“I THOUGHT this is exciting even if I can train well, I might not get a game this year, but maybe the following year… but after the first training, they called me afterwards and said I was going to play that weekend!”
For Casey Demons utility Holly Bailey joining the VFLW club came as a surprise, but she quickly established herself as a key member of the Demons list and played out the end of the 2018 VFLW season, learning with every game.
“I got the shock of my life… I was pretty nervous,” Bailey said.
“I ended up playing the rest of the season with Casey… I learnt so, so much in the five or six-game period.
“It was more than I learnt in my first two years of football.”
After a successful career on the netball courts, Bailey decided to give football a crack inspired by the Women’s revolution in the sport.
Joining the Melbourne Cricket Club’s inaugural football team playing in the VAFA Women’s Division 3 in 2018, Bailey starred in her first year on the field, powering the MCC side to a 10-4 record, good for second on the ladder, before the team bowed out in the preliminary final.
Capping off her stellar season, Bailey was awarded the best and fairest award for the division, a prestigious honour.
But displaying her team-first and humble nature which has endeared her to her teammates, Bailey would have much rather celebrated a win as a team over any personal accolades.
“I was surprised to receive the award… It was an honour to receive,” Bailey said.
“But I would have much rather our team get to the grand final.
“I would have loved for our team have a better season than me receiving an individual award.”
Bailey puts the team above all, sacrificing herself for the betterment of the side, a feat which has earnt her the trust of the 22 other players lining up for Casey every week.
The mantra stems from her successful career for Edithvale-Aspendale in the Peninsula Netball League, winning premierships taught Bailey the importance of being a team.
“What I learnt from netball, and I am really glad to be able to bring across to football, is for us being successful, it’s not about me being the best player on the team, it’s about us working together,” Bailey said.
“If we are working together, making sure we are all able to do our job… That is how we will be successful.”
Bailey’s belief marries up with the Demons’ motto of ‘Stronger Together’, a tagline the savvy midfielder is confident gets the best out of the squad.
“When we play that way, we are so strong,” Bailey said.
“When we do what we have trained for, that is ‘stronger together’, that we have agreed to play for… Playing what we know, executing it… We look so good.”
The motto has led to some outstanding results through the first half of the season, including three victories, and playing top sides to the very final minutes in close losses.
But while losing, Bailey is confident the team continues to learn from the experiences and will only be better because of it.
“Our goal for the season is continuous improvement,” Bailey said.
“We have had a couple of close games in the last couple of weeks.
“Particularly against Collingwood, we recently, we feel they weren’t that much better than us, we just didn’t get the impact on the scoreboard we would have liked.
“But we can take a lot from that game… That we can use to keep getting better.”
Bailey talks with a maturity, care and passion for the team and football which comes from her own experiences being involved with elite sport, and the unique challenges elevating through the ranks of sport presents for young women.
Her experiences led her to founding the initiative ‘Play Like A Girl’, a platform for women of all ages to help manage some of the challenges which come with playing sport.
“The reason I started my project, ‘Play Like A Girl’, is because I remember when I first, and I am experiencing it again at my age, how challenging it is moving up grades in whatever sport you play,” Bailey said.
“Taking a step back and the challenges can be really, really hard off the field, as well as on the field.
“So, the initiative is designed to help girls and women manage some of the off-field challenges, so they are able to perform on-field.”
It has been quite the journey for Bailey, from a former premiership-winning netballer to now a VFLW footballer in the midst of her second year in the red and blue.
Bailey has established herself as a key member of the Demons midfield and understands more and more about what it takes to play football at the elite level.
“VFLW is definitely a step up… There are a lot of really skilful girls,” Bailey said.
“Solid bodies, that kind of thing… But this year, there has been so much to learn all of the time, I have really, really enjoyed it.”
Balancing life as an elite footballer, dedicating herself to her passion project, and maintaining work as an executive assistant, Bailey loves her brief moments of pause.
“I love to travel, I love going on retreats, I am a bit of a retreat junkie,” Bailey said laughingly.
“Love my food and wine and doing all that.
“I keep myself busy… But I enjoy it.”
Bailey lives a passion fuelled life, and it is the same passion she brings towards her football dream.
“I would love to take it as far as possible… I would love to be playing in the AFLW,” Bailey said.
“I see myself getting better every week and hopefully taking it all of the way.”
But while she continues striving her dream, for now, the Casey Demons faithful are thrilled seeing the passion Bailey shows every time she puts on the #42 jumper because this girl can play.