We’re delighted to award the quote of the season to coach David Lake, for his comment after the Gold Coast’s first win:

When you ask girls to give up their life for $1.50 basically,
and they produce at that level, thats what I get excited for.”

When I ask about that quote, David tells me the story of Hannah Dunn. She played her first game of AFLW with GWS in Round 1 of 2017, and then had no chance to play again until Round 1 this year with Gold Coast. She gave up her job and moved to Queensland with her fiancé to get that chance.

“The girls drop everything in life just for an opportunity to be somebody,” he says. “I’ve got thirty girls who get to be who they want to be. My job is just to make sure they don’t get squashed.”

They certainly weren’t squashed in 2020. Underestimated by many going into the season, the Suns had a standout year with two wins and a draw, and were competitive in every game except the final. 

He puts their success down to an open culture. It began in week one of pre-season, when they practiced having objective conversations, which became a tradition every Monday after training.

“It wasn’t always beer and skittles, but we had a process,” he says.

“By the time you hit Saturday, you’ve already spoken about all the bad things and you’re just going out and doing the good bit.”

That created an environment where everyone felt respected and valued, and they could all just get on with doing what they love best - playing footy.

“Everyone has a genuine passion to play,” he says. “I don’t coach for money, they don’t play for money.”

We’re back to money again. David pushes back when I ask if he’s a feminist. It’s not a political thing for him. He just thinks everyone deserves an opportunity, no matter their gender or sexual orientation or cultural background.

Despite what you might assume from his comments, he thinks the AFL is progressing nicely in terms of giving girls an opportunity. “These things take time,” he says. He ponders if COVID-19 might actually level the playing field a little, by bringing the men’s game back to the pack financially. He notes - slightly tongue in cheek - that the women can’t go any further back.

For context, male footballers currently earn on average nearly 20 times as much as the women, and the top men earn 43 times as much as the top women. The women are not quite playing for as little $1.50 a game, but it still feels a very big gap to close.

“Most of us want the same thing,” David says, “you just have to keep chipping away.”