Women’s Footy: Debbie Lee wins Football Woman of the Year award

By Leesa Catto
Congratulations to Victorian Women’s Football League president Debbie Lee on being named the 2009 Football Woman of the Year.
The award, presented by the Essendon Women’s Network, offers recognition to women who have made a significant contribution to the game of football.

Debbie accepted her award at the Crown Palladium, where she spoke of her love for the game.

“We don’t do these things to win awards – we do it because we love the game; I am truly passionate about football.”

Debbie has made a profound contribution to women’s football as a player and administrator. A former National Basketball League player, she transferred her energies to football and has played more than 200 games for the St Albans Spurs.

She started her football career at the East Brunswick Scorpions in 1991, aged 17.  Debbie’s early determination saw the creation of the Sunshine YCW Spurs in 1993.  She captained the Spurs from 1993 to 2004, when the side won the premiership, and is also a multiple Best and Fairest winner at that club.
She was named Lisa Hardeman Medallist (Best on Ground in the Grand Final – Division One) in 2004, and holds the honour of being recognised as a five-time Helen Lambert Medallist (Best and Fairest – Div One/Premier Div).

Debbie has represented Victoria fifteen times, including five as state captain, and is a five-time All Australian.  She was named captain of the VWFL silver jubilee 25th anniversary team in 2005, and was also assistant coach of the Australian Rules team competing in Ireland in 2006.

Her passion also extends to the other side of the boundary line.  Debbie has served on the VWFL executive in a voluntary capacity since 1993, and was made president in 2004.   She has overseen substantial growth and development in women’s football from six teams back when she started playing in 1991, to a competition currently hosting 28 senior teams.

Debbie is also currently a member of the women’s football advisory board.

Her importance to women’s football has been recognised fittingly with the medal named in her honour – the Debbie Lee Medal for the best player in the AFL’s women’s National Championships.

As an administrator, Debbie has played an important role.  While working at the Western Bulldogs, she successfully established their ‘Bulldog Friendly School’ program, which involved a variety of stakeholders, ranging from AFL Victoria, to the Western Jets, all partnering with the Western Bulldogs.

Similar is now being achieved at Melbourne, with programs such as ‘Read like a Demon’ playing an integral role in forming the Club’s community alliance with the City of Casey. Debbie has also overseen the formation of a partnership between the VWFL and the Melbourne Football Club.

Congratulations also to Sydney-based Tanya Oziel, who was recognised for her contribution in taking football to the Middle East,. She  cor-odinated the formation of the Israeli and Palestinian Peace Team that competed at last year’s AFL International Cup.

This is the 12th year the prestigious award has been presented by the Essendon Women’s Network and it is open to any woman involved in football regardless of club or profession.

The award recognises women who have made a significance difference to football. There are seven criteria the recipient must demonstrate (see criteria below). The independent panel of judges for the Award is Andrew Demetriou (CEO of the AFL), Caroline Wilson (journalist with The Age) and Helene Bender (a Director of the Geelong FC).

The recipient will have demonstrated:

· Commitment to the support and advancement of football

· A passion for the game

· The ability to make a difference on the football scene

· A keen knowledge of the game, including its history and its future

· Club Membership

· Willingness to advocate publicly for women as partners with men in football

· A sense of humour and fair play.

Past winners of the award include; Irene Chatfield (1998), Jill Lindsay (1999), Caroline Wilson (2000), Katrina Pressley (2001), Beverly Knight (2002 – joint winner), Bev O’Connor (2002 – joint winner), Jenny Williams (2003), Edna Daniher (2004), Jennie Loughnan (2005), Barb Cullen (2006), Terry Bracks (2007), Susan Alberti (2008).

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