BRISBANE is a long way from Frankston in the south eastern suburbs of Victoria, but the Sunshine State, and more accurately, the Brisbane Lions is where exciting mid-forward Belle Dawes‘ heart lies. She moved from Victoria up north and brought her love for Australian Rules football with her, and credits much of her recent development – which saw her make the 2018 AFL Women’s Under 18 All Australian side – to then-coach Craig Starcevich.
“I’ve lived in Frankston Victoria and I just started playing, me and my brother signed up for Frankston Rovers Under 9s,” Dawes said. “I played there at that club until Under 12s, and then just played with boys and I moved to Queensland. “That’s when I thought I’ll come play footy up here, come play with the boys and then the girls team started. “Played in the school comp, got seen and then got selected for regionals and started from there.”
Starcevich has been a huge inspiration for Dawes who she said “opened up her whole game” with some crucial advice.
“He’s supportive, a real cool coach, I’ve learnt a lot from him,” Dawes said. “Swivel the head was a big thing, and that opened up my whole game, kicking left and right and swivelling my head to switch it. “Because he’s been my coach over a few years I’ve got to know what he teaches and just developing that each year.”
Dawes admits the change from an Australian Rules dominant state to one that is predominantly rugby was different, but refreshing because it helped her feel more at home in the pathway system.
“Coming from Victoria it’s all like AFL, it’s really different up here, it’s very rugby like,” she said. “Even at schools there’s no fields, no one really follows it, so it was different, it’s quieter, but I kind of like it because when we did all the regional stuff I knew all the girls, it was all the same. “We all got to know each other and we became more of a family so it was cool.”
It has helped Dawes that her family has been so supportive in helping her chase her dream.
“My mum is really supportive, she loves it, she is my number one fan,” Dawes said. “My brother plays too. “He’s 16, but he plays and he loves it too, and my sister just kind of follows whatever we do.”
Dawes said her strengths include accumulation and being able to read the play and the ball from ruck taps and around the ground, indicating a high football IQ. While her fitness “always can” improve, she is just as focused on working on her skills to make the right decisions by hand or foot and reduce rushed disposal.
As for her ultimate goal and club of choice, Dawes summed it up in just two words – “Draft” and “Brisbane”. Should Dawes be granted her wish, she will get the opportunity to continue with her mentor in Starcevich and help the Lions continue their already impressive AFL Women’s history.