The 2023 Chemist Warehouse AFLW Community Ambassadors were joined by Carlton's Darcy Vescio and Richmond's Katie Brennan at a special breakfast before the NAB AFLW Grand Final. Image: AFL Photos/Wayne Taylor

The 2023 Chemist Warehouse AFLW Community Ambassadors had an experience they’ll never forget on Sunday as they were recognised on field for their outstanding contribution to the women’s game before the start of the NAB AFLW Grand Final.

Representing their clubs from across the country, the ambassadors made their way onto the ground and formed a guard of honour as the AFLW Premiership Cup was officially carried onto the field by musician and Telstra Pre-Game Entertainment act, G Flip.

Proudly wearing their local club colours to the match, the ambassadors soaked up all the atmosphere of the sold-out match and watched the game unfold from the stands as Brisbane claimed the 2023 Premiership. 

Earlier that morning the ambassadors were also treated to a Grand Final breakfast hosted by Chemist Warehouse at Higher Ground in the city with special guest speakers including pioneer of women’s footy and AFL Football Hall of Famer, Debbie Lee, and AFLW foundation players, Darcy Vescio and Katie Brennan.

Established in 2021, the AFLW Community Ambassador program recognises members from the football community who have been instrumental in facilitating and nurturing the remarkable growth of women and girls’ football.

The ambassadors this year were: Crystal Browne (Eastside FC, NT), Vanessa Creeley (Sarina Demons AFC, Bakers Creek AFC and Wilston Grange AFC, QLD), Kathryn Lee (Lockleys JFC, SA), Taneil Bloomfield (Deloraine FC, TAS), Annette Maloney (Port Melbourne Colts JFC, VIC) and Eshe Christie (Kalgoorlie City FC and Goldfields Football League, WA) who were selected by the AFL for their significant service to women’s football.

Nadene McBride (Singleton Roosters FC, NSW/ACT), who sadly passed away in the Hunter Valley bus tragedy in June, was posthumously recognised as the representative from her state/territory for her incredible contribution to Australian football at her club and in the Hunter Central Coast region. Her husband Graham as well as Alex Tigani – a coach at the Singleton Roosters – took part in the celebrations in Nadene’s honour.

The Ambassadors formed a guard of honour as G Flip walked out the Premiership Cup. Image: AFL Photos/Dylan Burns

AFL Executive General Manager of Game Development, Rob Auld, said it was wonderful to recognise the contribution each Ambassador has made to women and girls’ football in their community.

“I’d like to congratulate our 2023 Chemist Warehouse AFLW Community Ambassadors and thank them for everything they’ve done for our game and their communities,” Auld said.

“It’s important to recognise and celebrate these achievements and we hope they had a wonderful experience on grand final day, at the breakfast and their on-field role at the match. 

“As we strive to have footy in every home, the continual growth of women’s football plays a huge role in achieving this vision and it simply wouldn’t be possible without passionate and dedicated women like Crystal, Vanessa, Kathryn, Taniel, Annette, Eshe and Nadene.

“On behalf of the AFL I’d like to sincerely thank Nadene’s husband Graham and interim women’s coach at the Singleton Roosters, Alex, for making the trip to represent and honour Nadene. Our thoughts are with them, their families and the community, and we hope they had a special time in Melbourne.  

“I’d also like to thank Chemist Warehouse for their support of this wonderful program as they keep championing women’s football from local level to the elite AFLW competition.”

Managing Director of Chemist Warehouse, Mario Tascone, said:

“Chemist Warehouse is thrilled to be supporting the 2023 Chemist Warehouse AFLW Community Ambassador program and acknowledge the tremendous work of this year’s community football representatives,” Tascone said.

“Chemist Warehouse has supported the AFLW competition since its inception and we look forward to continuing to champion women’s football throughout the community and at an elite level.” 

See below for more information on each 2023 Chemist Warehouse AFLW Community Ambassador:

Nadene McBride (in memory), Singleton Roosters FC – NSW/ACT

Nadene was a driving force of women’s football, having played a pivotal role in starting a women’s team. She developed, coached and created a wholesome family environment that has nurtured so many at Singleton Roosters Australian Football Club. Nadene was a mentor to so many young girls and members of the club, supporting, encouraging, and developing talented sportswomen in their journey. She was the lifeblood of the club, the heart, and a part of everyone’s family.

Nadene also played a pivotal role as the women's coordinator on the NSW Masters committee and was a key organiser and liaison between this social competition and the broader Masters program. “Nads” managed the NSW team last year in Adelaide and played for NSW at every National Carnival since Geelong in 2017. Beyond that, Nads made a massive contribution to footy in general, especially in the Hunter region, having been a club president and coach, representative coach and coach in the Sydney Swans Academy.

Nadene, who sadly passed in June this year, has been posthumously awarded the 2023 AFLW Community Ambassador for her passionate dedication to advancing football for women & girls.

Crystal Browne, Eastside FC – NT

Crystal is the reason why there is a women’s league in the Big Rivers Football League. She pushed for the competition to expand to allow women to play Australian football. She organised games throughout the years between Katherine-based players to play off as an opener to the men’s before the expansion and organised a one-off game between a Katherine representative team to play against Kununurra. She pushed and organised the Women’s Big River Hawks team to join the NTFL as captain, unfortunately falling short due to lack of numbers. She was the first women’s coach of Eastside Football Club, winning them their first premiership and captaining another premiership. She’s a big advocate for development and inclusion of junior players within the Squads.

She’s the first one to training and the last to leave, always willing to help develop players skills and knowledge. She’s put her hand up to help the club as a new committee role as president, after the club was on brink of folding. Eastside wouldn’t be where it is today without her. 

Vanessa Creeley, Sarina Demons AFC, Bakers Creek AFC & Wilston Grange AFC – QLD

Vanessa was instrumental in forming Sarina Demons Junior AFL Club in the small rural town of Sarina in around 2009/2010 and began as Secretary. She also joined the AFL Mackay Junior Executive Board in that same year. Vanessa's husband and children were also part of Sarina Demons.

In 2013 Vanessa was again instrumental in the forming a women's AFL competition in Mackay, which is rugby league heartland in northern Queensland. She saw that women's football was one of the fastest growing sports and didn't want our region to miss out on this opportunity for our girls to get drafted.  One of the first girls to be drafted from this competition was Lauren Bella (Gold Coast Suns) who came from Sarina Demons to Bakers Creek AFC and then onto the Suns.  

Vanessa absolutely excelled and got the competition up and running to where it is today, with all eight clubs in Mackay having a women's team.  Once her children came into senior football, Vanessa and her family joined Bakers Creek AFC.  As the Director of the Women’s competition in Makay, she also played a pivotal role in supporting the formation of the Bakers Creek Tigeress team who have won many premierships over the years.  Vanessa was very active with Bakers Creek AFC. In 2011 Bakers Creek Tigers had to rebuild and Vanessa along with her family and others helped rebuild the club to where it is today.  She was Assistant Coach and Team Manager at Bakers Creek.  

She didn’t stop there, Vanessa introduced the Mackay Crows (formerly Mackay Vipers) for Women which competed against the likes of Townsville, Rockhampton and was the organiser, the assistant coach, the team manager and much more of the NQ Women’s Championships here in Nth QLD.  This is the steppingstone for the youth girls into the State Championships held yearly in Brisbane in which Vanessa was involved from 2014 to 2019 as either an Assistant Coach or Team Manger and had the privilege of helping develop players such as Wallis Randall, Ellie Hampson, Daisy Darcy, Alana Gee (all Gold Coast Suns) and the latest draftee Brook Sheridan (Brisbane Lions) to name a few.

Vanessa also sat on the AFL Mackay Board as Secretary, Women’s Director and other administrative roles, all as a volunteer.  

After many years here in Mackay, sadly our club (Bakers Creek AFC) saw Vanessa and her family move to Brisbane which was a great loss not only to our club but to the AFL Mackay/NQ community, however this was Wilston Grange’s gain. Vanessa and her husband, Shaun, immediately became involved.  With Vanessa taking on the role of QAFLW Assistant Coach in 2020 and 2021 and then taking a step back in 2022 to focus on her career as a Fitness and Nutrition Coach.

Kathryn Lee, Lockleys Junior FC – SA

Kathryn has established a distinct female pathway within Lockleys Football Club in her first season as Junior Football Director. This saw the girls teams at Lockleys go from one team (2021) to three teams (2022). To ensure sustainability within the girl’s football pathway, Kathryn has implemented a girls academy with Marijana Rajcic which links to the Lockleys Football Club Women’s Team.

Kathryn was also a part of the group who implemented the Demons Academy Pathway which aims to improve U16 and U17.5 boys and girls physical capabilities, as well as teaching them adaptable tools which they can use to perform better in their relationships, study and overall wellbeing.  

Kathryn worked closely with the Club’s Senior Director of Football to advocate for a regulation change that women and girls aren’t required to wear white shorts at games. Further, all Club changerooms are now stocked with female products to ensure menstruation surprises don’t stop our girls from playing football.

She works hard to enhance the opportunities that young girls and women have in footy. The work she has done in the Girls Academy and Demons Academy Pathway at Lockleys Football Club is phenomenal. Not only does she work to provide young boys and girls with a chance to play footy, but she cares about the experience they are having and whether or not it is enjoyable. Ensuring these young people have a sustainable pathway in footy is very important and Kathryn defiantly aligns herself with that. 

Taneil Bloomfield, Deloraine FC – TAS

Taneil played an integral role in bringing women's football to Deloraine. She first started as an assistant coach in 2012, at this time there were only boys teams. Over the years she was able to gather interest and raise awareness within the community bringing to life the first girls team, 9-13 girls, in for juniors in 2018.

She then worked tirelessly to develop the U11 and U14 girls starting their first team in 2019. But there was no stopping Taneil at this point and from 2020 the juniors have had teams in all three girls age groups: U11, U14 and U17.

Every year Taneil's commitment to football as a whole has increased significantly and she continues to be the face of women and girl's football in Deloraine and Tasmania for that matter. She is the driving force for the entire junior football club and without her dedication to the development of our junior players we as a community would not be where we are today. Taneil has led the club through Covid, two once-in-a-hundred-year floods and still continues to show up with a positive, can-do attitude everyday. 

Annette Maloney, Port Melbourne Colts Junior Football Club – VIC

As President of Port Melbourne Colts Junior Football Club, Annette has increased the number of women on the committee to 50 percent.  She actively seeks out the services of women with particular skill sets, such as the outgoing Mayor of the City of Port Phillip as the secretary. She regularly promotes the profile of women in our club on social media and in the club's weekly newsletter to encourage more women expressing interest in taking on significant roles with the club.

Annette works closely with the local schools to advocate for more girls to actively participate in local sport, not just with our club but with other sporting clubs in our area.  

Annette successfully applied for a grant from Sports Victoria to employ Melissa Kuys, ex AFLW player and current VFLW player and co-captain of the Port Melbourne Football Club to lead our Girls Development. Likewise, she brought together all users clubs of our pavilion at JL Murphy Reserve to apply for funding for a redevelopment from AFL Victoria and the City of Port Phillip. This involved many working party meetings with stake holders including the City of Port Phillip. We now have a fit for purpose $4.8m community sports pavilion with female friendly change rooms and amenities, a commercial grade kitchen and social rooms suitable for community events.

Annette edits the club's weekly club newsletter which serves as a very useful vehicle to advocate for women in sport.  She regularly highlights the achievements of our alumni, Sofia Hurley, for example when one of them was drafted recently, and has arranged for former players such as Brianna Davey to come to our club and work with our female players and coaches. Without Annette’s drive and enthusiasm, young women like Sofia would not have had the opportunity to achieve at the highest level in football.

Annette has excellent working relationships with Southern Metropolitan Junior Football League, with its senior partner, the Southern Football Netball league, the local Council, local politicians of all political persuasions and the AFL.  she uses these networks to constantly advocate for improved facilities for women in sport.  She also is not shy in reaching out to people such as Gillon McLachlan and others when they have visited our club.

Annette has a demonstrated record of leading a large organisation of volunteers through difficult and controversial issues such as Covid lockdowns and keeps them focused on why we are all giving up our time – so our kids can enjoy the world's greatest game – Australian footy. She has engaged Darren Flanigan, ex AFL player and player development officer for the AFL, to mentor, support and teach our coaches to be the best they can possibly be for our players and Mel Keys, past AFLW player and captain of Port Melbourne VFLW team to be our Girls Coaching Director and drive the membership of girls at our club. She even persuaded Damien Oliver to coach our U13 boys this season and motivate our teams who made finals last year as she heard a speech he gave to Geelong FC before a Grand Final win!

Eshe Christie, Kalgoorlie City FC & Goldfields Football League – WA

Eshe was pivotal in the creation and establishment of the KCFC women’s football team which was the first senior club in our 120-year-old league to establish a team. From there she was team manager and captain for the first two years where she not only led the team but worked with the club to make sure it was an inclusive and supportive space to create longevity in the team. 

In the first year, women’s football was not officially part of our league and to play games it involved Eshe organising games against other teams including our local masters football club, being included in interclub scratch matches, travelling to Esperance and playing against another local social women’s team. 

From here Eshe then joined the commission of our local league with the sole purpose over the last 4 years to develop female football further. This has seen the expansion of women’s football by being formally taken in by the league in 2020, the growth from one club to all five senior clubs boasting women’s football teams, attendance of a GFLW team at the senior women’s country championships whereby Eshe organises the entire trip including sponsors so that every player has equal opportunity to go away no matter what their background is, development of the first regional youth girls representative football games as an inclusion into an already established zone carnival, creation of our local GFLW development squad which has further link ins to Subiaco WAFL club, whereby specialised training sessions are held specifically for female athletes for our youth girls players as they still currently play and train with the boys which has also included the development and support of our first female talent/representative football coach who is a local player that Eshe identified and helped to support to gain the necessary experience to feel confident taking on this role. 

Furthermore, Eshe has been fantastic at utilising local resources to their full potential including local company MLG is a sponsor of the Eagles AFLW team, where Eshe liaised with the owners to utilise their designated club visit to host the Eagles ROAR workshops locally whereby all female athletes across multiple sporting codes, all coaches of female athletes both at junior and senior levels and parents were invited to attend to gain the most out of the experience. She was able to recognise that in our smaller community lots of our female footballers cross over with other sports so by inviting other sporting codes to also attend it meant that our female footballers gained the best experience across all aspects. If Eshe isn't organising it or creating it, she is supporting it always looking for grants available for clubs, communicating with players and parents about upcoming opportunities and just doing whatever she can to make sure everyone is given the most support and opportunities possible. 

The love, passion and drive Eshe has for female football is second to none. Further to this her drive to make our local football league the best it can be is exceptional. This has included using her professional training to become a SMA trainer and be able to host courses locally to bolster the number of qualified trainers in our league which is something clubs struggle to get, is the NAB AFL Auskick coordinator reviving Auskick after a couple of terrible years with outstanding feedback and better linking to local clubs and always being ready to jump in and lend a hand no matter the task size even something as simple as running water.