As the trading season draws to a close, Netball Scoop took the opportunity to get to know the person behind the talent that is Rudi Ellis.
Just like the sun, Rudi Ellis has risen through the ranks on the East Coast and is now settling down in the West. Signing with the West Coast Fever for season 2022 and 2023, we can expect great things, having also been selected into the Australian Diamonds Development Squad for 2021/2022. The 191cm goal keeper has played 17 SSN games since her debut in 2020 for the Firebirds against the Vixens, and in 2021 recorded a total of 24 deflections, 16 gains, 8 intercepts and 4 rebounds.
“I am really excited for my move to Fever. I think it will be an awesome platform for development. Learning from Courtney (Bruce) and being a part of Sunday (Aryang) and Courtney’s combination and rotation, especially with them both being in the Diamonds too, will be so beneficial to my development as a player. Learning from Jhaniele (Fowler) and practicing with her week in and week out will be incredible. I am also really excited about meeting Dan Ryan. I have heard only great things about him, so I am really pumped to move over to the West. I have a few friends there and my partner’s family there will make the transition even smoother.”
Travelling for new experiences isn’t new to Ellis, having grown up living in many countries in Asia, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, and China. She is accustomed to adapting to new environments and seeking new opportunities with two hands.
“I feel like a bit of gypsy. I have moved around a lot of places. That stems from Dad’s job growing up. We would move every year or two. We went all over Asia, and we were in Australia in between each job. When I turned 12, my parents wanted me to go to boarding school to get a good education. I am so thankful for that as I wouldn’t have been able to play netball too if I had been overseas with them.”
Adaptability, a skill that Ellis has developed over her time travelling, has proven to be very useful in her netball career to date.
“Each time I would move I would set my life up; I would make new friends; I would be adaptable. With the netball world and in my netball career with how it’s played out so far, that has been a good skill to have. I am not afraid of moving to a new place and meeting new people, I love meeting new friends and being in new environments, but I am looking for consistency now and will hopefully be at Fever long-term and really build with that combination in defence”.
From humble beginnings, Ellis started playing netball at boarding school throughout her senior years and then fell in love with the game and the relationships that it brought with it. As a player that has risen through the NSW pathway, Ellis has had the opportunity to learn from clubs like the NSW Swifts and the Melbourne Vixens.
“I got picked up as a training partner in 2015. I went to Swifts that year, which was cool. I learned a lot from Rob [Wright] and Anita [Keelan] during that time. Being in Sydney my whole life with school and everything, I wanted to do something different, something new, and I got offered a university degree in Melbourne. I was excited to try something new, meet new people and experience Melbourne so I moved there.”
Rudi was also a part of the winning Victorian Fury side in 2019, coached by Vixens Assistant Coach Di Honey.
“I was a training partner for the Melbourne Vixens for two years and was part of Victorian Fury, which is an awesome program. We were lucky enough to win the Premiership in the last year that ANL was still running [in 2019]. I really loved being coached by Di Honey, she’s an absolute legend.”
Having received a full contract with the Firebirds in 2020, Ellis moved to Queensland to join the team.
“I moved up north with Lara Dunkley and Ine-Marie Venter from the Vixens. It was great to have some familiar faces around. I had an amazing two years with the Firebirds, playing some awesome netball with a really good bunch of girls.”
Throughout her three years as a training partner, Ellis built upon her adaptability by sharpening her resilience and perseverance as a professional athlete. She is also an inspiration for training partners or young players alike to endure, especially in the face of the current difficulties around Covid-19.
“A training partner or a squad member is part of the team wholeheartedly, but you are not up for selection unless there is an injury in the ten. You are doing all the sessions and the gym and outside of court activities with the team. It is awesome to have the opportunity to train at that level so that in case there is an injury you are ready.”
“I think as you get older you think you should be working full time, and I had been a training partner for three years before I was picked up. I think it’s about pushing through. When you are a training partner, you’re running around like a headless chook, you’re doing uni, you’re working and you’re playing netball. It’s worth pushing through when you love what you’re doing and want your shot at it.”
And the sacrifices are definitely worth it.
“It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice. When you do move interstate, leaving loved ones and being away from family, it is hard, and training is very intense. Your netball skills develop over time and your commitment to the team and culture and sport just gets bigger as you progress. All the sacrifices are so worth it.”
When asked to compare ANL and SSN, Ellis highlights how training is quite similar but, as expected, the intensity on court is vastly different.
“Training wise it is very similar, because as a training partner, you are doing most of what the team in the 10 are doing. But in terms of game and being out there on court at SSN level there is a lot of difference. You need to build up that experience and pace of being out there for the full 60 minutes. You don’t build it up until you are out there until you are doing it week in and week out. At the back end of last season playing full games, it is crazy how much you learn, the fitness you gain, and everything just from having that solid experience regularly. So, there is a huge difference in terms of the level, competitiveness, and intensity”.
Upon reflection on her two years at the Firebirds, Ellis reminds us of how netball athletes train to refine not only their technical abilities but their bodies, minds, and place within the team.
“I think I have learned so much in the last two years. It is about your attention to detail in terms of your recovery and your nutrition and sleep, everything that impacts you so greatly when you do go out there and play. I have better learned how to craft my body and my role in the team as well.”
With great admiration of the energy of the crowd, Ellis fondly recounts her 2020 debut against the Vixens.
“That first time I stepped out there last year against the Vixens, it was just the sickest experience ever. You have the crowd, you have the noise, you have the massive adrenaline pumping through your body- it was unreal. It just makes you want to be better and make sure you are out there all the time.”
Netballers tend to be well-rounded people and Ellis is no exception. She completed a Bachelor of Professional Communications (Journalism) at RMIT University in Melbourne and has worked in several sporting organisations, including the Melbourne Vixens, Netball Victoria, and Western Bulldogs, following her passion for sports journalism. As of 2021, Rudi worked as a sports media assistant for the Queensland Firebirds and Netball Queensland but might move into a new role in Perth.
“I would definitely love to work in the sports media sphere again over there. I really enjoyed doing the media work with the Firebirds. A huge part of the role was connecting the fans and players on a more personal level, and I am very passionate about it. I was doing advertising when I first started uni. I did work experience for a week and wasn’t a fan, so I switched to journalism.
“I love news and stories and social media. I think it is a very relevant part of our world these days. Social media is growing and growing, and I think reporting and journalism are things that will be around forever. I have a passion for sport, reporting and interviewing, sharing people’s stories is cool. My aunty’ s brother is Peter Overton and seeing him on Channel Nine News Sydney has inspired me too.”
As she settles into her new home, Ellis knows that she is at her best when she feels balanced. What that looks like for her is not only excelling at netball but having a social life and working.
“You have to be disciplined with your time. With whatever work I pick up, I find that I am a happier person when I am balanced, whether that be social, work and netball. Having a balance of everything makes me a better netballer. You just have to find the time and be disciplined”.
Although Ellis is no stranger to distance relationships, the isolation that Covid-19 brought this year was difficult to manage and she is determined to ensure that distance won’t impact her relationships in the future.
“Being away in Queensland this year was tricky with COVID and border closures but having Facetime and technology is helpful- you can chat with everyone all the time. When we can fly, I will jump at the opportunity to head home from Western Australia and see everyone. I have a really great group of friends at Firebirds. I am hoping I can still keep in touch with them and make sure that relationships don’t get impacted by distance.”
Enacted through her commitment to friendship and connection and her gregarious and encouraging nature, Ellis evidently scaffolds her life with values of trust, compassion, and love.
“Trust is a huge thing for me. Being able to trust people and people trust me. Out there on the netball court, if you trust your teammates and they trust you to do your job, it can really help you go all the way as a team and help build culture as well at a club. Passion and love are the two other big ones for me. Again, when you come into a team environment, I think that being compassionate and just caring about what people are up to and that kind of thing goes a long way.”
As I spoke to Ellis, she was in Tasmania hanging out with some of the Firebirds, as she waits to enter Western Australia, doing what she loves – adventuring.
“I love being outside and being in Tasmania and going for hikes and walks is what I am passionate about. Seeing beautiful things like that- I love adventuring. I am keen to be in Perth and go to the beach more often too, it is at your doorstep, which is unreal”.
Moving into Diamonds training and the 2022 netball season, Ellis is adamant on expanding her ability to take clean ball and versatility on court.
“I definitely want to be cleaner, so I want to tidy up my penalties and make sure that I am not doing all this hard work and then putting it to waste by making silly penalties. Learning from someone like Courtney will be amazing in that regard. Being able to be more versatile, I would love to be able to play goal defence at SSN level. I also want to get better at working the five-minute supershot period; it is definitely a learning curve and I want to watch more footage because I think teams are getting smarter with how they use it.”
Despite the difficulties of 2021, this year was one of great success for the West Coast Fever recruit, proving her perseverance and resilience has paid off. Ellis recalls her overwhelming delight when she received a call from Julie Fitzgerald to let her know she had been selected as part of the Diamonds Development Squad.
“I was so excited to be selected. I have had limited court time this year but to be recognised like that on a national sphere was unreal. When Julie called me, she said it has been a full circle for me, as she has been involved with my NSW pathway as I was growing up, so it is very cool to be under her in the Development Squad now. We got to do a few sessions with the Diamonds a few weeks ago in Queensland but we are hoping that camp will go ahead at the end of the year.”
As a young rising talent within the sport, Ellis is optimistic about the development of netball and the SSN competition, as the sport takes on a new broadcasting deal and increases its exposure.
“People might not agree with me saying this, but I think that the super shot has brought a whole new element to the game. It is exciting for crowds to watch and in defence it really tests you to switch how you play with your team. I think the way that SSN and netball is shaping now with our new broadcast agreement, it is going to bring more fans and more views to the game and help to grow it more and more. I would love to see down the track when Covid goes away; the crowds back and two more teams added in to give more young Australian netballers a chance to develop and be in the SSN environment.”
It would be safe to say that the game of netball is honoured to have players like Rudi Ellis steering the game into this promising future. Matching her tenacious drive to refine her craft with her commitment to cultivate a supportive team culture, it is evident that, unlike the sun, Rudi Ellis is only going to be on the rise in the West.