When born leader Bridget Barker finished up her playing career, it was only natural she ventured into coaching.
But being any old local footy coach wasn’t enough. Her motivation for success forced the Melbourne University Youth Girls coach to seek guidance from those with experience in the caper.
Through her work in North Melbourne’s community-based program ‘The Huddle’, Barker knew she had access to some elite advice that could help her side in season 2015.
“I came in on the Monday and someone said it was kind of like the football department was walking around like they had won a premiership, so to think they invested that much in a youth girl’s side and felt that sense of pride I felt was huge.” – bridget barker
Making the most of her opportunity as a club employee, Barker sought counsel from then North Melbourne assistant Shane Watson.
“Essentially at the end of 2014, I asked Shane Watson who was the forwards coach at the Roos at the time if he would be my coaching mentor,” Barker said.
“My work day-to-day doesn’t involve the football department necessarily, but I thought being part of the football club at ‘The Huddle’ in a community aspect, I may as well use that resource while it’s here.”
The duo worked together well, culminating in a finals appearance for Barker’s troops at the pointy end of the season – but she wasn’t satisfied with just making up numbers. So with her eyes firmly fixed on the main prize, she took her duties another step further.
Barker identified a major strength in the top-placed opposition side but needed help to combat the issue. With this in mind, mentor Watson pointed Barker towards the club’s director of coaching Darren Crocker, who was able to help out with some midfield set-ups.
“There was a big opposition ruck who seemed to get hold of them and basically was able to hit the ball where she wanted to and they won a number of clearances through those hits,” Crocker said.
“So Bridget, to her credit, went to the trouble of getting YouTube clips of that game where this girl was able to get clean hit-outs and clear the ball easily.
“We sat down and we went through the clips and spoke about a bit of plan going through to the Grand Final.”
What ensued was the ultimate success, with Barker’s MUWFC girls upsetting the previously undefeated opposition on Grand Final day.
Taking the side from the fringes to premiership glory, Crocker commends her passion and enthusiasm for the coaching caper and believes Barker deserves all the accolades she receives.
But Barker isn’t underestimating the role Watson and Crocker played in the result, suggesting they too enjoyed the success.
“I came in on the Monday and someone said it was kind of like the football department was walking around like they had won a premiership, so to think they invested that much in a youth girl’s side and felt that sense of pride I felt was huge,” she said.