Bel keeps the Geelong Cats women’s team watered and ready

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Belinda (Bel) Cini is in her second season, employed as a ‘water girl’ for the Geelong Football Club’s women’s team and the one-eyed Cats supporter can’t believe she scored her ‘dream job’.

The 39-year-old NDIS participant from Torquay who has an intellectual disability said she couldn’t be happier adding it was her long-time friend Sam Moorfoot, the Geelong men’s team’s water boy who inspired her to give it a go.

Sam Moorfoot and Bel Cini together at Geelong Oval

‘I thought if Sam could do it for the boys, I could do it for the girls,’ Bel said proudly.

Using her NDIS funding Bel engaged local disability provider Leisure Networks.

Bel was paired with support work Ali to help build her life and employment skills.

Bel said Ali has been instrumental to her personal and employment success, working with her to build her confidence and helping her to navigate, learn and do everyday tasks.

Ali supports Bel at home with general household duties and helps her to prepare meals.

Bel also plays all-abilities football, so Ali supports her to get to practice, to games, to work and any other appointments.

‘Ali is great. She helps me a lot,’ Bel said.

Keen to get a job the same as her friend Sam at the club ‘but for the girls’, Bel asked Ali to help her write an email to Geelong AFLW midfielder Mikayla Bowen.

‘I wanted to ask if I could be a water girl,’ Bel said.

‘When I heard back I was so happy. Mikayla wanted to meet with me, so Ali came with me to meet Mikayla, then I met my boss Robert,’ Bel said.

Mikayla and Robert explained the ‘water girl’ role to Bel, what it involved – attending games and training sessions; filling up water bottles; handing them to players; handing out lollies and putting out and packing away equipment before and after training.

‘I knew I could do it,’ Bel said. ‘It’s been so much fun. I love getting to know the players and making friends.

‘In 2022 I even went to the Geelong Cats AFLW best and fairest and handed out the fan MVP (Most valuable player) award to Georgie Prespakis!’ she added.

Proud of his friend Bel’s achievements, Sam said he’s glad to know he inspired her.

‘Bel does a great job. I think she was inspired because she knows how much I love my job,’ he said.

As for tips for Bel, Sam says, ‘be yourself, be positive, respectful, work hard and enjoy it.’

Geelong AFLW team forward Kate Darby said Bel’s is an integral part of the team.

‘She’s brought a fresh sense of joy and excitement to the group,’ Kate said.

‘Her infectious energy is great and the smile she constantly has on her face when we come in and grab a drink between drills is always so sweet.

‘You can tell she is just so stoked to be involved. We are lucky to have her.’

Kate said Geelong Football Club has always had a strong inclusion policy.

‘It’s a family club with a great culture, and we feel lucky to be involved in our community,’ she said.

‘For us community matters, regardless of who you are or what your ability level is. Everyone is important and making people feel that way is extremely important to us.

‘Footy can be such a big part of people’s lives. It’s a community within itself. It brings joy and excitement, and we need to ensure it also brings comfort, acceptance and safety.

‘I just want to make sure Bel knows she’s a great addition to our team, and her care and support for all players doesn’t go unnoticed.

‘Bel, we want to thank you for all your support and hard work. We can’t wait to have you back running water next season,’ Kate added.

Over 646,000 Australians are now receiving NDIS support, and more than half are receiving it for the first time.