Belle Dawes in action during round five, 2023 (left) and as a junior. Pictures: Gary Bradshaw

Footy Focus photographer, Gary Bradshaw, took photos of Belle Dawes as a junior playing for Frankston Rovers JFC. Last weekend, Gary ventured to the AFLW match in Frankston as as Belle returned home to take on the Hawks. Here are some photos taken back in 2012 and again in 2023.

My name is Gary Bradshaw, I have a photography company called GazzaB, and I have been shooting mainly junior footy for over 15 years, mainly on the Mornington Peninsula, near where I live in Frankston. I started shooting junior footy when my kids were playing at the Frankston Dolphins Junior Footy Club, where I was very involved, becoming President for a few years, and leaving as a Life Member. I love what junior footy does for kids, so much good comes from them playing the game. That has kept me involved for all these years.

Belle Dawes playing for the Frankston Rovers in 2012. Picture: Gary Bradshaw

Belle Dawes played junior footy at Frankston Rovers JFC (FDJFL in the AFLSE), playing with the boys as there wasn’t that many girls teams when she started back in 2008 or so. I shot her playing in the 2012 grand final, where she was close to best on ground and just stood out as a gun player. If we saw her play today, now that we have the AFLW and the awesome pathways that are available to the girls, she would probably be drafted at 11 years old! Ha, but she was just that good.

Belle Dawes playing for the Frankston Rovers in 2012. Picture: Gary Bradshaw

This AFLW match I shot was my first top level AFL game of any sort, I have shot all other levels over the years, and it was very smooth.. The game was fast and it was quality footy. Juniors are a fair bit slower, so I had to adjust, fast.

A good footy photo, to me, is one that shows emotion, power, speed, passion, or something very skilful. Sharp, colourful, and brings you back to the game. My favourites are the celebration photos, in particular, the real young players mimicking their AFL heroes! They point, they 'SHHH' the crowd, they pull out the chainsaw, and they just look so awesome. The joyful looks on their faces are just pure gold. 

Thanks for the opportunity to shoot this match, the full circle of Belle returning home was a cool story for me, local girl makes it big on the biggest stage in the game. I know the Frankston Rovers had quite a few kids there to see Belle, and these stories give inspiration to many young players.

Belle Dawes in action during round five, 2023. Picture: Gary Bradshaw