‘I would love to coach again’: Laidley’s dreams for her footy future

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Former AFL coach Danielle Laidley is interested in a coaching return, but in the AFLW, rather than in the men’s competition.

“I would love to coach again, at what level [I don’t know], certainly not the men’s,” Laidley told this masthead. “[But] the women’s – or even local footy.”

Danielle Laidley at Melbourne’s ACMI ahead of the premiere screening of Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes, a documentary about her life.Credit: Penny Stephens

Laidley coached 149 AFL games at North Melbourne between 2003 and 2009 – including to a preliminary final in 2007 – followed by stints in the coaching groups at Port Adelaide, St Kilda and Carlton between 2010 and 2015. Her first coaching role was under Mick Malthouse as an assistant coach at Collingwood, which included the 2002 grand final loss.

Laidley has been tight-lipped on what’s next for her, career-wise, while her memoir Don’t Look Away, published last year, and the documentary, Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes give an insight into the person she is.

While the Stan production was in the works, Laidley was unable to discuss it publicly due to contract obligations. But now she’s ready to explore her next chapter.

“We’ve always thought 2024 would be ‘OK, so, what are we going to do? Who are we going to align ourselves with? What do I really want to do?’,” she said.

She’s a self-confessed AFLW tragic, admitting to watching every game. She hopes her “great mate Darren Crocker is the next premiership coach at the Kangaroos”. Laidley has been a supporter from the start and used to take her son, Kane, to games.

“I love the rawness of the girls and that’s what attracted me to it initially … they’ll just be head-first into everything, they’ll be a contest, and in the men’s there might have been some argy-bargy, in the girls, they’re just helping each other get up and off they go again. It’s still super competitive,” said Laidley.

Laidley with the now-retired Jack Ziebell, a player Laidley recruited when North Melbourne coach.Credit: Courtesy of The North Melbourne Kangaroos

“I think it’s brilliant, it really is. And we won’t get the full dividends until the very, very young girls who started playing when they were six or seven in structured football clubs and coaching development [enter the competition], and that is still probably maybe eight years away. But you’re going to see some girls come through who are absolutely amazing.”

In May 2020, Laidley was arrested by Victoria Police for stalking an ex-partner and drug possession and put in a holding cell. There, photos were leaked of Laidley dressed as a woman in a wig and make-up, outing her in a brutal and public fashion that gave her no control of the story spun around her.

Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes documentary. Credit: StanCredit: Stan

It’s in part why she wanted to be involved in the documentary, which explores her past life in intimate detail, including having to hide her true self while in the AFL spotlight and the unrelenting gender dysphoria that lead to serious substance abuse and suicide attempts.

“You’re going to see some girls come through who are absolutely amazing”

“When it became very public, the narrative was not very kind and being outed like I was, and pretty much my family was…you know, we had no control over the narrative. And I suppose what we wanted to do in our own way through the book and now the movie is tell the true story,” said Laidley.

“Edited but unedited. The good, the bad and the indifferent.”

Laidley admits to wanting to take back control of her story, but that’s not the only reason she continues to open herself up. There’s a desire there to help others who relate to her experience, in whatever way that may be: gender dysphoria, mental health issues, disease addition, or living a life in secret.

“With the transgender community, I’m still learning, myself,” she admits, acknowledging she’s had a wealth of support – including from her AFL football “tribe”, from CEO Gillon McLachlan down to players she coached – that many others don’t get.

“I’m so very grateful for that,” she said. “So, if I can help the transgender community by breaking down barriers and for the next generation who are coming through, to live a much simpler, inclusive and being accepted life, that’s what I’ll do.”

Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes premiers Tuesday, September 19 on Stan (owned by Nine, which publishes this masthead).

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