Nine months ago, RMIT’s second season was promising the world to Isabella Symes.
Symes had been one of the key players in the Redbacks’ first season, playing nine matches and featuring in the best players five times. The mobile key position player was appointed co-captain alongside Neve O’Connor for the 2020 season in late March as RMIT geared up to take the next step across all of its faculties.
And then… well, you know.
“The thing I have missed most about footy is the atmosphere it creates and the attitude it encourages,” says Symes following months of COVID-19 restrictions that cancelled the Redbacks’ VAFA season and reduced interaction with her teammates and coaches to Zoom sessions.
“The motivating, inspiring and welcoming space that we have created at the Redbacks is definitely what keeps me coming back.”
Symes did not lapse in her captaincy duties across the winter of COVID-19. She was a voice of support for the formation and growth of the Zoom sessions that gave her team a way to keep in touch and maintain the momentum of the culture built across RMIT’s foundation season.
“The players and staff deserve a huge round of applause for the efforts they have put in to keep in touch with one another,” says Symes. “From Zoom workouts to online games night, there was never a day where we were searching for motivation. Our Facebook group was filled with posts from members sharing what they have been learning through lockdown or how their workout went. It’s really great to know that even with physical distance between us, the team connection we have created will never waver.”
Following the loosening of the State Government’s restrictions around local sporting clubs being able to train, the Redbacks players, coaches and support staff are preparing for the commencement of pre-season and the return to Bundoora Oval. Soon, the balls will be flying across the grass to the sounds of players calling and barking encouragement to each other. The coaches will be running and reviewing drills and the sports medical team will be plying their trade in the club rooms.
For Symes – the captain whose role has thus far been limited to the digital world – the chance to feel the boots on her feet and lead her team onto the field could not come quick enough.
“In season 2021, I would really love to see every player achieve their best performance. With the rollercoaster year that has been 2020, there is no doubt that we will have a fair bit of work to do in the pre-season but I know we are very capable of gaining back the momentum we saw towards the end of 2019.
“I would love to see everybody really strive hard for what they want to achieve, I definitely think all the girls have it in them and I have no doubt that if we put in the work, we can go all the way.”