It is the end of an era for star Kyabram netball playing coach Belinda Lees.
After eight seasons as a player, seven years as head coach, four A-grade premierships and one undefeated season, Lees has announced her time at the club has come to a close.
Launching her career at Kyabram Football Netball Club in 2009 as a player, Lees took on the role of coach a year later at the tender age of 24.
During her next seven years at the helm, she guided her teammates from strength to strength.
Her honesty, encouragement and tactical wizardry helped the Bombers flourish, the team eventually dominating the court with an ease that, at times, made it seem almost immortal.
The Bombers took home flags in 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017, with an undefeated season this year.
Lees has also shone as a player in goal attack, collaborating with goal shooter Elle Groves to achieve a league record of 1000 goals for the club this season.
Despite this glittering list of achievements, Lees has always shifted the focus from the wins and accolades to the importance of friendships within the team.
The emphasis in the Kyabram A-grade side has always been fostering relationships on and off the court.
And it seems to have worked, with the tight-knit culture of the team contributing to effortless plays on court.
With this stellar record behind her and the team at its peak, Lees said it was time to pass the baton.
“I’m very sad this era is coming to an end. But after this grand final I felt my time was finished,” she said.
“I’ve taught what I know, but it’s time for the girls to hear from someone else. We’ve built an immense respect for each other on the team and have instilled really good fundamentals which will stand the girls in good stead in the future.
“I’ve always strived to be honest, accountable and trustworthy in my decisions as coach. I believe I earned their respect.
“I’m so grateful for the lifelong bonds I’ve formed on this team and to the club for their support over the years.”
Travelling from Moama several times a week to train and play with the Bombers, Lees said her decision to step down was one she largely made to gain more time with her husband and two little girls, Amelia and Coco.
“This was a decision I needed to make for family. I didn’t have it in me to continue travelling to Kyabram several times each week,” she said.
“My husband has been amazing. It takes a strong man to support his wife in her pursuits.”
Currently filling the roles of apprentice under-17 state coach, division one Melbourne University Lightning VNL head coach and championship VNL Melbourne University assistant coach, Lees will still have her hands full.
“I just want to continue to grow my craft and have something more to offer,” she said.
“I’ll definitely stay in netball, but I just need to prioritise.”
And while Lees knows this is the right decision, she said it would not make it any less difficult to leave her teammates.
“I’ve grown, been challenged and rewarded. I’m just so grateful and there are so many people I need to thank,” she said.
“Without girls like Ash Mangan, Steph Vick and Lauren Pryde, I wouldn’t have been able to continue on for this long.
“I have been given incredible support and encouragement from my teammates and I am completely indebted to them.”