By Beth Newman
Jarred Ellis has clocked up plenty of kilometres through his footy career, both on and off the field.
The 18 year-old lives in the Northern NSW town of Lennox Heads and his dad drives him up to the coast to his club, Broadbeach, and to Brisbane for Scorpions training, a two and a half-hour trip.
Ellis, has made the trek every week through rep season for the past two years, playing as a bottom-ager for the Scorpions last year as well.
The teenager said he was grateful to have such a supportive family.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have any opportunity,” he said.
Ellis played his first game for Queensland this year against South Australia, his second match back after a long injury lay-off following a shoulder reconstruction.
The young utility had six months out of footy after injuring his shoulder in a contest playing for the Cats last year, and said it was one of the biggest challenges he’s faced.
“It’s probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to do,” he said.
“It’s something you love doing and then someone tells you, you can’t do it, its heart breaking.”
Despite having such a long time out of the game, Ellis said his motivation never waned, heading into his draft year this year.
“The fact that I want to make a career out of it (motivated me),” he said.
“Getting paid to do something that you love sounds really good to me instead of getting behind a desk and that thought kept me going for the whole time.”
Ellis’ recovery has been timed pretty well, now with two games under his belt and nationals right around the corner.
Making his return for Broadbeach against Mt Gravatt a fortnight ago, was a major relief for the youngster.
“It was a massive weight off my shoulders,” he said.
“I was happy to be back playing even though it wasn’t one of my best games, it was just good to run out.
Since switching from soccer to footy at 10, it didn’t take long for Ellis to fall in love with the game and set his sights on playing in the AFL.
“I wasn’t the smartest kid so I thought if I have a real crack and I can make a real profession out of this I’ll be pretty happy,” he said.
“I love the freeness of the game.
“There’s no set plays, no six tackles, you can run where you want, do what you like and you get to tackle blokes.”
And since then, Ellis has only had one moment when he briefly let go of his dream.
“When I got cut from the 16s state team…it was the first team where I’d got to the last cut and got told that I wouldn’t be playing,” he said.
“That was pretty heartbreaking and I thought if I couldn’t do that, what chance would I have in the AFL,” he said.
But the experience didn’t set him back too far, with Ellis being picked the next year for theUnder-18 side and playing every game in the 2012 nationals campaign, an experience he relished.
“It was a really good experience to see where the top draft picks are at,” he said.
“I look back at it and, even if I don’t make it, I can say I played on a couple of those kids.
“I really cherished every moment. It’s not every day you get to play on the best kids and if you do get a crack you’ve got to go for it.”
But even if Ellis misses out on draft day, he said he wouldn’t lose hope of a potential AFL berth, having seen players like former Cat, Dayne Zorko, given opportunities as mature-age recruits.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but hopefully a couple of clubs take interest and I show what I can do to,” he said.
“My goal to get drafted but I’m going to keep trying until I retire pretty much.”
The Sydney fan said he looked up to veteran Ryan O’Keefe, but couldn’t help admiring SUNS captain Gary Ablett and Melbourne’s high-flying Jeremy Howe.
“(O’Keefe) has been around so long and I met him once and I was really blown away about how nice he was,” he said.
“I have great respect for him and the way he goes about his footy.”
“I really like the way Howe attacks the footy and he’s one of the better players in a struggling team every week,” he said.
Ellis is a self-confessed footy head and spends his weekends watching the game, if he’s not out on the field, and said to be out there playing at the elite level would be a dream come true.
“It’d mean the world to me,” he said.
“I know my family and friends would be supportive – they know how much I want it.
“I’d be very happy to be on a list or anything like that.”
After so much travel for footy over his junior career, Ellis said he wouldn’t think twice about relocating.
“I’d go anywhere to play a bit of footy.”