Being one of the few women working in AFL clubs at the time, and seeing and experiencing things on a daily basis that I wished I could shine the spotlight on, I watched her stand by her values and fight for what she saw as the right thing to do. Susan told the media at the time she “wasn’t intimated by [Sam]”.
‘Wow’, I thought, ‘There is one principled, fearless leader in an industry where the norm was to put up and shut up’. I wanted to grow up and become just like her. And over the years, my hunch is that I’m not the only one who has been inspired by her approach, her work, and her generosity.
Some time after the Newman incident, when I found myself chairing a board of an organisation that looked after the health and wellbeing of women in Susan’s stomping ground, Melbourne’s inner west, I was urged to give her a call. I was reluctant, imagining how it must feel when people know you are filthy rich and call you all the time with all the pleasantries but really all they want is cash.
But I called, and instead of getting the usual assistant peddling out the usual 'thanks-but-no-thanks' response, I got Susan. "Yes", she said without really knowing what I wanted or needed. "I will come to you."
A few days later, Susan arrived at my office. Dressed to the nines, with her driver in tow, you would have been forgiven for thinking the next hour or so was possibly one you would never get back. But she is the absolute example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. Generous with time, ideas and her resources, Susan gets shit done.
A self-described ‘giver, not taker’, Susan is the rare person who has struck the delicate balance between empathy and ruthlessness in order to make lives better and communities stronger. The AFL’s women’s football league was absolutely grounded for many years, nothing more than a concept and a wish that would fall on the deaf ears of the establishment.