TRIBUTES are flowing for talented footballer Ellen Maple — the first player to ever kick a goal in the SANFL Women’s League — who died in a car crash on the weekend.
The promising Sturt and former Norwood footballer died when her car crashed into a Stobie pole, bringing down powerlines at Glengowrie about 10pm Sunday.
Earlier that afternoon, Maple had 19 touches as Sturt beat Glenelg for the team’s third win in the final clash of the SANFL-W season.
Maple, 22, of Blackwood, previously played for the Mt Lofty Devils and also played A Grade netball for Uraidla and Heathfield.
In a statement, Sturt Football Club said it was “saddened by the tragic death of one of our inaugural senior women’s players”.
“Ellen, a determined, skilful midfielder will be remembered as the first person to kick a goal in the SANFL women’s competition,” the club said.
“One of the competition’s leading possession players, Ellen was named in our best players in seven of her eight games.
“Our thoughts are with Ellen’s family and friends including players and officials of both our Club, Norwood and Mt Lofty football clubs.”
Sturt Football Manager Chris Trapp said grief counselling had been provided to players and club members.
“The girls got together last night at the club and it was a really positive move,” he said.
He said preliminary discussions had also begun to find a way to honour Maple at the club, with the possibility of a plaque in the new women’s changerooms, which are being renovated.
Maple has won numerous awards in her football career, including Best & Fairest for Mt Lofty Football Club in 2016 and was a premiership player for Norwood Football Club in its 2016/2017 season.
Maple, and her twin sister Tess, moved from Norwood to play for Sturt in 2017/2018 — Sturt’s first season in the SANFL Women’s League.
Norwood Football Club described Maple as “a wonderful young lady who represented herself and her family well in the inaugural year of the SANFL Women’s Competition”.
“Ellen was a valued member, premiership player and a delightful friend to many of her team mates,” the club said in a statement.
“She was highly regarded by her coaches and everyone around her.
“We would like to offer our dear condolences to the Maple family and her sister Tess who also was a member of the Premiership team.
“We could only imagine how difficult this time is and on behalf of the club it’s members, players, staff and coaches we offer our sincere condolences.”
SANFL chief executive Jake Parkinson said the league was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Maple’s tragic death.
He described Maple as “a highly talented and respected sportswoman and a rising star in Australian Rules women’s football”.
“A determined midfielder, Ellen played all but one game with Norwood in 2017 and will forever hold a unique place in the history of the SANFL women’s competition as the player who kicked the first goal in its history,” he said.
“This year, Ellen was named among Sturt’s best players in seven of her eight games and was one of the competition’s leading possession-getters.
“This included the two highest possession games of her season in the past two weeks against Norwood and Glenelg, games that both ended in victory for Ellen and her Sturt team mates, including twin sister Tess.
“We send our heartfelt condolences and offer comfort and support to Ellen’s family and friends, the players, coaches and staff of the Sturt, Norwood and Mt Lofty football clubs and everyone affected by this devastating news.”
The Mt Lofty Devils also paid tribute to Maple, releasing a statement on social media.
“At just 22 years of age Ellen has been a very talented sports woman, having being named the 2016 inaugural Mt Lofty Womens B & F, first player EVER to kick a goal in the SANFL-W (and) an inaugural SANFL-W Premiership player with Norwood in 2017,” the statement reads.
“Here at Mt Lofty FC we wish to pass on all of our love and support, now and always to Ellen’s family and loved ones.”
Several people tried to save Maple while she was trapped in the wreckage of her car at the intersection of Diagonal Rd and Meredith Ave.
Felled powerlines remained live for about an hour after the crash.