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Third female becomes club life member

Matt Burgan  December 14, 2017 5:51 PM


A LOVE of the red and blue – even before she barracked for the Demons – was ultimately why new life member Karen Woodroofe chose to barrack for Melbourne.

Originally from Adelaide, Woodroofe’s family was heavily involved with Norwood (known as the Redlegs) in the SANFL, before moving to Victoria.

But it wasn’t Melbourne she initially supported, when she crossed the border, as she explained.  

“We moved to Melbourne in 1974, when Phil Carman [who later played for Melbourne in 1979] came across [to Collingwood] from Norwood. As a family, we all chose to barrack for Collingwood, but I only lasted a few games and said ‘no, I’ve got to barrack for the red and blue team’, so I shifted across to Melbourne and have been there ever since,” she told  

“I’m yet to see a premiership and the last premiership was the year before I was born.

“There is always this season. It’s going to happen.”

On Thursday night, at the MCG, Woodroofe became the third female to receive life membership from Melbourne, joining Jackie Emmerton and Lynda Carroll.

Woodroofe said it was “unbelievable” to be given the honour.

“It’s just unbelievable. To be recognised for being able to take part in what’s the greatest football club in the world – and the oldest one – is just absolutely amazing. I can’t believe it,” she said.

“Just the fact, and knowing that I’m a life member now – it’s just absolutely phenomenal and I could never have dreamed that this would occur.”

Although Woodroofe has been a volunteer for the club for more than 30 years, she almost worked for Melbourne.

“It would probably never happen now, but there was an ad in the [football] record for VFL/AFL cadets, which I applied for a position in 1982. I sent in an application and went through a couple of phone interviews and was asked to do a presentation to the board. I was told it was out of myself and one other person,” she said.

“The person that got the job was [future chief executive] Cameron Schwab.”

Woodroofe has since assisted the football and administration departments in a variety of roles, whether it’s been filling in team sheets, typing up flyers and scouting reports, or volunteering in events, membership and the cheer squad.

In 2000, she took up a statistician role and assisted in game day nutrition, organising food for the players. She has also organised coffee, sandwiches and lollies for the coaches during games.  

“It takes a bit of prep time during the week – about two hours to do the shopping and cooking for game day takes about four or five hours the night before. On game day, it’s about three hours before the game and a couple of hours after,” she said.

“This year, I’ve also been helping out with the AFLW team, so I did all of the catering on game day for the girls as well.”

Although Woodroofe has also lived in Adelaide and Sydney for a total of 12 years, since 1982, her love of the red and blue has not wavered. She has been such a diehard supporter that she even travelled back to Melbourne as much as possible to watch the Dees play.

And although she worked with the Sydney Swans from 1987-91, she still travelled back to Melbourne to watch her Demons.

“[The Swans] couldn’t quite believe all of the things that I offered to do and not get paid,” she said.

“I went and worked at the office and that lasted two weeks and Tommy Hafey said ‘I want you working here all of the time’. I had some amazing experiences at the Swans as well, because they were the tough times.

“They were also meaningful times.”

Woodroofe, a productivity lead at Telstra, said football was “a nice escape from work”, given the pressures of her occupation.

“It’s great to be able to get out and yell and scream at the footy and not worry about things – and just let go,” she said.

“I probably would’ve struggled if I’d had a permanent job with the club because I take things to heart and I see what’s going on.”

Woodroofe said she took pride in seeing players such as former Demon Nathan Brown, with his “long, blonde dyed hair and ponytail” when he arrived to seeing him as a “man with a beautiful family and doing so well”.

“It’s great to see the boys coming along as young kids and going through their careers and turning into really wonderful human beings, and getting something really effective done in their lives,” she said.

As for her favourite player, Woodroofe reeled off several names.  

“The highest honour in my world is having a car named after you, so we’ve had a David Schwarz, a David Neitz, a Bernie Vince and now we have a Jesse Hogan – they’re all my favourites,” she said.

“David Neitz would have to be my favourite of all-time, although I probably shouldn’t say that, because Rod Grinter is the favourite from ever – from 15, when he first arrived at the club.

“He’s still my hero and he still should be playing.”

Focusing on the current squad, Woodroofe said she noticed a big difference in the players’ attitude and believed they could go all the way in the coming years. 

“I think we’re in a really good place and I know my friends will say ‘you say that every year and you’ve been saying you’re going to win every year’. But it was amazing the point of difference that we did see coming through with Goody (Simon Goodwin) and the rest of the assistant coaches, who have been able to build on from what Roosy (Paul Roos) set-up,” she said.

“The influence that Brendan McCartney has on the players’ game day, that I see, is just incredible.

“Some of the little things that I do – hopefully it means that it makes a difference in us being successful. If it means me cutting the edge off a sandwich because someone doesn’t like their crusts or getting a bag of blue lollies together – because someone only likes blue lollies – or [they get] special hugs before or after [the game] … they mean so much to me. Being able to have somewhere I can help the coaches relax and get what they want and need before a game … it just means so much [to me].”