It was a mum-to-mum conversation at a suburban football ground that led to Lisa Taylor’s role as the Melbourne Vixens’ much-loved team manager. So it's fitting, in a sense, that Mother’s Day weekend will be shared between her two ‘’families’’ across both sports.
Taylor’s son, Curtis, in his third year with AFL club North Melbourne, was a junior contemporary of Vixens assistant coach Di Honey’s son Josh, who is in his second season at Carlton, and was formerly coached by Taylor’s husband Carl. Daughters, both named Olivia, played netball together for Geelong Cougars.
But back to that day at the Keilor Football Club, where Honey mentioned to Taylor that the Vixens were looking for a new team manager and suggested that the former Qantas flight attendant apply. Seven years later, what started out as a part-time position has evolved and expanded.
Taylor, meanwhile, who was a key part of the uniquely challenging 2020 premiership-winning adventure in Suncorp Super Netball’s Queensland hub, remains an ideal fit.
“Being full-time means you can be on call for those fun times - when someone gets to the VIS and forgets their runners, or turns up to the game without their under-dress shorts or socks, or leaves things behind in the change-rooms,’’ Taylor says with a laugh. “Or if it’s someone’s birthday when we’re away. We make it special for them.’’
Her efforts do not go unappreciated. “They’re always thanking me,’’ says Taylor, for whom no task is too big or too small.
“Even last night, Jo Weston said ‘Lise, you do so much for us, and sometimes we just forget to say thank you’. So, yes they’re great. All the staff are. Because it isn’t just the players; at times it is the staff as well that need that extra bit of help.’’
This weekend’s schedule has worked out perfectly, given how much there is to squeeze in. Taylor will spend Saturday morning at John Cain Arena for the captain’s run ahead of the Vixens’ second-round clash with Sunshine Coast Lightning, then head to Marvel Stadium to be part of a Mother’s Day panel at the North Melbourne chairman’s function before Curtis' Roos play Collingwood.
Sunday morning will be spent with her “blood” family - Carl, Angus, 23, Curtis, 21, and, Olivia, 19 - at home in Melbourne’s north. Next, she will drive with her pal Honey - and share a few laughs, as always - to organise game day with her adopted Vixens clan. Finally, a visit to her own mum for afternoon tea. Like clockwork, really.
All of which suits the meticulous Taylor, who admits that, of her many game-day duties, she is fussiest about setting up what must be a “perfectly presented” team bench.
She looks after food, drinks, equipment. Physio and massage. Writes times on the whiteboard, names on the team sheet. Co-ordinates the recovery and debrief, liases with the families. After packing up, is usually the last to leave.
Working closely with Vixens General Manager Bek Webster in the Performance and Pathways department, and now in charge of communicating and building connections with past players, Taylor provides a calm, caring, maternal presence for all.
“There are times when the girls have their own hardships, injuries or personal situations at home that they do need that support, and we make sure from the whole team that we’re there for them,’’ Taylor says.
“And injuries are definitely a difficult one, and I know when MJ (Kumwenda) did her ACL, one of the concerns for me was that she lived upstairs in a first-floor apartment, so I said ‘pack your bag, you come and stay with me for a little while’.
“And that’s a funny story, because she came for the initial weeks - I think she stayed about three months. My daughter moved out of her bed so that she could have her room, and she had an en suite, which was a lot easier for MJ.’’
By night two the Taylors had also collected a second house guest, with defender Kadie-Ann Dehaney moving in too.
“I said ’you’ll have to sleep with MJ, because that’s the only bed left’ and KD stayed the whole time as well. So we had the two of them living with us for two or three months.
“We had a lot of fun. It was actually great for my kids to learn about other countries and cultures and how different it was for MJ and KD, and just understand what it was like for them being away from home for all that time.’’
Indeed, Taylor acknowledges there are some similarities between running a household and a netball team, and frequently the two intersect.
“My husband said to me last night ‘I’d love to know how many Vixens towels you’ve folded or how many bibs you’ve washed over the years’. My kids all know how to fold the towels and how to fold the bibs! It’s organised chaos at times, but it’s nice to keep that little organised space going on, especially on game day.’’
There, along with assistant coaches Honey and Sharelle McMahon, Taylor is among three mums in the core Vixens group, with one of the squad’s physiotherapists, Felicity Lebbon, often bringing her one-year-old son William to Friday training.
“We have a little go at looking after William and making sure that Felicity can still come along and do her role,’’ says Taylor, who also recalls McMahon’s two children and Renae Ingles’ twins making guest appearances. “We do make sure we look after the mums, so they can still play their role in the team and be a part of the Vixens family.’’
So, given that parents are not supposed to admit to having a favourite child, can Taylor confess to secretly holding one special Vixen particularly close to her heart?
“Oh no, no. I can’t say!’’ she says. “I tell them all they’re my favourites at different times!
“They all have different needs, and they’re all great. They really are. I’ve been really lucky over the years and come across some great girls. They give up an enormous amount for the sport, and even our training partners are awesome, because it’s not a big salary for them, but it’s a big role, and they play a big part in our team.’’
So, certainly, does Lisa Taylor. Happy Mother’s Day from all.
Written by Linda Pearce