Belinda’s visit inspires next gen Bombers
Pingrup football talent Belinda Smith says the growth of the AFLW is having a significant impact at grassroots level after the proud WA defender returned to speak with seven girls playing juniors for her beloved Lake Grace-Pingrup Bombers last month.
Smith was one of only two girls playing football for the Bombers 12 years ago, pictured in a team photo with now-Richmond rookie Liam Baker.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the Bombers had seven girls playing in their juniors team that made it through to the grand final of the Ongerup Football Association earlier this month.
Smith, who will play for the West Coast Eagles in the 2020 AFLW season, spoke to the group of girls before they ran out in Bombers colours in Jerramungup for the grand final and said it brought a smile to her face knowing that national women’s competition is inspiring young players around the country.
“I went down to the preliminary final and noticed seven girls were playing for Lake Grace-Pingrup and a few in the other team as well,” Smith said.
“It was a bit of a shock but really heartwarming to see the physical impact of what we are doing in the AFLW.
“Those girls have someone to look up to.”
When living in Pingrup as a kid, Smith played netball as well as football but admits it was tough to fit in playing with the boys.
“I played netball and football,” she said.
“I would run off halfway through the fourth quarter in footy and go play netball.
“I had boys refusing to kick it to me initially, I had to earn their respect and there were only a couple of us (girls) playing but it was good fun.”
The 24-year-old is thrilled to be back home in WA, recovering from a ruptured Achilles that ruined her 2019 AFLW season with the Western Bulldogs.
She will look to add to her 15 career games when the Eagles enter the competition next year.
Her three brothers, Mitch, Regan and Leighton all play together in the Bombers league team and Smith said there was plenty of banter and rivalry between siblings when it comes to footy.
The Lake Grace-Pingrup Football Club has a dual Brownlow medallist in Nat Fyfe, Baker preparing to play in an AFL grand final and the likes of Mark Bairstow and the Morton brothers all part of their history.
Smith, however, is creating her own footballing journey as she continues to inspire young girls in the country to chase their dream.
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