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'We got there quicker than I expected': AFLW trailblazer's historic Hall of Fame induction

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24th August, 2021

Women’s football trailblazer Debbie Lee became the first woman inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

The 47-year-old, a major force in the creation of the AFLW, was the Victorian women’s competition best and fairest five times and a six-time All Australian as well as a Vicoria rep team coach.

Through her work with Western Bulldogs, Lee helped establish regular Melbourne v Western Bulldogs women’s exhibition matches that ultimately paved the way for the AFLW.

She started with Melbourne in an administrative role and became general manager of women’s football at the Western Bulldogs and a member of the AFLW Competition Committee.

“I dreamt it would become a televised, fully fledged competition. But we probably got there quicker than I expected,” she told

“It’s nice to be acknowledged, but the most important thing is that I won’t be the last. I don’t think I will be.”

Lee said she first got into footy as a kid, kicking with her brothers and her mates. She would kick on her own at times but added “every time a car came past, I’d run into the bushes because I didn’t want to be ridiculed.”

Lee said the early years of women’s football were a battle.

“There was no support. We were an afterthought and there weren’t the platforms whereby you could engage women,” Lee said.


“It was ridiculed. If the media did an article, it was always about a poor image of the game or a woman getting her hair pulled. It was just horrific. It was a poor indictment on where the community and footy were at.”

She joined former St Kilda captain Nathan Burke as a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee.

Burke played 323 games for the Saints and was a four-time All Australian and three-time best and fairest winner.