When the UC Capitals team and staff were introduced to the crowd after winning the WNBL title for the eighth time, one of the biggest cheers from the club’s faithful was in response to the announcement of the team manager’s name.
The manager’s role usually goes un-noticed despite the countless hours behind the scenes making sure the players only have to concentrate on the game ahead. Many of the manager’s chores aren’t even known to the players.
In the case of long-time UC Capitals manager, Barb Lodding, the role extends far beyond filling water bottles. It appears to extend to catering to practically everything required by young people living away from home.
Barb has been the mother figure, the stabilising force at the club for as long as anybody can remember.
She started in 1993, at the request of a friend on the coaching staff. She says she initially believed she wasn’t qualified for the role.
Barb, a Barristers Clerk up until retirement four years ago, was quickly convinced that she had the attributes to manage the team. In her words, “she got the bug” and 26 years later, she is still there volunteering her time.
In those early days, the role included booking flights, organising accommodation, sewing jerseys, and anything else required to ensure a smooth operation.
The sight of Barb on the bench filling water bottles with grand-daughter Keely became an institution at UC Caps home games. Keely started when she was four years old and only gave up the role last season at 21 years of age.
Barb has been there through the good and the bad. The bad included the 13 losses in a row last season. And the good; the eight premierships. She has been there for the lot. She has been the constant.
“It’s always been a privilege for me to work with great athletes and great coaches, I have learnt so much,” Barb humbly reflects. And that learning experience includes treating injuries.
It’s fair to say the playing group have learned plenty from Barb as well. She has been the stabiliser, the mother figure, the confidante, the sounding board for anybody in the group needing to get something off their chest without being judged. She says they sometimes tease her but it is done with affection.
Even after they have finished their playing careers, Barb is still there for the players, “her girls.”
I was witness to this on the night of the most recent grand final. I was commentating on the game for radio alongside UC Capitals legend Kellie Henning, formerly Kellie Abrams. Barb was still making sure Kellie was looked after as Barb still sees her as part of the team.
During our interview, Barb was happily answering any question that I posed to her until I said, “Barb who has been your favourite player?”
Then the response, “It’s too hard to answer. There are so many terrific people. They are all incredibly hard workers. I love them all.”
And the affection is clearly reciprocated by the players.
As for next year? Barb will wait until the glow of the eighth premiership wears with time and then make her decision. And whatever that might be, Canberra says “thank you” to a most committed manager who has been an essential part of our most successful team ever.