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‘Daisy is essentially another coach on the ground’

Melbourne skipper Daisy Pearce has taken out the Best Captain award, presented by The Diamond Guys, for the fourth time in six seasons. Young teammate Shelley Heath underlined to how important Pearce’s on-field leadership is in the flow of a game.

To be voted the best leader in the competition once is an honour.

To receive the award for the league’s Best Captain for the fourth time speaks volumes to Daisy Pearce’s character.

After taking out the award three times previously (2017, 2018 and 2020), the Melbourne AFLW captain has once again been voted by her peers as Best Captain.

A pioneer of women’s football, Pearce led the Demons for the third consecutive year in 2022 and fifth-time overall, having captained Melbourne’s side every season bar 2019, due only to the birth of her twins, Sylvie and Roy.

Becoming a vital ‘swing-woman’ for her side, Pearce booted 13 goals in AFLW 6.0, while averaging 10.4 disposals and 2.1 marks per game. What the numbers don’t display, is the incredible knowledge, humility, and belief that Pearce has instilled in her teammates.

For young defender Shelley Heath, the experience of being led by Pearce has been invaluable.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a better captain than Daisy at any level of football. She’s essentially another coach on the ground, she has an incredible knowledge of the game, and she just embodies what (Melbourne coach) Mick [Stinear] and the other coaching staff want for this team,” Heath said.

The “definition of a Melbourne person,” Pearce’s shift down back has given Heath enormous confidence, with the feeling of being able to look over her shoulder and know that Pearce has her back, enough to make any defender walk a little taller.

“That’s when I need to lock onto my player and I don’t have to worry about trying to intercept mark because she’ll be there talking to you and telling you which way to go, and the play that’s coming next. It’s just that extra support and extra comfort you have with her back down there – she’ll do whatever she can,” she said.

Universally respected, the peer-voted nod comes as no surprise to Heath – regardless of whether you’re a teammate, opponent or fan, the impact that Pearce has had on the football landscape is significant.

“Everyone I talk to – friends from other teams – always comment on how amazing it must be to be captained by Daisy. Everyone respects her and she always delivers no matter what, as a person or as a captain,” Heath said.

“Even if she wasn’t captain, she’d be someone I look up to either way.”

Direct, but kind in her leadership style, on-field, Pearce will do anything to get the job done for her football club and off it, has a repertoire of one-liners that keep her teammates on their toes.

“She delivers in the group chats. She makes everyone laugh which may not be portrayed as much in the media,” Heath said.

The consummate team player, Pearce was an integral part of the dominant Darebin Falcons outfit in Victoria’s state league, but did have times throughout her AFLW career when she considered she may never feature in a Grand Final at the top level.

While the ultimate team success may have eluded her thus far, six years after Pearce pulled on the boots as Melbourne’s inaugural AFLW skipper, she gets her shot at premiership glory when the Demons take on Adelaide in the decider.

“Her sole focus has been getting the team to the Grand Final and getting us over the line – whatever happens next happens, but that’s in the future,” Heath explained.

“If she’s going in, we’re all going in.”