Bella Rigby - the Great Southern's Rising Star
The date was Sunday, August 15. The day that the Willunga Football Club etched themselves into Great Southern women’s history.
Grand Final day for the Great Southern Football League Women’s (GSFLW) competition started in favour of the Demons, with the red and white surging away in the last quarter to win the Under-17 Girls’ premiership, 9.4 (58) to 2.2 (14).
Then came the Open Women’s Grand Final where the Demons gained redemption from last year’s defeat with a hard-fought win to claim their first Open Women’s premiership, 2.6 (18) to 1.3 (9).
This marked the first time in the GSFLW’s history that a club claimed both the Open Women’s and the Girls premierships within the same season – and getting to experience both wins was a young gun named Bella Rigby.
“It was amazing,” Bella said when asked to describe Grand Final day. “I was so proud of my team for such an amazing season and then an even better Grand Final, and then after that winning the Opens Grand Final as well.”
“It’s an experience I will never forget.”
Watching the crafty player in action on Grand Final day, many spectators may have been unaware that Bella was still eligible to play Under-14 Girls’ footy – meaning she’s going up against players much older than herself.
“Sometimes I feel nervous when I’m going up against players that I know are older and stronger than me,” she said when asked if she’s ever fazed by being the youngest on the field.
“But other than that, I’ve played ages up for the whole time that I’ve played footy so I’m kind of used to it now.”
And used to it she is as Bella was named as the sixth Best on Ground during the Under-17s Grand Final win as well as the third Best on Ground during the Open’s victory.
Not only was Bella playing against opponents who were much older than herself, but the fact that she was named amongst the best players in both games shows the high level of endurance that the young Demon has.
This impressive endurance comes from her athletics background, which has seen her compete at Nationals twice.
“But I don’t think I will continue athletics after this season,” she said when asked about her athletics background.
Playing in 2 premierships in 1 day is far away from where the humble product began her football. Originally, back in 2019, it was her friends that got her interested in playing footy.
“Well, my friends Tanisha and Jaymie convinced me to play for the school with them and I fell in love with it,” she said when asked how she got involved with footy. “So, I started to play for a club it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Beginning with school football, Bella joined the Willunga Demons halfway through the 2019 season and, as well as being a part of a highly successful side, she’s loved every minute of it.
“It’s been amazing, I wouldn’t have wanted to join any other club,” she said when asked to describe her time at Willunga. “On my first day there I immediately felt so welcome.”
“Our team relationship is like no other and I think that is what makes us such a strong team.”
Having played in 3 Grand Finals for 2 premierships, all within 3 years of footy, Bella’s successful footy journey has also seen her finish runner-up to the 2020 Willunga Under-16s Best and Fairest.
Then, this year saw her claim the 2021 Willunga Rising Star Award.
Except for a few under-14s games where she has helped fill in, Bella has spent the majority of her footy playing in the older grades – which shows the faith that Willunga has in the promising junior.
“I feel so privileged to be able to play with all of the amazing girls who are a lot older than me,” she said when asked about the faith the Demons show in her.
“Playing up in grades helps to teach me more skills and learn more about the game and how competitive it is in the older graders which then helps me prepare for future games.”
Playing in the above grades has no doubt helped her development, with Bella going on to play in the GSFLW Under-17s Association side this year while also getting selected into South Adelaide’s Under-14s Development Squad.
“I’m so glad I got the experience it because it has taught me so much about football, and also me as a footballer and the things I need to work on and also the things that I am good at,” she replied when questioned about her time at South.
“I learnt so many new skills and things about the game which I’m glad I did because it will help me a lot in the future.”
Playing alongside older players has allowed Bella to learn from some of the competition’s best – considering some of the players that the Demons have on their current list, these range from talented veterans to other highly promising youngsters.
But overall, she holds a high level of appreciation towards her entire team in general.
“I’d like to thank my whole team for always encouraging me and believing in me to do my best, I wouldn’t be here without every single one of them.”
So, what is the next chapter for this highly promising Great Southern prospect?
“Next year my goals would be to once again get into the Association team and the South Adelaide development program and hopefully also get picked to train with the South Adelaide squad.”
Having played football for 3 years for 2 premierships and a runner-up Best and Fairest, all while playing alongside and against older players – Bella has some serious potential.
And as one of the most promising players in the Great Southern, we have a feeling that Bella Rigby is only going to get better.
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None of these images is owned by MWM; the image is kindly supplied by Willunga.