelg to SANFLW premiership glory earlier this year.

Tonon’s classy performances in the backline caught the eye of AFLW recruiters and she got picked up by the Adelaide Crows for the 2022 season.

Delaney and Little aim to follow a similar trajectory and are doing all of the right things.

Both have been leading lights for their respective LCWFL clubs in recent years and can make significant impacts all over the ground through sheer tenacity.

Delaney played a key role in the Demons’ unbeaten run to the 2021 LCWFL flag kicking a team-high tally of 24 goals with her accurate left boot which will be a handy point of difference at the higher level.

Although the Saints struggled to march earlier this year, Little was always a dangerous threat to the opposition with her willingness to win possession and a potent left foot.

She impressed so much in a losing side with her accuracy, special awareness and tackling pressure she was named as league best and fairest for the 2021 season.

Having proven their worth in the Limestone Coast both players ventured to Adelaide this year to enhance their reputations in the Adelaide Football League.

In the space of three weeks at Morphettville Park, Delaney and Little progressed from debutantes to some of the first names put on the coach’s whiteboard.

As the Roos jumped into the grand final and sensed success, the Limestone Coast pair ensured the premiership would be theirs.

Delaney scored an important goal, while Little also picked up plenty of possessions in the come-from-behind grand final victory over Payneham.

Looking back both young guns believe a significant reason behind their rise to the SANFLW was down to their big call to give up their weekends and travel to Adelaide to get exposed to city-level football.

“Playing the Under 17.5’s and Seniors at Morphettville really helped me grow and develop at a high level,” Delaney said.

“Down here you have probably around 30 seconds or a minute to get rid of the ball and run with it, but in Adelaide it is all about making split-second decisions.

“There are so many more girls playing football across different divisions so it gave me the drive to work harder.”

The instant success for the Roos made the best friends an irresistible prospect for SANFLW clubs to overlook.

Both players were lucky enough to enjoy the luxury of five SANFLW clubs hunting for their signatures.

Despite all the interest from some of the competition’s biggest names including the usual adopted home for Limestone Coast stars Glenelg, both players were adamant the Eagles was the destination to be after the club’s professionalism and friendliness won them over.

“It was probably just the coach and all the experience in the background,” Delaney said.

“The credentials and setup they had was cool, but more importantly they already had their development plans and processes there for us.

“She had watched a few of our games and helped break them down with us and also talked through some maneuvers we saw when watching a men’s game.”

“The coach knew what she wanted, shared it with us and is very knowledgeable and big on relationships,” Little said.

Both players said this opportunity would never have been possible without the hard work of their closest supporters.

“My dad and pa have probably been my biggest supporters over the years,” Little said.

“But having Neave there as well is the biggest positive because we stick by each other and drive up to Adelaide.

“There is just a different vibe.”

“My dad has helped me a lot over the years coaching and taking me up to Adelaide,” Delaney said.

“Ella has also supported me when she injured herself.”

The AFLW hopefuls are not messing around either with Little already adjusting to life in the big smoke.

She packed her mags and made the move on Tuesday, while Delaney follows suit later this month.

As they step into the professional world of SANFLW both young guns are focusing on settling into the Eagles’ nest.

“I just want to take little steps at a time,” Little said.

“My goal is to play SANFLW, but I am not there yet so I will be there training hard to realise my dream.”

‘I also just want to take little steps towards the first game of the season and hopefully down the track I can work hard enough to play AFLW one day.”

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