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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Mike Hytner

AFLW trailblazer Daisy Pearce retires from playing ahead of move into men’s coaching

Melbourne AFLW premiership player Daisy Pearce announces her retirement at the MCG.
Melbourne AFLW premiership player Daisy Pearce announces her retirement at the MCG. Photograph: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images

Daisy Pearce, one of the brightest stars and most influential names in AFLW history, has confirmed the end of her playing days ahead of a move into coaching in the men’s game. The Melbourne captain on Wednesday announced she had made the “very difficult” decision to retire, two months after capping her already decorated career with a first premiership flag.

After 18 years of playing at a senior level, the 34-year-old, who has also carved out a successful career in the media while still playing, will join the coaching ranks of AFL premiers Geelong from next season.

“I’m closing a chapter on my playing career with a very full heart,” she said. “I will miss the whole program and players and staff … this has probably been the hardest thing in making this decision. It has been an emotional time.”

Pearce is viewed as a trailblazer for the women’s game, having been drafted as the Demons’ first player ahead of the AFLW’s inaugural season in 2017. She stayed loyal to Melbourne throughout her career, playing a total of 55 games and captaining the Demons for six seasons. She won three club champion awards and three All-Australian selections, and was voted by her peers as the AFLW’s best captain on four occasions.

Pearce missed the 2019 season as she took time off to give birth to twins and said on Wednesday that she was looking forward to spending more time with her family.

“Making the decision to retire was very difficult and something that took me a long time to work through,” Pearce said.

“Winning the flag last season almost made the decision harder as footy for me was never about the big moments or the trophies. Footy was about my team, the relationships, the environment and the little everyday moments that come with being part of a footy club. That is what I love and will miss the most.”

Before she launched her AFLW career, Pearce spent 12 years with the Darebin Falcons having joined the women-only club as a 16-year-old. There, she won 10 premierships and played nearly 200 games.

“Footy has been a huge part of my life, forever really, but in terms of senior footy, it’s almost 20 years. It has played a big part in shaping who I am,” she said.

“In many ways, not playing any more feels like I am giving up a part of me, my identity, but the end comes for everyone, and I just feel so lucky to have had the long, fulfilling career I’ve had and so many wonderful memories.”

Demons coach, Mick Stinear, who held the premiership trophy aloft with Pearce after the grand final win over Brisbane in November last year, said the club could not have asked for a better role model.

“Daisy has been the greatest influence on our women’s program, creating, driving and inspiring our culture and on-field success,” said Stinear, who coached Pearce throughout her AFLW career.

Melbourne CEO, Gary Pert, said Pearce would leave “an everlasting impact on our club”.

“To see Daisy, alongside Mick, lifting our first-ever AFLW premiership cup last year was a moment we had all dreamed of – and one I’m sure we will remember forever,” Pert said. “For Daisy, it caps off a remarkable journey and career.”

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