• Jayden J Bartlett

Hannah Ewings finds Power after Days of Darkness

Hannah Ewings, 18, has experienced the inspiring heights, the darkest valleys, and the historical peaks of football: in a story of resilience. A young player from Whyalla that became a top prospect in South Australia – and for a good reason: she was an unbeatable player with the potential to be even greater.

However, the lights of her promising journey quickly became obscured by a season-ending injury. This incident left many wondering if she could return to her former self – the former her that was the best of the next generation. And she has not only come back – but she has gone much further than where she was. She has become better.

“My life has been, and done, a 360 in the last 12 months,” Hannah said while reflecting on her journey.

It was a rapid rise for Hannah Ewings. She made her South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) debut with North Adelaide at the age of 15. And, from the start, it was obvious that she was something special. She received the Round One Powerade Breakthrough Nomination in her debut game. She won awards, and premierships, and represented the state. It was a resounding moment in her footballing life; a debut season that was unparalleled at the time.

Having had such an amazing first year: many were already tipping Hannah to be in the running for a spot in Port Adelaide’s inaugural Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) squad. This seemed to be a fair choice. She was, after all, a glowing prospect that seemed to radiate potential – it seemed nothing could stop her.

And then it happened.

This wishful thinking and dreaming came to an abrupt halt in Round Three of the 2021 SANFLW season. It was during the clash between North Adelaide and West Adelaide that Hannah’s journey – full of pride and promise – took a sudden downturn when she sustained an ankle injury that sidelined her for the remainder of the year. Falling from an extraordinary high to a season-ending low had a profound impact on Hannah: one that affected her off the field as much as on it.

“The injury I sustained obviously had a significant impact in my everyday lifestyle, let alone in football,” Hannah said. “The injury not only set me back with football, but with work too.”

It was an injury that brought her ever-growing footy journey to a halt. It was an injury that ruled her out of contact sport for 4 months. And it was an injury that left her without an income - because the moon boot was an occupational health and safety issue.

“I was still living at home (Whyalla), so it was not too difficult in that area, and my work was understanding about it,” she said. However, Whyalla is a long way from the ovals of the SANFLW. So this isolating feeling of being injured - and alone - persisted throughout her 4-month-long rehabilitation. She just wanted to be out there playing but she was months, and hundreds of kilometres, away from Prospect Oval.

“Watching from the sidelines was difficult,” she said. “I just wanted to be out there playing. I had worked so hard to be the best version of myself through preseason, so getting injured affected me both physically and mentally.”

The impact of an injury on a player’s mentality is just as worrisome as the physical damage itself. It would have been easy for Hannah to lose passion for the game. Feeling standard, isolated – from the game she loves most. Her mind would have harshly tried to persuade Hannah to simply give up.

And why should we bother? The mind would say. Why should we do all this work to get back to playing when it might happen again? She is also a gifted chef – surely we pursue this instead and leave the on-field injuries to the rest. Surely this is a reasonable deal.

While some players would have given in, listened to these cruel thoughts, and thrown in the towel. Hannah is a special footballer, with many great qualities. She is a tough in-and-under type footballer that doesn’t mind getting into the thick of the action. She is quick, silky, and hard. But above all else, she is hardworking and committed.

Refusing to give in, Hannah instead focused on getting through the next few months. “Rehabilitation was tough,” but she knew she had to get through it. And knowing that she was not going to be able to play for months; she began to work around it.

To stay positive, she spent time with friends and family in Whyalla; to stay fit, she trained with her brothers at the Roopena Football Club; and to stay competitive, she “out fished” her father. Looking after herself both physically and mentally, Hannah began doing something that was highly needed. She began to believe in herself.

“I think my motivation and dedication came from myself and the belief that I could get back out there playing again,” Hannah said. “The injury itself motivated me to be better then what I already was. The draft also motivated me.”

“And I knew I had to pull all the strings and tricks out of the box to work hard, push myself and have that little bit of determination to put myself into the best position to be selected again.”

From fluttering between days of uncertainty and days of motivation, Hannah seemingly manifested into something much more. Instead of simply being a promising prospect. Hannah, despite being injured, became steadfast in chasing her dream of making that fateful step into the AFLW. And from here, it seemed that – once again – nothing could stop her.

And this change in mindset led her to take extra steps to make certain that she had set herself up for the best return possible. She went to the gym with her parents and worked extremely hard with Justin Crompton to make she was physically ready. And she golfed with her brothers and spent more time with friends and family to make sure that she was mentally ready.

And all this set her up for an inspirational comeback season. One that women’s footy South Australia has rarely – if at all – seen before.

Hannah Ewings celebrates her goal during Game One of the 2022 AFLW Championships - this image was taken by MWM.

The start of 2022 was hard for Hannah. She moved to Adelaide, hundreds of kilometres away from home; and she brought her chef apprenticeship with her, which added to her list of commitments.

“I was finding it difficult to manage with split shifts, gym, and football,” she said. “So, I got a fantastic job at how the Focaccia, where the bosses are amazing and who are respectful of my football commitments.”

And because 2022 was her draft year, she had to change her mindset. “I’m started putting in extra hours and effort to be the best possible person and player I can be,” she said. “And I can't thank my teammates, coaches at North, and my family for pushing me to be at my best.”

After having such a dream start to her life in the SANFLW, before missing a year with an injury. It was finally time to return to the game she loved. To show her new mentality and level of dedication. And to prove that she is ready to be even better than she was in 2020. And Hannah did all of this and more.

During the 2022 SANFLW season, she averaged 21 disposals, 4 tackles, 4 clearances, and 3 marks a match. She finished the year with an outstanding 83 per cent disposal efficiency. So, her skills had certainly improved without exception.

And then there was her sporting resume. In 2022 she represented the Under-18s South Australian state side, she played in North Adelaide’s SANFLW premiership, and she was selected into the 2022 NAB AFLW Championships Under-18 All-Australian Team. Which all adds up to make her return season incredible.

“This year has been tough, but so rewarding,” she said. “Everything I have ever worked for in my life is finally paying off.”

And then of course, after it seemed her comeback season could not get any better – Hannah went and made history. She went into the 2022 AFLW Draft night with plenty of eyes on her. There was much speculation and hype surrounding this teenager from Whyalla – it was almost like she hadn’t even missed the previous season.

It is a special moment to hear your name get called out on the draft night – a moment that is mixed with relief, realisation, and excitement. It reflects the next step in a player’s journey. One that seemingly makes everything worth it. Those moments: the good and bad, the setbacks, the challenges, the wins, the losses, the mistakes – it all becomes worthwhile.

For Hannah, it meant that her debut game at the age of 15, then 4 months of rehab, the state representation, the All-Australian selection – it was all extremely worthwhile. They say that every little moment that a player has experienced only heightens the excitement on draft day – and well, Hannah’s rise and fall and rise again means that her level of excitement would have rarely been experienced before. Because she not only achieved her dream of being drafted; she also made history.

She became the first-ever draftee to be selected by Port Adelaide’s AFLW squad.

“Honestly it feels amazing to have been selected as the number one South Australian pick and to be a part of the Inaugural Port AFLW team is a dream come true. I can’t thank Port enough for giving me this opportunity. It’s something I’ll forever be grateful for and cherish,” Hannah said.

“This has been a dream since I could even pick up a football. My football journey hasn’t been easy over all those years, but now it’s time I can say the hard work has paid off.”

It is remarkable to consider how much she has experienced within the past 2 years. Having had a dream start to her SANFLW, she then missed a year with injury – only to come back and achieve a history-making return.

“This means so much to myself and my family the most. All the travelling back and forth 2 to 3 times a week just so I could train and play up in Adelaide is incredible by them. And I’m forever thankful that they did that. We all sacrificed a lot over the years to get to where I am now. And I’m here because of them. So, thank you.”

And now with her quality mindset, valuable skills, and a bit of history made – she has been loving her time so far with her new home.

“I have loved every minute being at Power so far,” Hannah said. “The girls have welcomed me with arms wide open and made me feel at home. The girls and coaching staff are unbelievably amazing. Watch this space because something good is going to happen”

In comparison to those feelings of isolation she experienced while spending months in rehab in Whyalla, Hannah is now heavily in the spotlight. “There is a lot of media and attention towards me, but I try not let it get to the best of me,” she said. “I’ll let my footy do the talking for me.”

Hannah has created a new mindset, developed new skills, and made history. Her life has truly done a 360. When she could have easily given in – or lost the passion to have such a comeback as she did – she instead chose to work harder and smarter. While it has been tough, her footy has already done plenty of talking for her. She is a special type of footballer, of course – but more importantly, Hannah Ewings is truly unbeatable.

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Minutes with Moose would like to thank all of our ambassadors and team members.

All of these photographs have been taken by the MWM team.

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