As St Bedes Mentone/Tigers completed the perfect 2022 season in Premier C Women’s, very few people knew of the motivating factor behind senior coach Belinda Ousley’s driving force.
Ousley joined the Tigers as a playing assistant coach ahead of the abandoned 2020 season, before taking over the role from the incredibly talented Alan Gailey, the man who Ousley credits as the most pivotal piece of the Tigers premiership success.
Throughout the finals series, Ousley’s father entered hospital and was unable to attend on Grand Final day, then sadly passed away a few short weeks later.
The Grand Final was to be the only game he would miss attending in person. Perhaps, even from his hospital bed, he was the good luck charm for the Tigers as they claimed not only the Senior premiership, but also the Reserves title earlier in the day.
Ousley is the latest to join the VAFA Legends podcast, and reflected on one of the most special days in the history of St Bede’s.
“My dad had been at every footy game my whole career and he was in hospital that day, he had to watch it on an iPad and it turned out to be the only footy match he ever missed and he sadly passed away a few weeks later” she recounted with Russell Barnes.
“That was a really different experience, having my whole family there except for dad but it puts football into perspective, he was absolutely rapt that I was there and he got to watch it thanks to a beautiful nurse that set up an iPad for him.”
“I didn’t tell anyone at the club at the time, I just wanted the group to focus on what we wanted to achieve and that was two flags, but I told them all a few weeks later when he was gone.”
“I was just really happy to spend the day with such beautiful people, to have shared that experience with such a great group, it was tough but I’m really glad it turned out the way that it did.”
The Tigers completed the home and away season undefeated. They would beat Parkdale in the first final to advance to the Grand Final, and then meet the Vultures again after they won through the Preliminary Final stage.
“Training on Thursday night was really good, we did have a chat about nerves, they’re a very young and conscientious group.” Ousley recalls about the lead up to Grand Final day.
“The message they kept saying was that I just want to play well, I want to help the team… It’s a funny thing as a coach to be saying “have you seen me lose my cool all year, play your best, make mistakes, you don’t have to do it all, turn up and play your role.”
At half-time with scores level, it was the premiership quarter that saw the Tigers kick into gear and run away from the Vultures and win by 31 points.
The pre-cursor to the seniors was the Tigers reserves side coming from behind against Richmond Central to win the premiership by four points. A game for Ousley that was almost more satisfying than the senior title just hours later.
“Our reserves team really built throughout the year, once they switched on they just became a really powerful team. To watch them win their flag before our game was amazing.”
St Bede’s Mentone/Tigers competed in Premier B Women’s in 2023 finishing fourth, unfortunately losing in the first weekend of the finals.
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Belinda Ousley on the close nature of the St Bede’s Girls
Getting the girls playing together as a really tight unit
They are brilliant at it, they showed me what a really close connected football club can be
This group are a whole bunch of mates that play footy together and really care for each other and want to play well for each other
Using that fun side of footy to elevate them to play better, improve their skills.
Comparing the differences of the VAFA to AFLW/VFLW
The VAFA offers something different, catering to players with all sorts of needs and desires with their football
I get a bit of freedom with how I coach, I really value the person rather than the footballer and we just have something else in the VAFA program which is bringing all kinds of people with different backgrounds together
Half the magic of the VAFA is balancing all those needs and putting a good football team out there each week.
Working in tandem with the St Kilda Mums charity
We’ll go there (as a team) and sort through a bunch of clothes that get sent to families. Collecting donating goods, and all of us have chipped in a little bit of money
In football we’re pretty lucky we get a lot of funding, we’ve got nice rooms down at St Bede’s and all clubs are pretty lucky in that regard, and these charities are fighting tooth and nail for their cause
It’s a nice thing to give back and it teaches our players there’s a big world out there that we can be part of and contribute something positive.