By NATALIA HAWK
But this week, I wanted to talk to a very different kind of female involved in sport. The one that’s not on the actual field, kicking goals or wielding a cricket bat.
This article is about the females that are so often overlooked – the ones on the sidelines, with water bottles and biscuits. The ones driving kids to hockey and dance classes and washing their uniforms and reminding them about footy practice.
Behind every successful athlete out there, is a female that has helped them get to the level. For some, it might be a coach. For some, it might be a mother. For some, it might be a mother figure.
That’s who Mel Lamber is. Along with her husband, she works in welfare for the GWS GIANTS – an AFL team based out of Western Sydney that consists of 52 boys, the great majority aged between 18 and 21.
As a team, the GIANTS have a pretty amazing story. They entered the AFL at the start of 2012, and having such a young team means that their first couple of seasons have been a little bit slow – they’ve only won three games so far. But they’re developing quickly and many experts are predicting big things for the club. The Mamamia team even went along to a game, with writer Kahla telling me:
As somebody with a basic – okay, virtually non-existent – knowledge of AFL, watching the GWS Giants in action was enlightening on many, many levels. Here’s what I learned: AFL teams have awesomely rousing anthems; yelling out “Go son!” and “Ball!” is an appropriate reaction to good play; and the Giants’ corporate box has a lolly table to rival any Pick ‘n Mix stand you raided as a child. It was also really cool to witness the team spirit and excitement the Giants players drew from their supporters – it’s clear the folks of Greater Western Sydney are proud of their talented young men and were ecstatic to see them win.
But here’s the thing: the GIANTS team wouldn’t be able to operate without Mel Lambert. The great majority of the players have come from interstate and don’t have anyone around to help them out. So Mel teaches the players how to cook, how to clean and how to do their washing. She takes them for driving lessons and helps them fill out applications for rental properties. She chats to them about relationship issues.
She’s essentially Mum to an entire team of football players.
Oh, and she’s also got four children of her own. Because she hasn’t got enough to do with her time.
I chatted to Mel about exactly what she does and how she found herself involved in such a supportive environment…
MM: How did you get started in welfare?
My husband used to play AFL, many years ago – he was with the Brisbane Lions and that’s where he started in welfare. We’ve got four children, so I was at home with the kids, and he was doing welfare and basically he would invite a few boys round for dinner for him to get to know them better and work out their personalities. I ended up cooking once a week for five or six boys who would come over. And that ended up being every Tuesday – I would cook dinner, on average 18 players would come over.