ANMJ Featured Story

Midwife blossoms into AFL star

Thursday 23rd February, 2017

Victorian midwife Daisy Pearce has swapped her medical gloves for footy boots on the way to chasing her sporting dream.

Growing up Daisy Pearce always stood out as the lone girl playing in a local Aussie rules football team. Only it was not her gender turning heads but, rather, an instinctive and canny ability to find the football that in years to come would see her arguably become the most formidable player of her generation. Born into a footy-mad household, Daisy grew up in the Victorian country town of Bright, where her Dad coached the junior Aussie rules footy team.

Her handful of brothers played the game and after years of persistence Daisy finally negotiated her way into pulling on the boots at age 11.  

Daisy describes the local footy club as one typically found in most country towns: the heartbeat of the community. “Because I’d been around the footy club for so long I was just part of the furniture and they didn’t think any differently of me within the team and the club.

“Occasionally I did get a bit of sledging and carry on when I played against other teams but it wouldn’t usually last long. It’s a bit of a small country league and everyone knew that Bright had a girl called Daisy that played for them so it just became normal.”

Daisy does not remember being a child prodigy but a hard-working forward who kept plugging away, and kept getting better. Her modesty disguises the beginnings of a legitimate star; a teenager so talented she topped the club’s goal-kicking. 

When she was 14, Daisy moved to Melbourne to live with her mother, giving up football altogether. She was unaware a women’s league existed, and resigned herself to a world in which women don’t play Aussie rules.

One day, while playing school footy at Eltham High School, she discovered the Victorian Women’s Football League.

She resumed playing league footy in 2005 with the Darebin Falcons, whom she would help to become an all-conquering force over the next decade. 

“It’s exciting having 21 teammates that you rely on, and to try and achieve goals as a team is something I really enjoy. The nature of footy means there are so many different shapes and sizes and different types of people, and it makes it really interesting all the time.”

Just last month the Australian Football League (AFL) launched its new women’s league where Daisy was appointed captain of the newly formed Melbourne Women’s Football Club. 

Reflecting on that moment Daisy says she thought that day might never have come. “I grew up dreaming of playing in the AFL but once you hit the age of about 11 or 12 your heart gets broken because you realise all your heroes are boys and it’s not going
to happen.

“It’s a huge shift for Aussie rules football but also for society that females are going to be able to play this game on the big stage in televised matches.”

Football remains Daisy’s first love but midwifery also holds a special place in her heart. It’s a career she continues alongside her burgeoning sporting commitments.

After finishing high school, Daisy completed a double degree in Nursing and Midwifery at La Trobe University. She then undertook her graduate year at Box Hill Hospital in 2001, where she has remained since.

At the beginning of 2016, as football was starting to take off, she put midwifery on hold and started working at the Melbourne Football Club. “It wasn’t an easy decision to walk away from it because it was a job that I really loved. 

“I reckon I’ll definitely come back to it at some point and I’m working pretty hard to make sure I keep all my CPD hours up and my registration up so that it’s an option later on.”

Daisy had always wanted to work in healthcare and became captivated by midwifery during the period her mother gave birth to her younger brothers. “I was always very fascinated and loved the cycle of pregnancy and when she had her babies and being involved in all that. So that is probably where the initial passion came from.”

Daisy describes being a midwife as a privilege. “It’s a funny thing that at times you only meet people the day before or that day that they come to have their baby but to share that moment with them and be there to help guide them through that moment is really special. It does create a real connection that is almost addictive.”

The new women’s AFL league is an eight team competition that features six home-and-away rounds, plus finals, culminating with the Grand Final on 25 March. 

The competition, which has been well received by the public, has quickly made Daisy a household name. Yet despite overnight fame proving challenging, Daisy is happy to embrace her new status as a role model who would love to attract more girls to play Aussie rules  football. “To see people start to take notice of female footballers and all female sport is exciting. It’s pretty strange at times to be at the forefront of that but I’m taking it in my stride and doing the best I can.”

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