When the nation’s eyes are turned towards its footy and rugby fields, the media is often dominated by men.
But the current trailblazer in the world of AFL football is a woman—philanthropist Susan Alberti, AC, known far and wide as ‘Sue’.
This vice-president of the AFL Western Bulldogs club was the first registered female builder in Victoria, running a major construction business with husband Angelo, and is a major philanthropist through her Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation.
She is also behind the establishment of the new AFL national Women’s League.
So what drives her?
‘I have faced a range of challenges during my life,’ she tells Warcry. ‘I just don’t take “no” for an answer and am always trying to make the impossible happen.’
In 1995 a hit-run driver in a truck killed Sue’s husband Angelo and in 2001, Sue’s 32-year-old daughter, Danielle, a type 1 diabetes sufferer, died of a massive heart attack on a plane returning from America to Australia for a kidney transplant. Sue was to be the kidney donor, and Danielle died in her arms.
Sue has always believed in standing up for herself.
‘This has led to me sticking up for causes and people I believe in. I have also had the odd run-in with establishment figures along the way—I’m not prepared to stand by if I can see someone is being wronged or treated unfairly,’ she says.
In 2009, Sue took on The Footy Show over Sam Newman’s disparaging comments and behaviour about journalist Caroline Wilson. When Newman claimed that Sue and supporters were hypocrites and liars, she sued Channel Nine, resulting in a settlement of $220,000 plus costs.
The Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation has donated millions of dollars to diabetes and medical research, and for this philanthropy Sue became a Companion of the Order of Australia.
Sue is a passionate supporter of the AFL National Women’s League, where young women can fulfil a dream that she once shared.
‘I played as part of the Footscray Cheer Squad team and dreamt of running onto the MCG in the club colours of red, white and blue,’ she reminisces.
Sue is determined that the new league will succeed.
‘Women’s sport is big business and getting bigger. The recent exhibition match was the highest rating football match screened in 2016. It will be a tremendous marketing and growth opportunity for the AFL to expand its footprint and lock in an important demographic,’ she said.
Attending Melbourne Catholic girls’ school Sienna College, Sue has vivid memories of playing netball against nuns wearing their full habits.
‘The nuns taught me the importance of being humble and helping those less fortunate than ourselves. That has stayed with me all my life. I do have faith in a higher being but I believe religious faith is a private matter, and I prefer to demonstrate a love for others by my philanthropic and emotional support for women’s sport, medical research and providing opportunities for the less fortunate in our community,’ Sue says.
When it comes to being a role model for women, Sue Alberti is kicking goals.