It’s unusual for a first-year defender to play like the general of her team’s backline, but with Chantella Perera it makes perfect sense.
After a lengthy career in the WNBL, Perera saw an ad seeking players for a new VFLW side and couldn’t think of a good reason not to give it a crack.
She ended up playing three seasons for the Box Hill Hawks and claimed a Lisa Hardeman Medal as the best afield in their premiership triumph over Geelong in 2018.
The 33-year-old then faced a decision on whether to enter the 2019 AFLW draft and, much to the Eagles’ benefit, once again she thought, 'Why not?'.
A seventh-round selection was all it took for West Coast to claim the talented stopper and a leader for its young backline.
“Footy’s obviously different for me, but you draw on your experience and I don’t feel like a rookie,” Perera said.
“There are some things that are new but sport’s sport. It’s just understanding the landscape, so there’s definitely new things about it. I’ve got a varied experience so it’s good to bring that to the team.
“With the Box Hill Hawks I learnt a lot through those years. I felt like a rookie then, but I had good leaders around me back then that I can take into now.”
Over the first half of the 2020 season, the former guard has been a stabilising presence and one of the Eagles’ most consistent players.
Rangy yet physical, Perera plays with a presence footy heads might not expect from a former hoopster.
“I was generally a physical player, even in basketball," Perera said.
"Understanding the structures and strategies, that’s not natural to me, that always takes a little more effort. With basketball that’s second nature to me,” she said.
Away from grass and hardcourt, the accomplished veteran has a successful marketing career under her belt and while the two can come into contest, the athlete side of her knows how to keep going one day at a time.
“Everything for me is bonus. I never planned for this and as long as I’m enjoying it and doing what I need to do and playing my role I’ll just keep going,” Perera said.
“The stars have aligned and I really love where I’m at; I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”