Not every club has one. But those who don’t wish they did. The dedicated, unassuming, tireless contributor, who does it all and then a bit more. The one with the phone that’s never turned off, and the here-if-you-need switch that’s always on.
Meet Bek Webster, Netball Victoria’s General Manager Vixens, Performance and Pathways. No disgrace if you haven’t heard of her, for that’s how she prefers it. Quiet, private and unobtrusive is her natural way. What matters is getting things done.
Bek will not enjoy reading this, actually, but no surprises there. In 2019, when it came to counting the votes for the Outstanding Service Award, it was accepted that the deserving high performance manager would fudge the numbers to make sure someone else “won”.
Sure enough, at the Sharelle McMahon Medal night, when Bek sat there expecting her carefully-orchestrated substitute ‘’winner’’ to be announced, she was stunned and horrified (but also, hopefully, quietly proud), to be called onto the stage herself.
This one was a complete secret, and presented during a Zoom version of the annual celebratory function on Thursday night. The Team Spirit Award is bestowed only occasionally, and was last dusted off in 2014.
That was when Cath Cox came to the Vixens, played only a little but contributed a lot in her single season - including coming off the bench to shoot six crucial goals from seven attempts in the last quarter of the ANZ Championship grand final against the Queensland Firebirds - and finished her great career with a premiership.
But back to Bek.
“The award is for someone who’s made a special contribution to the club, and that’s Bek,’’ says head coach Simone McKinnis. “Particularly this season, and last season, the work that she does, and there's no fanfare about it.
“Everyone’s just got the utmost respect for her. She just does anything and everything for the team. Anything that’s going to help the team. She just works. You don’t hear about it. You don’t see it. But we wouldn’t be the club we are without the work she does.’’
Her title does not do justice to the breadth of Bek’s role, which officially includes list management and everything high-performance/pathway-related, but has more recently included travel co-ordinator, high-level negotiator, strategist, counsellor, hub-facilitator and bearer of more bad news than good in a uniquely difficult season.
All delivered, however, with her trademark calm - even if McKinnis suspects there is a little of the proverbial duck in her trusted colleague, with all that surface serenity masking some frantic paddling underneath.
“She never comes across as flustered, or that anything’s not able to be managed, it’s just ‘yep, we can find a solution for that’,’’ says the grateful coach. “Just always makes things happen, without fuss or bother or panic.’’
Another description prompted a moment of levity during a team meeting in Brisbane at the end of a Suncorp Super Netball odyssey in which positives proved hard to find.
Enter Bek, who was about to deliver the grim tidings that what was left of a dwindling travelling party would have to depart immediately and go into home isolation for 14 days after returning to Victoria with the wooden spoon.
“The poor thing - I do feel for her,’’ says captain Kate Moloney. “In that meeting I think it was Emily Mannix that said ‘oh, here’s Debbie Downer’ when Bek came in!
“There were a lot of meetings this season; a lot of updates. Some games you didn’t know if you were playing within a 24-hour period of actually playing, and she’s the one that’s behind the scenes working on that and we’re the ones that go to her all the time.
"I feel like she sees my name pop up on her phone sometimes and would be like ’oh, no’. You’re just constantly asking her questions because she does and knows everything. So she has to break some news to us sometimes that I know she’d prefer not to, but she does it very well.’’
Asked to sum up Bek’s contribution, Moloney thinks for a moment, then chooses her words carefully, pointing out how few people would have any idea of the size of her contribution, and how utterly deserving is the Vixen who will loathe being singled out for the prestigious Team Spirit Award.
“I think she is the backbone of absolutely everything that we do,'' says Moloney. "A lot of the time as players and even as coaches, we’re the ones who get to go out on court and get to be seen, but it’s people like Bek that make a club, and make a club a special, and a place that you want to be around all the time.
“It wouldn’t matter what time of the night you email or text her, she’d reply straight away. She’s been amazing at the Vixens for a long time, but the last two years and the last 12 months in particular, she’s just been incredible. I don’t know how she did it this year, and I don’t know how we could have got on court this year if it wasn’t for Bek.’’
Written by Linda Pearce