Belcher was born at Hall's Track near Launceston and his family moved to Brunswick where he played for both All Stars and Coburg (VJFA) before joining his brother, Allan, at Brunswick in August 1905 .
Immediately successful as a defender, Belcher was selected in the back-pocket to represent the VFA in 1906 when they played the Bendigo and Northern District Association. That year he shared club's the best defender trophy. He was recruited by South Melbourne secretary Bert Howson and debuted for them in round 1, 1907. Despite residing in Brunswick, Belcher chose South because he supported them as a youth and cycled to the Lake Oval to train and play.
South made the 1907 grand final but lost to Carlton. Belcher began in defence but was moved to the ruck in the second quarter where he performed creditably. This match was an early indicator of Belcher's career. He was a tireless ruckman who could also play in a key position. South were premiers in 1909 and Belcher rucked the whole match.
In 1913 Belcher was elected South's captain, a position he would hold until 1917 and again in 1920. He had been stand-in captain in the 1912 semi-final against his brother's Essendon side and as a result they became the first brother's to not only captain opposing sides, but to also play on each other during the match. Essendon were victors. Two weeks later they met again in the grand final but not as captains as Charlie Ricketts had returned from injury. South lost again and not until 2013, did brothers face each other in a grand final.
Belcher was appointed South Melbourne captain-coach from 1914–15 and 1917, losing the 1914 grand final and finishing fifth and seventh in the other seasons. South had withdrawn from the VFL in 1916 at the height of the First World War.
As vice-captain in 1918 Belcher won his second premiership with South and enhanced his reputation as a good finals player. Collingwood led by 12 points at the final break of the grand final but South switched Belcher from defence to the ruck and he was instrumental in a comeback that saw South win by five points. Until 2012 he was the only person in VFL/AFL history to win two premierships with the South Melbourne Swans.
Belcher represented Victoria against South Australia twice in 1919, both times he was elected captain.
Upon his retirement at the end of the 1920 season Jack Worrall assessed his career:
When he began playing senior football, Belcher was a ruckman, being as fine a performer in that position as any man playing. In his latter years he has been a noted defender, his coolness, judgement, fine marking qualities and dash making him an ideal back man and captain. Like the vast majority of champions Belcher has been fairness personified. He possesses fine spring and determination, was a hard man to beat and was a manly opponent
In 1996 Belcher was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and in 2003 was named in the Sydney Swans Team of the Century. He was the last survivor of the 1909 Premiership team.
As a playing-coach Belcher guided South Melbourne in 53 matches. After a single season as an umpire in 1921 he was appointed coach of Fitzroy Football Club in 1922 and lead them to that season's premiership. He continued in 1923-24 finishing second and third respectively.
Having received a playing clearance from South Melbourne he was recruited by Launceston's City Football Club for the 1925 season. Belcher played regularly until a groin injury in a representative match ended his on-field season. City finished third for the season.
Belcher returned to Melbourne as non-playing coach of Fitzroy from 1926-27 then moved to a junior team, East Brunswick, as playing coach in 1928.
After a year on the committee Belcher was appointed non-playing coach at Brunswick in 1932.
Belcher had two stints as an umpire with the VFL and a single season with the VFA.
In 1921 he applied for a position as an umpire with the VFL. He was accepted and made his debut as a boundary umpire in round two's Melbourne versus Collingwood match earning Heritage Number 134. Belcher umpired 16 VFL matches during the season, all on the boundary, and was appointed to the 1921 VFL Grand Final. He returned to coaching the following season.
In 1928 Belcher trialled as a boundary umpire for the VFL but was unsuccessful and instead field umpired in the VFA seconds for the season. He trialled again in 1930 and was placed on the VFL list as a field umpire. As a country field umpire he officiated in 14 matches for the season. He was appointed to the Benalla-Mulwala association grand final which became a particularly violent match. It degenerated to a series of melees in the second half, although no blame was attached to Belcher.
During this period the VFL appointed one field umpire to senior matches as a boundary umpire in case of emergency. In this capacity Belcher officiated in his final senior match in round 5, 1930 - Geelong versus Carlton.
After being elected to a committee position with the Brunswick Football Club in January 1931 Belcher umpired only a single country match that season before retiring from umpiring for the final time.