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FEATURE: Born to be Captain, for Paige Holt the Borough is a Family Affair

For courageous Port Melbourne Women’s captain Paige Holt she is a living a dream, but it was a dream she never believed would come to fruition. Growing up as a Port local, niece of a Port Melbourne legend, and granddaughter of one of the club’s former dedicated volunteers, captaining the first ever Women’s team at the club was a natural fit. As a child the sacred Borough oval was her playground, but back then Paige never believed it would one day be possible for her to become the inaugural Women’s team captain.

Paige Holt epitomises the true Borough spirit, she is loyal, she is humble, she is tough, and she leads by example with a combination of ferocity and compassion. Inspired by the memory of her beloved Nan, Paige is Red and Blue and very much Port Melbourne through and through.

“For Belinda Ousley and myself this was basically our second home”, Paige recalls “Our Dad’s would come here together and they would stand on the hill and we basically ran amok. Other than get money from them for food on occasions I doubt we even checked in with them for hours, the ground was basically our babysitter”.
Paige’s ties to the club run deep with her Grandmother a past volunteer in the canteen, and her uncle David “Sam” Holt a talented player during the 70’s. Paige fondly remembers her Nan religiously sitting in the same seat at home games.

“I was extremely close to my Nan and she used to sit in the Goss Stand when I was growing up, she would be in the same seat she sat in when Sam was playing, and I used to run up to her regularly so she could give me lollies”, Paige reminisces. “It was like that back then, your parents and grandparents knew you were safe when you were at the ground even if they didn’t see you for hours. Everyone knew everybody, and everyone knew me as either Gregory Holt’s’ little girl or they would say that’s Sammy’s niece. It was a wonderful time.”

Now 36, the opportunities to play football were not as prevalent for Paige as they are for young girls today. At 10 she was invited to play for a Port Melbourne Colts junior side to make up the numbers in her brothers team. In what turned out to be a rewarding experience, Paige participated in the sport for two years, but with the absence of any pathways for female players at the time, her junior football foray was over when she turned 12.

“One day when I was watching my brother play at the Colts they didn’t have enough numbers to field his team in the under 10’s and they said I could play, which really surprised me as I didn’t know of any other girl who had played, but I was excited to give it a go and I ended up being better than my brother”, Paige said cheekily. “I played two years there and was runner up best and fairest, but after I turned 12 I wasn’t able to play anymore as there was no options for girls back then”.

Despite her natural ability and obvious love of the game it wasn’t until some 13 years later that Paige would recommence her football career. In the period between her junior days to adulthood football opportunities for women, and participation rates had exploded, and when a work colleague invited her to come for a run with the Altona Women’s team she enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to pull on her footy boots again. After two years at Altona, Paige moved closer to her heartland and spent a few years playing with the Port Melbourne Colts, and in 2015 was part of their victorious premiership team. It was however last year when the seemingly impossible became possible for the Borough girl.

“When the Port Melbourne Borough declared they would be fielding a Women’s team in 2018 it was a dream come true”, said Paige. “It was so exciting to not only play for Port Melbourne but to captain them in their first year, I was absolutely blown away. It is still so surreal as I had never ever thought that it would be a possibility that this would ever happen. I constantly have to pinch myself. This ground means so much to me and to be able to captain the first ever girls team is phenomenal. I still walk into the ground and get goose pumps every time”.

Paige’s love affair with Port Melbourne continues to be a family affair with her partner of 7 years, Rebecca Marshall also a member of the Borough Women’s side. The two meet while playing at Altona, and have followed the same football path since. Paige and Rebecca also have a two year old daughter Darcy, who is already carrying on the Holt tradition of being a regular visitor to the oval. With a toddler under foot and both women balancing their football obligations with successful careers football discussions are limited on the home front.

“It’s funny most of the time at home these days we don’t talk a lot of footy”, she said. “Since our daughter has come along it is all about Darcy, and with us both working and our football it really does take a community. We are lucky we have both our Mum’s, and our friends and our water runner slash babysitter, but it is a challenge. But I think it is important to do what you love as well and to find that balance so we can teach our daughter about hard work and doing something you are passionate about, and if you want something you can achieve it with determination and support”

In her position as captain Paige takes her role in developing the younger more inexperienced players seriously and works diligently to ensure that the values of team and club are instilled into the playing group she proudly leads.

“I try to lead by example and to practice what I preach”, she said of her Captaincy style. “I want to educate the girls about wearing the jumper with pride, and to embrace all of that which is the Borough spirit. To get the best out of everyone you need to have that family unit and I think that is something we have had since last year. We try to drive into the team that we play together and we look after each other on and off the field, we encourage that true sense of family and security amongst our girls, we make sure we all have each other’s backs”.

Away from football Paige’s natural nurturing character is also evident in her professional life. After her Nan passed away four years ago she found herself re-evaluating her life’s path.

“I am a supervisor for an Aged Care Facility”, she explains. “That change in my career was inspired from the very close bond I had with my Nan, and when she passed away I completely reinvited myself professionally and went from working in insurance and moved into Aged Care and worked my way up. In a way I lost her, but I gained another 30 grandparents. It’s challenging work, but so rewarding, but I still miss my Nan everyday and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, and that is another reason why playing for Port Melbourne is so special for me. I often take a peek up towards the Goss stand and her seat and know she is watching over me and would be so proud”.

With over a year together, and a full pre-season behind them, Paige is excited and optimistic about the future, the obvious and progressive development of her team, and the role they will play in creating pathways for young girls in the area to realise their football dreams.

“It is an exciting time for women’s football particularly for Port Melbourne, and the girls in the area”, she said. “To see the pathways and the opportunities that are being fostered I am excited, I am so proud to be a part of what is a promising future. It is a very special feeling to be able to take part in and witness the development of women’s football and to know that the young girls that are playing for the Colts today, who are joining the junior competition in droves have something to aspire towards. We aim to make the Port Melbourne Borough Women’s team a proud addition to this beautiful club for the generations that follow, and I am honoured to be a part of that”.

Article: Sarah Manton.

Images: Emily Fraser-Ison.

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