When Leanne Backwell first set foot inside the Lancefield Football Netball Club, it was to support her daughter, who wanted to play netball for the Tigers.
She soon found herself taking on a much bigger role than that of supporting parent.
“My daughter was 16 when she decided to play for Lancefield,” Backwell recalled last week.
“I had to drive her to every match and, of course, she wanted to stay around and watch the other games.
“At the end of the season, they said to me, ‘As you’re at every game, would you mind helping out’, and I said I would.
“The next season they had my name next to ‘netball operations manager’ and that’s how it started.”
Now in her sixth year at the club, Backwell has become the Tigers’ second female senior football and netball club president.
She follows in the steps of Angelique Mott, who was instrumental in getting club up and going again after coming out of recess in the early 2000’s.
Backwell replaces Tony McKay, who held the role for three years.
“I never really thought I’d be president of a football club,” Backwell said. “But I always thought I would use my skills in a variety of areas.
“I’d been vice-president last year and been on the committee for five years and knew all the ropes.
“The club needed someone to step up and replace Tony, who did a wonderful job.
“The committee all knew I’d been active in getting the netball side of things back up and running, instead of being cellar dwellers. I was happy to step up and take on the role.”
The reaction to her appointment has been positive, both within the club and the league.
“It’s been hugely encouraging,” Backwell says. “The league suggested I apply for the AFL Goldfields ‘women in football’ grants program and I ended up receiving a scholarship. I’ll be putting that money into leadership and sports administration courses for myself.
“I want to encourage other women to step up and get involved. I want to be a role model for other women to take on similar roles. I’m very pleased to be named president.”
Backwell’s appointment wouldn’t come as a surprise to the many people aware of her roles on several sports and community committees.
Backwell says her aim at the Tigers is to continue the hard work done in the past few years. She says the club’s culture and family feeling have to be continued.
“My mission is to make the club the best on and off the field,” she said.
“Football and netball are equally important for me, and I believe all males and females are part of one playing group.
“We want to get the under-18s [football] back up and running.
“With football it’s about having local players of all ages and abilities wanting to play for Lancefield.
“People want to play netball for us; now we want that on the football side, too.”
Lancefield has had no under-16s or under-18s football teams for the past two seasons.
Backwell’s aim to have and under-18s team again is on track for the coming season.
“We got a panel of local men, who have been fantastic in recent weeks to get players for the under-18s, and we currently have enough for a team,” she said.
“I can’t commend them enough for their work.
“Hopefully, we’ll have under-16s running again, too.”
The Tigers will be holding netball try-outs on January 28 and staging a fundraiser on February 16.
Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne will head the guests for a ‘Bringing the cup to Lancefield’ dinner.
Details for both events: 0407 351 149