By Alice Barker
Belle Dawes is a force in every aspect, with her unfaltering charisma, her humble demeanor and her undeniable footy talent. It’s obvious why so many people have helped her achieve all she has; because she makes it easy.
Whether it’s her mum’s consistent belief, her coach’s kind words or just being accepted in an all-boys footy club. The combination of it all has allowed her to be one step closer to realising her footy dream of one day playing in the AFLW.
When Dawes first started playing footy, the young Victorian didn’t play with the girls. There were no girls to play with.
And if you asked her when she was 12 if she could imagine playing in the highest women’s footy competition in the country, she would have said it’s not possible.
However, despite the adversity, Dawes is one of the most promising draft hopefuls to be potentially picked to play in the AFLW Draft tomorrow, Tuesday November 22.
Playing with the boys taught this Brisbane Lions Academy product possibly one of the most important lessons, that confidence is key.
“When I first started playing, it was like ‘oh it’s a girl’, and then a lot of the better players in that team they started liking me, then I was seen on the same level as them,” Dawes told aflq.com.au.
“Getting respect from that [meant] when I would go into a game [thinking] everyone actually knows I’m alright. I remember one last game, it was 2012 and one of the boys tackled me and the whole crowd cheered, because they got me.”
No one knows more than Dawes that it takes many factors to build a masterpiece, and current Brisbane Lions coach Craig Starcevich has a hand in this one.
“When Craig first saw me, he really loved my game, he called me Dawsey straight away,” she said.
“The club is Craig, he’s not one of those coaches who is just going to yell at you, he genuinely wants the best.”
Dawes recalls a game when her team wasn’t playing up-to-scratch, yet instead of receiving the wrath of an upset coach, Starcevich took the opportunity to simply look at their game under pressure.
“He makes us think about our game and keeps pushing us for more, even the way you’re thinking about it or holding yourself on the field,” Dawes said.
Even off the field, the Lions coach takes an interest in the young midfielder.
“I’ve had a rough year and he’s noticed and pulled me aside to ask what’s up, it’s almost like play to play.”
At home, it’s much of the same story.
“People always ask what your dream is and I thought I couldn’t say AFL but mum was like ‘yes you can, you can do anything, if you want to play AFL do it’,” she said.
At the end of the day, the most important thing in helping Dawes achieve her goals is talent, an area she certainly doesn’t lack in.
Dawes was picked as the only girl out of 400 applicants to participate in the DraftStar Tim Watson Scholarship at the age of 12 and received a year of personalised football development.
That was over six years ago, and since, she has continued to go from strength to strength.
This year has followed suit.
In the middle of competitions this year, Dawes boasted the highest number of games played sitting at more than 12.
And she was one of six Queenslander’s to be invited to the NAB AFLW Draft Combine in Melbourne where she excelled in the agility test.
Although, talking to her wouldn’t give you a correct indication of just how much talent she has.
“I felt average, I didn’t feel like I was less or better, just right where I wanted to be. I was confident.”
To be drafted into the AFLW for the humble 18-year-old would be “pretty cool”, an understatement which might just become a reality tomorrow.
Have you missed out on any of our AFLW Draft features ahead of tomrorow? Read them all here!
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Serene Watson: Serene Watson leans on experience and leadership to realise AFLW dream
Lily Postlethwaite: How farm and family helped Lily Postlethwaite prepare for AFLW