A spotlight is shining on the women’s AFL Canberra competition with the announcement of former Queanbeyan Tigers player Hannah Dunn as co-captain of the Gold Coast Suns ahead of the club’s first game in the 2021 AFLW season against Melbourne at Metricon Stadium this afternoon (30 January).
In only her second season with the Suns, Dunn’s career is rising fast after being drafted to the AFLW in 2018 as a supplementary player with Greater Western Sydney Giants before being delisted at the end of the season.
The Suns then took her as their second pick in the 2019 AFLW draft, where she made her mark despite only playing a handful of games that following season in 2020. However, Dunn established herself as one of the most important players in the Suns’ midfield and has grown into a respected leader at the club, culminating in her promotion to the co-captaincy role.
The Suns will be looking to build on their 2020 season, which came to a sudden halt when the league cancelled the semifinals and grand final because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dunn, 29, says the opportunity to represent the Gold Coast and lead the group with co-captain Sam Virgo is humbling.
“It’s an absolute honour to be appointed captain alongside Sam, and I couldn’t be prouder to represent the club, its supporters and the entire Gold Coast community,” she says.
“I’m looking forward to leading by example both on and off the field and helping our group, however I came to deliver the success we’re all striving towards.”
Dunn began her Australian rules football career in 2010 and became the first woman to reach 100 games for Queanbeyan Tigers in 2016, being inducted as a full playing life member of the club. She is also a four-time premiership player with the Tigers, including winning the AFL Canberra grand final in 2017 and claiming the best-on-ground medal.
Queanbeyan Tigers’ general manager and first grade men’s coach Adrian Pavese started the women’s team and recruited Dunn in 2010. He says the club couldn’t be more proud of their determined quiet achiever.
“Hannah actually came to us and she was the second person who contacted us when we put out an expression of interest for players for a women’s side,” he tells Region Media.
“It’s obviously an unbelievable honour to captain an AFLW club. She captained our club and is just a natural leader who leads by her actions and knows how to really support her teammates.
“It’s easy to say it’s not a surprise to see her captain an AFLW side because she has all the traits of being a sensational leader. She proved it here with the Tigers.”
Dunn also played 134 first-grade games with the Tigers, a record that was only surpassed by Lani Watson, who played her 135th game in the club’s victory in the 2020 AFL Canberra women’s grand final.
Dunn also follows in the footsteps of former Queanbeyan Tigers player Bec Goddard, who was appointed as coach of Hawthorn’s VFLW team last year and coached the Adelaide Crows women’s AFL team when they won the flag in the inaugural AFLW season in 2017.
Another Queanbeyan Tigers’ protege, Cheyne Webster, was also named as senior coach of the North Melbourne VFLW side after being a development coach for their AFLW side. Webster also coached Dunn when the Tigers won the AFL Canberra premiership in 2017.
Chris Clifton, who coached the Tigers’ women to their second first-grade premiership in 2019, has also been named as Collingwood’s senior assistant coach and midfield coach in the AFLW.
Pavese says it’s a huge achievement for the club to have so many former players and coaches achieving at the game’s highest level.
“It’s huge, especially for the women’s club which is only 11 years old,” he says. “To see the success the women’s program has had is something we’re very proud of.
“We also now have female players in every grade from juniors right through to first-grade. We’ve already had 40 players at pre-season training and more than 62 on our books for this year.
“It holds us in good stead for the future.”