Women's footy trailblazer leaves Bulldogs to join AFL

WESTERN Bulldogs head of women's footy and Australian Football Hall of Fame member Debbie Lee has departed the club to take up a role with the AFL.

The first woman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Lee was a driving force in the development of women's football and the AFLW, and has been appointed National Women and Girls Action Plan lead.

After working at Melbourne during the days of women's exhibition matches, Lee has been at the Bulldogs since the AFLW's beginnings in 2017, with the side winning a flag in 2018.

She played 302 VWFL games, winning five competition best and fairests and representing Victoria on 16 occasions.

Lee was also president of the VWFL between 2004 and 2012, and founded the first women's team in the western suburbs of Melbourne (Sunshine YCW Spurs) back in 1993.

Western Bulldogs general manager of women's football Debbie Lee chats to Melbourne captain Daisy Pearce after round two, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

The Women and Girls Action Plan aims to increase opportunities for women and girls across playing, coaching, umpiring and administration.

The role falls under the game development department, and Lee will work with states and territories to design programs to help attract and retain girls and women across various aspects of 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. 

Western Bulldogs general manager of women’s football Debbie Lee and a young Dogs fan. Picture: AFL Photos

"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."