• Jayden J Bartlett

Ruby Flanagan-Sjoberg - a Great Southern Story

The Great Southern Football League Women’s (GSFLW) competition, once dominated by Strathalbyn during its early years has since seen the emergence of a new powerhouse rivalry between Willunga and McLaren.

These 2 clubs, who have clashed in the previous 2 Grand Finals, have several things in common. They both win premierships, and they have both been home to Ruby Flanagan-Sjoberg.

Beginning her football life at Willunga, Ruby decided to make the switch to McLaren for the 2021 season to finally get the opportunity to play alongside her older sister and South Adelaide SANFLW player, Sophia Flanagan-Sjoberg.

“When Soph and I both decided to play at McLaren I was so excited to finally play with her,” Ruby said when asked about her decision to switch clubs.

“She’s such a talented footballer and what I love most about her footy is her attitude towards the game. She’s so determined and motivated. Playing with Soph has been a highlight for me.”

However, this move was a tough call for the young prospect – who only 2 years prior had also made the hard decision to switch to football after her many great years spent playing netball.

Having played netball for 8 years, 7 at the McLaren Flat Netball Club and 1 at the Willunga Netball Club, Ruby had managed to make an impact within the sport.

These impacts included winning the 2014 Southern Hills Netball Association (SHNA) Best and Fairest and representing the 2018 SHNA squad which was “super fun”.

However, despite having won several netball Best and Fairest awards and loving “the people and the sport”, she decided to add football into the mix in 2019 – then, at the end of that year, decided to focus solely on her footy.

One can’t blame Ruby for choosing to focus on her footy because not only has she hit the ground running with it, but she also holds a strong family connection to it.

To begin with, it was this connection to the game that grew her interest in the game.

“Soph was starting to play at Aldinga as well as my eldest sister Molly,” Ruby said when asked what made her interested in playing footy. “I went out to watch a few times and loved it.

'The Eagle Family' - image kindly supplied by Sophia.

Having decided to strap on the footy boots, Ruby joined the Willunga Demons for the 2019 season where she would enjoy a dream introduction to the game.

The Demons made the 2019 GSFLW Under-16s Grand Final where, after a second-quarter surge, they broke away to beat Mt Compass, 4.8 (32) to 2.2 (14).

“I would say one very memorable moment would be winning the Grand Final in 2019,” she said when asked what some of her favourite moments have been. “It was an amazing first season and I loved the team I played with.”

This set the stage for another impressive season during 2020 where, despite falling short of a premiership, she added another promising notch to her belt when, in just her second season, she was named as the co-captain of Willunga’s Under-16s.

“… It felt pretty weird to be a captain so early but having Carli guiding and helping me made it so much easier.”

“Also being at such a supportive club with people like Julie and Lauren Clifton and Damien Burns made me feel confident in myself and my team.

Helping lead the 2020 side with the young gun defender Carli Perryman has been something that Ruby still treasures to this day.

“She is one of my best mates and being able to share the role of being captain with her was so great,” she replied when asked about her leadership role with Carli.

Finishing off her final year with the Demons, Ruby parted on good terms with the red and white after being named as the club’s Under-16s Best Team Player – something she would reflect at her new club, McLaren.

With the change of scenery came the long-awaited cross over between the Flanagan-Sjoberg sisters.

Yet while we would have to wait for the SANFLW season to finish for them to play alongside each other, they were at least back training together for the first time in years.

“… I remember when I used to train with Soph at Aldinga. It was a lot of fun but at that point, I was loving my netball and hadn’t given playing footy a second thought.”

“When I started playing at Willunga I missed being able to train with her. I remember playing my morning games and heading straight to her Aldinga games after.

This family connection as well as a welcoming culture at the Eagles, helped the young prospect settle into the red, blue, and yellow.

“I was nervous to start at a new club, having come from such a strong and well-built team at Willunga I felt worried for the change.”

“But as soon as preseason started I felt so welcomed by McLaren. The season was so much fun, and I feel I was able to develop because of how comfortable I was with my side.

'The GSFLW Leaders' - image kindly supplied by Ruby (pictured left).

Once Ruby found her stride at her new club, she began to break into the star-studded Open Women’s lineup of the Eagles where she began to make her presence felt.

In total, she was named amongst the Best Players in just under half of all her Open’s matches during the 2021 season – which could have been higher but, as a great role player, she often flies under the radar.

“I loved my first season at McLaren, the whole team and coaching staff were so welcoming to Mum, Soph and me,” she said when asked about her debut season. “The women’s side is like one big family.”

Enjoying her first season at her new club, Round 10 of the 2021 GSFLW also provided the first chance for Sophia and Ruby to finally play alongside each other.

“… Playing my first game with Sophia at Encounter Bay Oval was very memorable. I’ve looked up to her my whole life so playing alongside her was special for me.

“Soph is a big reason why I started playing footy, she invited me out to Aldinga and gave me the chance to try it.

“She kept helping me even when we played for different clubs and now that we’re at McLaren together I’m loving it.

The bond between these sisters, which has been well documented in this article, is unbreakable. Yet Sophia is one of many people who Ruby has been grateful to have met during her footballing journey so far.

“Julie and Lauren Clifton as well,” she said when asked if there’s anyone she would like to thank for impacting her footy. “When I started at Willunga they made me feel so comfortable and welcome."

“I’m so excited to see Julie be the president of Willunga, I can’t wait to see what she does.

And of course, Burnsy, he was my coach the first year I played, and I rate him so highly. He taught me so much and I’m thankful for him.”

'The Eagle Sisters' - image kindly supplied by Sophia.

Ruby’s standout 2021 season did not stop at playing alongside Sophia, as her efforts in the GSFLW led her to be invited to play for South Adelaide’s Development Squad.

“I loved the South Development squad. I was over the moon when I found out I got in. The coaching staff was great, and the program taught me a lot. I’m really happy I got to experience it.” Her local performance also saw Ruby reunite with Carli Perryman to help lead the 2021 Great Southern Under-17s Association Side.

“I loved playing in the Great Southern team this year,” she said when questioned about the experience. “I was able to play alongside my old Willunga mates, which was great.”

“I captained with Carli Perryman again which was amazing, as well as Indi. I felt really lucky to be chosen and I felt that I got a lot out of the experience.

So, what is the next chapter for this exciting Great Southern prospect?

After being involved in the South Adelaide Development Squad, my goals are to improve my footy brain, my ability to make decisions and my general skills.”

“I would love to be out at South one day, so I’ll keep developing at McLaren and hopefully it’ll happen.”

As a great role player who, as her short but successful journey shows, is one of the better young leaders in the competition – Ruby Flanagan-Sjoberg certainly seems to be on the right path.

Hopefully, this path leads Ruby to be reunited with her sister once again, albeit at the next tier.

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Article #211

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

None of these images is owned by MWM; all pictures were supplied by the player and have been personally taken.

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