News, Culture & Society

How being a star in the world’s ‘blokiest’ game made Danielle Laidley the woman she is today

Danielle Laidley’s career as a top AFL footballer in the late 80s and 1990s made her a hero among men. 

Today she is on the road to reinventing herself as a hero to all.  

The leaking of Laidley’s image in custody by Victoria Police in May last year forced her back onto the national stage – and she will no longer hide from her true self. 

Danielle Laidley spent years living in fear of who she really was. Now she has nothing to hide

Danielle Laidley can still kick a footy - in high heels - like a pro years after hanging up the footy boots

Danielle Laidley can still kick a footy – in high heels – like a pro years after hanging up the footy boots

Last month Laidley put on her make-up and hit the track at the Ballan Cup with what has emerged is her new girlfriend and former childhood sweetheart Donna Leckie. 

With a can of Jim Beam in hand, she was surreptitiously photographed and the photo was shared about again by members of Victoria Police. 

Laidley had gone public through no fault of her own, but spoke out when it was revealed sniggering cops had saw fit to mock her yet again.  

Daily Mail Australia can reveal up to 250 police officers self reported to force command after obtaining that photograph. 

Laidley, who was a 1996 premiership player for the Kangaroos and then coached the AFL club between 2003 and 2009, could have crawled back into her hole and hid. 

But Laidley has proven time and time again that she’s not the type to take too many backward steps and now has absolutely nothing to hide. 

Danielle Laidley and her partner Donna Leckie, who has been trapped in Victoria since Western Australia shut its borders

Danielle Laidley and her partner Donna Leckie, who has been trapped in Victoria since Western Australia shut its borders 

Award winning Herald Sun photographer Alex Copel sets up a shot with Danielle Laidley (left) during a recent photo shoot for that publication

Award winning Herald Sun photographer Alex Copel sets up a shot with Danielle Laidley (left) during a recent photo shoot for that publication 

Her return to North Melbourne last month to give a public address sounded the bell for the birth of Danielle Laidley. 

With Leckie by her side, Laidley took back the power that had been depleted, but not taken by Victoria Police, whom she continues to sue through the Supreme Court of Victoria over the first photo leak of her in custody. 

Laidley had attended a few of her former club’s games when not in lockdown and is understood to be hellbent on attending more next season. 

The public response to her appearance at North Melbourne has been overwhelmingly positive, with many ‘Aussie blokes’ finally willing to accept Laidley for who she is. 

Danielle Laidley is back on social media and ready to take on the world after years of denying who she really was

Danielle Laidley is back on social media and ready to take on the world after years of denying who she really was 

Danielle Laidley (right) and her partner Donna Leckie were childhood sweethearts growing up in Western Australia

Danielle Laidley (right) and her partner Donna Leckie were childhood sweethearts growing up in Western Australia 

Danielle Laidley impressed with her footy skills while recovering in a rehab clinic last year

Danielle Laidley impressed with her footy skills while recovering in a rehab clinic last year 

DANIELLE LAIDLEY’S NEW CAREER 

From today, Laidley is taking bookings for 2022 providing ‘fluid presentations’ suitable for workplaces in the areas of: 

1. Her story

2. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace, specific to transgender people

3. Leading diverse and inclusive teams

4. Culture in the workplace

5. MBTI personality types for individuals and teams including executive coaching.

Laidley recently returned to social media with a clear view of taking control of her brand and launching a new career as a creative consultant and public speaker. 

In a nod to her proud history on the field, she has retained the number 7 on the back of her Instagram profile – her number while playing through the first phase of her life as Dean Laidley with the Kangaroos. 

In a shared video, Laidley is seen dressed in heels with a football in hand talking candidly about a ‘kick-to-kick’ session during her time in a rehabilitation clinic last year. 

Laidley had casually booted a goal from 35 metres out. 

‘There was a guy running around the oval and as I’ve kicked it he’s run through the goal square and he’s gone: “she’s got a good kick on her”,’ Laidley said.   

Laidley’s journey from kicking a footy around the working-class town of Balga – 13 kilometres north of Perth – to now is complex. 

When Laidley was arrested in May last year over an ugly stalking matter, which has since resolved in her non conviction, some claimed to have known ‘for years’ that they knew who Laidley was below the surface. 

Former Melbourne footy writer Mike Sheahan claimed he had known Laidley had been dressing in women’s clothes for up to 12 years. 

The reality is that very few in football circles had any idea what was going on in Laidley’s life. 

Danielle Laidley has been chased about by photographers eager for a snap of her

Danielle Laidley has been chased about by photographers eager for a snap of her 

No longer afraid, Danielle Laidley is writing a book and plans to become a regular within media circles

No longer afraid, Danielle Laidley is writing a book and plans to become a regular within media circles 

Danielle Laidley remains proud of her past, but is looking forward with her new life and career

Danielle Laidley remains proud of her past, but is looking forward with her new life and career 

Danielle Laidley returned to a hero's welcome when she returned to North Melbourne footy club with her partner Donna Leckie (far right) last month

Danielle Laidley returned to a hero’s welcome when she returned to North Melbourne footy club with her partner Donna Leckie (far right) last month 

For much of it she had lived in fear that what unfolded at St Kilda police station last year would happen to her. 

‘Unless your [sic] me, and been in my position, please don’t tell me how I feel,’ she wrote on social media after police shared her photo at the races.  

Any notion Laidley was looking for sympathy was cleared up with another post that very same day. 

‘I can’t wait to start sharing my journey and adventures with you all. It will be crazy, with some laughs, some tears and being my true authentic self,’ she wrote. 

Cruel stories about Laidley’s supposed ‘true self’ had been recycled in footy circles for decades. 

Sources trace them all the way back to the 1980s when Laidley was spotted at a popular Melbourne night spot enjoying herself with some transgender mates. 

Laidley had still been playing for the West Coast Eagles across the other side of the country and was instantly recognised in footy mad Melbourne. 

Danielle Laidley has become a powerful spokeswoman for transgender issues and helping young people experiencing what she once went through

Danielle Laidley has become a powerful spokeswoman for transgender issues and helping young people experiencing what she once went through 

Danielle Laidley was a champion AFL footballer and coach during the first phase of her life as Dean Laidley

Danielle Laidley was a champion AFL footballer and coach during the first phase of her life as Dean Laidley 

Danielle Laidley is in the process of writing a tell-all book

Danielle Laidley is in the process of writing a tell-all book 

The story spread like wildfire, with a good spread of ‘mayo’ helping the story gain traction across her career. 

Footy sources have told Daily Mail Australia Sheehan copped a decent spray from Laidley after he made his comments on Sam Newman’s podcast. 

It ought not be forgotten that Laidley has weathered many a public firestorm during her lifetime on the big stage. 

In 2006, after a spectator suicided following an onfield spat with her, Laidley was so shattered she had to see a counsellor. 

A tsunami of water has flowed under the bridge since, with Laidley again comfortable to show the world what kind of strength of character made her a champion in elite sport. 

Laidley, who has officially changed her name to Danielle May, has made no secret she is in the process of writing a book about her life and is expected to commute back and forth to Western Australia with Leckie once borders re-open. 

Since thrust back onto the big stage, Laidley has taken giant leaps to support others who are experiencing a taste of what she has endured. 

‘I hope to stop discrimination against younger transgender people and families of transgender people. Life without barriers,’ she wrote on Instagram. 

‘Don’t be ashamed of your story, it may just inspire someone else.’ 

Laidley declined to comment to Daily Mail Australia.  

Stories about Danielle Laidley had circulated around change rooms for decades - most of it was untrue

Stories about Danielle Laidley had circulated around change rooms for decades – most of it was untrue  

Danielle Laidley has reappeared on social media after withdrawing last year following her arrest

Danielle Laidley has reappeared on social media after withdrawing last year following her arrest 

Danielle Laidley was a champion footballer and coached North Melbourne through some of the club's toughest years

Danielle Laidley was a champion footballer and coached North Melbourne through some of the club’s toughest years 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk