Belle Dawes poses during Brisbane's official team photo day at Brighton Homes Arena on August 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THIS young Brisbane midfielder loves the swagger of Irish fighter Conor McGregor, is currently pumping herself up with a hit from the 1990s and amidst it all, has emerged as a critical cog in the Lions' push for a second flag.

What you see with Belle Dawes on the field is exactly what you get when speaking to her off it – an infectious smile, loads of energy, passion, and an underbelly of tenacity you can't help but be impressed by.

Dawes started 2023 as the likely on-field replacement for the departed Emily Bates, and after a game or two feeling her way, has emerged as one of Brisbane's most important players ahead of Sunday's NAB AFLW Grand Final.

Isabel Dawes smothers the kick of Georgie Prespakis during the preliminary final between Brisbane and Geelong at Brighton Homes Arena on November 25, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Her 21-disposal, 14-tackle outing in the preliminary final win over Geelong was all heart and continued a rich vein of form since mid-season that has seen her form a great combination alongside Ally Anderson, Cathy Svarc and ruck Tahlia Hickie.

At just 22, Dawes is a young veteran, having played 55 games, including the 2021 Grand Final, where she showed maturity beyond her years to kick a clutch goal after the three quarter-time siren on the way to victory.

Although she was clearly ready for extra responsibility ahead of the season, stepping up from a "burst player" as she put it, to a full-time, high-impact midfielder, took some convincing from those around her.4

A self-confessed over-thinker, Dawes said coach Craig Starcevich told her to "keep doing what you're doing, because we love it", rather than try to emulate the play of season six League best and fairest winner Bates.

While Starcevich gave her clarity, it was the trust of teammates that really settled Dawes when she was voted into the leadership group earlier this year.

Isabel Dawes, Breanna Koenen, Natalie Grider, Sophie Conway, Cathy Svarc and Ally Anderson during the 2023 Brisbane official team photo day at Bighton Homes Arena on August 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"I've always been energetic and vocal, and as I've got older I've realised I wanted to be a leader," she told during Grand Final week.

"I have a silly side, but I also have a serious, caring side for the team.

"I can truly say being at this club has made me realise what it's like to be a team player.

"Any game my goal has been to make my teammates great and that's when I play my best footy.

"It's been ingrained in me since I was 19 and I really believe in it now."

While Dawes has learned to simplify things on-field with her defensive energy, speed through congestion and good ball use, she is just as important off-field.

Anderson said Dawes was a "barometer" for the Lions.

"She's such an important part of our team and she's really stepped up this year with Emily gone," Anderson said.

"She's done a great job and is finding such consistency now. She's going to be a star in the next few years, and even now she's already a star.

"She gets everyone up and about and is always saying the funniest things."


That's something Dawes takes pride in. In a team full of extroverts, it is the Sunshine Coast product that is in charge of the music and takes it upon herself to get the energy high.

Currently she's hammering the 1990s Chumbawamba hit Tupthumping which features the famous lyrics "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down".

"That’s the vibe for me," she beamed.

"What you see is what you get here.

"I like to be in control of the music, get the girls up and about. I don't care if I look like a fool, as long as it makes them laugh.

"I’m a believer in energy and it's an energy exchange. I give them my energy and they’re giving me energy.

"I love playing that role and will do it any day for my team."

Dawes loves to watch masters of their craft to draw inspiration.

Whether it's Kobe Bryant highlights, the "swagger" of McGregor, the Last Dance documentary featuring Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls or even attending an Ed Sheeran concert recently.

"It's not my favourite music, but I watched him, a master of his craft, and that really inspired me," she said.

"I'll watch some Nick Daicos highlights before the game, haha, whatever I'm feeling like."

Whatever she's been feeling like has been working.


Dawes has averaged 17 disposals, seven tackles and four clearances this season and is ready to make it two wins from three Grand Finals on Sunday against North Melbourne.

"We haven't had a perfect season, we're not the perfect team, but we've had the perfect preparation for finals," she said.

"We've learnt so much about who plays where, different scenarios in games, just that mental resilience.

"I've played in two Grand Finals and had a win and a loss and let me tell you, they're different emotions and feelings.

"I haven’t forgotten about that feeling from last year and I'll be remembering that going into this game."