AFL Statement

THE AFL is delighted to announce the appointment of inaugural female Australian Football Hall of Famer Debbie Lee to the role of National Women and Girls Action Plan Lead. 

The newly created position will play a critical role in supporting the implementation of the Women and Girls Action Plan, which was launched in June after the AFL Commission approved $5 million in new investment to fund phase one of the plan to drive more opportunities for women and girls across playing, coaching, umpiring and administering. 

Lee joins the AFL from the Western Bulldogs, where she has been General Manager of Women's Football since 2017. Lee has made an incredible contribution to the game over a long period and was recognised for her trailblazing achievements when she became the first woman to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame last year.  

The Hall of Fame honour came following a playing career that spanned 302 Victorian Women’s Football League games and included five competition best-and-fairest awards, seven club best-and-fairests and 16 state games for Victoria (six as captain), plus extensive off-field involvement and accomplishments across community and elite football.

"I am really excited to be joining the AFL at a time when progressing the game for women and girls is a major area of focus," Lee said.

"I am passionate about the advancement of women and girls in football at all levels of the game. Through the Women's Football Vision, along with the $5 million investment commitment to deliver on the action plan from 2023 to 2025, we as a code have an incredible opportunity to drive significant change over the course of this decade and beyond.

"Considering how far we've come as an industry in the last five to six years, with participation having soared and all 18 clubs about to compete in the NAB AFLW competition for the first time, imagine how far we can go in setting up the game at all levels for current and future generations of women and girls.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Western Bulldogs. It was an absolute privilege to work at the club which is so genuine and heavily invested in women's football. I am thankful for my experience, grateful for the relationships and appreciate the football journey we endured. I wish the club all the very best for the upcoming season.

AFL Executive General Manager Game Development, Rob Auld, said Debbie's appointment is a major step forward in delivering outcomes from the Women and Girls Action Plan.

"Debbie is one of the most respected and accomplished people in our industry and nobody is more passionate about and dedicated to driving progress for women and girls," he said.

"It is a priority for the AFL to continue to create and support more opportunities for women and girls in every part of our game and at all levels, to ensure everyone has a positive experience with Australian football. Part of this is the need to develop a new oval each week for five years to cater for growth in the game, particularly in female football.

"Debbie’s CV speaks for itself and to have her driving this important work highlights the AFL's commitment to reach our aim set out in the Women’s Football Vision of equal participation and representation across all levels of community football by 2030."

As part of the AFL’s Game Development team, Lee's responsibilities will include working with State and Territory leads to design programs that will attract and retain girls and women to play, coach, umpire and administrate Australian football in the community, while advocating with community leagues, umpiring associations and clubs on the benefits of having inclusive environments in which women and girls can thrive.

Lee will commence her role in September.

On-field achievements

  • 302 VWFL games
  • 5 x Helen Lambert Medal for competition best-and-fairest 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001
  • 6 x All-Australian
  • 16 x State games for Victoria
  • 6 x State captain for Victoria
  • 3 x Premiership player – 1991 (East Brunswick Scorpions), 2004 & 2011 (Spurs)
  • 1 x Premiership captain 2004 (Spurs)
  • Lisa Hardeman Medal for best-on-ground in Grand Final 1991 & 2004
  • 7 x club best and fairest
  • Club captain at St. Albans Spurs 1991-2004

Off-field achievements

  • Founder of Sunshine YCW Spurs (first team in the western suburbs) in 1993
  • Debbie Lee Medal awarded to the best player at the AFL’s National Championships
  • Debbie Lee Rising Star Medal awarded to the best first year player in the VFLW
  • VWFL Life Member
  • VWFL President 2004 –2012 (playing President)
  • St. Albans Football Club (Founder/Executive board member)
  • Member of the AFL Victoria’s Strategic Advisory group 2013
  • Senior coach St Albans Spurs
  • Member of AFL Women’s Advisory Group
  • Women’s football operations manager, Melbourne Football Club
  • General manager, Western Bulldogs Football Club
  • AFL Life Membership – 2020
  • Australian Football Hall of Fame – inducted 2021

>> Read the tribute to Debbie Lee after her induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2021

About some of the recent developments associated with the growth of women’s football:

Women’s Football Vision 2030

The AFL is committed to making Australian football more accessible for women and girls across all levels, as set out in the Women’s Football Vision 2030.

The 2030 vision aspires to have equal participation in men’s and women’s community football; at least half of AFLW senior coach positions held by women; AFLW players to be the highest paid athletes in the country; and equal opportunity for women to umpire, play, coach administer and govern the game across all competition.

To achieve these targets, the AFL approved the entry of four new AFLW clubs. All 18 AFL clubs now have their own women’s and men’s teams at the elite level, allowing an additional two million fans to follow their AFLW team.

AFLW player pay increase

Season Seven of the AFLW will see a 94 per cent pay increase for players. Total player payments is $25.6 million for Season Seven, compared to $10.4 million in Season Six – an increase of 146 per cent, and four times any other professional women’s team sport in the country.

Women’s coaching at the forefront

The Women’s Coach Acceleration, BHP Women’s Coaching Academy and She Can Coach will increase opportunities for women coaches and fastback their development. Co-funded by the AFL, nine clubs will employ full-time female coaches - including Daisy Pearce, Chelsea Randall, and Erin Phillips - to be mentored by a senior men’s coach over a two-year period.

AFL Football Department appoints General Manager Umpiring

The AFL has appointed Lisa Lawry, a member of the AFL's GenW Executive Women's Talent Program, as General Manager Umpiring. Lawry’s extensive leadership experience will benefit the progression of umpiring nationally and drive greater diversity across all levels.

GenW Executive Women’s Talent Program

The AFL's GenW Executive Women's Talent Program features eight senior women from across the industry and was designed to advance their careers and develop their leadership. Debbie Lee was a participant in the program, along with trailblazers Trisha Squires, Elisa Koch, Laura Kane, Natalie Fagg, Kerrie Brewer, Kasey Passmore and Sarah Albon.