From County Cavan to the MCG
I’m delighted to share a tale of female achievement, cultural diversity and the remarkable smallness of the world.
Rewind to 1996, at Loreto College in County Cavan, Ireland, where Laura Corrigan-Duryea and I started secondary school together. Fast-forward 22 years later to find our paths crossing in a different way on the other side of the world in Melbourne, Australia.
While our lives took us in many different directions, one thing in common was that we each set off on an around-the-world backpacking trip, landed in St Kilda for a quick stop-over, blinked and ended up carving out personal and professional lives over here in our new home.
This huge accomplishment also meant she became the first Irish woman to play professional AFL.
In November 2016, ahead of the launch of the inaugural Australian Football League Women’s competition (AFLW), Laura was selected as a free agent by Melbourne Football Club. This huge accomplishment also meant she became the first Irish woman to play professional AFL. Laura was always a very talented sportswoman (I was always more talented as a supporter) and was very successful as a Gaelic footballer. Not long after arriving in Melbourne she started playing with Diamond Creek and took quickly to AFL, helped along by her tough and determined playing style – which had sometimes got her into a bit of trouble in the non-contact sport of Gaelic football!
Laura was re-signed with Melbourne this year and embarks on her second season wearing the treasured number 11, honouring Dublin born AFL legend Jim Stynes. Her role has also extended beyond the field with Laura becoming an Ambassador for the Reach Foundation alongside Melbourne AFL team-mate Max Gawn.
An entire women’s AFL team earns less than an average male player and as such the success and the growth of the game, the league and the individual players relies on support and sponsorship from business and the community.
The first AFLW season was hugely successful but the challenge remains to make it a sustainable option for professional sportswomen. An entire women’s AFL team earns less than an average male player and as such the success and the growth of the game, the league and the individual players relies on support and sponsorship from business and the community.
That’s where I come into the picture. My career in executive search has given me the opportunity to work with some fantastic female leaders, and I’ve always been passionate about supporting women to perform at the top level in traditionally male dominated fields. I am proud to be a Partner of an organisation that is a true champion of diversity in senior executive positions with over 46% of our appointments resulting in the appointment of senior female leaders. As such the AFLW is the perfect corporate partnership for us, and Fisher leadership is delighted to be one of many organisations supporting the advancement of women playing professional sport at an elite level.
So as Season 2 of AFLW launches, I am looking forward to supporting Laura and her team-mates as both a sponsor and a fan, and to watching with pride as she flies the flag for Cavan, Ireland and expert women! I will applaud the growing success of professional women in a male dominated profession. I will watch Laura and her teammates with admiration for how they juggle their passion for the sport and the demands of their supplementary employment. And I will hope for a Melbourne flag this year (at least until Geelong get their AFLW team up and running!).
Eilish Devine is a Partner at Fisher Leadership. Eilish specialises in helping organisations deliver rapid solutions to address management gaps, manage change or major organisational restructures and integrations.