The Red Centre is a long way from Geelong, but when Ethan Liddle is on the football field, he is right at home.
Liddle is in his second season at Geelong West Giants and has been one of the team’s best performers.
The Central Australian has been named among the Giants’ best players in every game over the past month and is fresh off a season-high 34-disposal performance against Bell Park last weekend.
“Last year I had a decent season, but this year has probably been one of my better years,” Liddle said.
The talented footballer grew up in Harry Creek, 50km north of Alice Springs, and played for Central Australian Football League club Pioneer.
In 2019, after some impressive performances for the Central Australia Redtails representative team, he received an opportunity to play for the NT Thunder.
He featured in a handful of games at NEAFL level before the Thunder folded at the conclusion of the season.
Like many Territorians to make the trek for footy interstate, the stark contrasts in playing styles are not lost on him.
“It’s very different to football back home,” Liddle said.
“The GFL is more congested and not spread out like Alice Springs or Darwin.
“When you get the ball in the Northern Territory, you’ve got space, but down here half of your disposals are contested possessions.
“It’s a strong league, there are lots of good players and even the bad teams are still pretty decent.”
Liddle said Geelong West had embraced him into the club.
This season, he helped design the Giants’ playing-strip for their Indigenous Round clash.
“For NAIDOC week, we really wanted to do something before the game and that’s something we’re going to line up for next year,” Liddle said.
“Our team at Geelong West is very multicultural and being in that space makes you feel very comfortable, which the club itself embraces.
“There’s always a good vibe there and it’s a good group.”
Geelong West sit in seventh position on the GFL ladder, with an 8-8 win-loss record.
Outside of footy, Liddle works at Gordon TAFE mentoring Indigenous youths.
“I help students with their enrolment and try to keep them engaged with their courses,” he said.
“If they have trouble outside of school, we can contact other Aboriginal organisations that they can get in contact with.”
Liddle’s advice to any young Central Australian footballer is to get out of their comfort zone.
“Just challenge yourself because that’s the only way you’re going to get better,” he said.
“If there’s an opportunity to play at a higher standard, definitely take it.
“For me, I just wanted to play at a high standard and improve my football and I think GFL has definitely helped with that.”
The Giants are coached by Greg Mellor, who spent five seasons at Richmond in various coaching roles under Damien Hardwick.
- Story by Jackson Clark