Daisy Pearce changeroom controversy highlights AFL’s lingering sexism

AFL, Daisy Pearce, featured

Brisbane Lions head coach Chris Fagan seemed exasperated.

He was left to defend a decision to become the second club, after Richmond, to ban Channel Seven commentator and Geelong Cats assistant coach Daisy Pearce from the team’s change rooms, ahead of their Thursday night loss to the Western Bulldogs.

“It’s your inner sanctum, the changerooms of a football club,” Fagan said.

“Who knows what she might see or hear. I don’t know, but I’d rather not take that chance.

“I don’t want our people walking around on eggshells just because they’re worried about what someone may or may not see.”

Whatever Fagan and others might scramble to come up with, the decision defies common sense and history.

Firstly, it is ludicrous to think a professional like Daisy Pearce would be sneaking around the changerooms like a double agent, looking for next week’s game plan to photograph and smuggle back to Kardinia Park.

If you’ve ever been in a men’s footy room after a game, you would know that Pearce would not want to stay a minute longer than is required to do her job.

Secondly, post-match reporting generally gathers the kinds of insights that players and coaches are happy to make public. Fagan and his ilk are experienced media operators who keep their cards close to their chest when required.

As Richmond legend and Channel Seven commentator Matthew Richardson said in his defence of Pearce, families and other media personnel are regularly welcomed into the same areas his colleague has now been denied access.

Most frustrating of all, it is a position that proves sexism is alive and well in the AFL.

Football media is jam-packed with former and current players and coaches. Richardson, himself famously loyal to his old club, hit out at what he labelled a double standard, citing media colleagues Jimmy Bartel and Luke Darcy as current examples of media personalities with formal AFL club links.

There are others. Fox Footy’s Nick Dal Santo is the current head coach of St Kilda’s AFLW team, where he closely liaises with men’s head coach (and former media pundit) Ross Lyon.

Geelong’s Brownlow Medalist and premiership hero Patrick Dangerfield is playing some of his best football this season. He is also on Channel Seven’s books for guest appearances during games not involving his side, though admittedly he’s yet to appear in a rival’s rooms post-match.

And let’s not forget the ubiquitous Eddie Maguire, who hosted radio programs and called games for multiple broadcasters while he was the sitting president of the Collingwood Football Club.

Geelong development coach Daisy Pearce.

Geelong development coach Daisy Pearce. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Depending on their role, these personalities may or may not be entering the ‘inner sanctum’ of the rooms after games. But before casting judgement on Daisy Pearce’s venture into the world of footy espionage, you must first consider whether any of the boys with deep ties to clubs would ever be locked out in their capacity as a journalist.

Even Fagan himself was forced to address the hypocrisy in his position, arguing that Luke Hodge, who was on the Lions’ staff as a mentor while commentating for Seven, was a different case because he had no game-day role and was barely around the club.

Is there truly a difference?

On the surface, Daisy Pearce’s dual roles do present a conflict of interest, but it is concerning only if you choose to ignore both the countless other instances in AFL media of these lines being blurred, and the professionalism which has characterised Pearce’s media career to date.

The worst part of this sorry affair is that it shines a harsh light on just how little Pearce is respected by her peers in the AFL world.

It comes just one year after Channel Seven announced Pearce would replace serial disappointment Wayne Carey, a move infamously slammed by AFL Hall of Famers Dermott Brereton and Rex Hunt.

By banning her from doing a critical part of her job, Richmond and Brisbane have made clear they have no faith in Pearce’s ability to act with integrity.

You would be hard-pressed to find any other instance where such a charge was levelled at a man.

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