A MERE six years ago, Lily Mithen was a young football fan who – like many others – idolised Daisy Pearce.
And while she still holds just as much admiration for the three-time best and fairest winner, she now respects her in an entirely new way.
When Mithen was drafted to Melbourne for the inaugural AFLW season, she learned that Pearce wasn’t simply an outstanding footballer, but a terrific teammate and person as well.
Now, with another contract signed, Pearce will pull on the red and blue once again next season, and rest assured Mithen is grateful for that.
“Coming to the footy club, one of the things I was looking forward to most was playing with the likes of Daisy, Paxy and Mel Hickey,” Mithen told Melbourne Media.
“Being drafted to a team where Melbourne had already selected those names, Daisy headlining the act, that was something I was just so excited at the opportunity of.
“Daisy had already mentored a couple of teams I’d played in, so I’d already formed a bit of a relationship with her, but it was probably more of a fan-girl relationship more than anything.
“In the early days I idolised Dais and everything she’d done for the sport and to get AFLW on the map.
“When I was drafted to the club, I was just so eager to train alongside her and learn from her.
“She’s someone who gives so much, not only to the club and the sport, but to the people around her.
“I latched on to the side of her and wanted to learn heaps from her.
“She’s always someone who gives so much time and investment into people that want to continually get better.
The Dees’ skipper has a unique ability to get the best out of her teammates; a quality Mithen doesn’t take for granted.
“Her leadership is so powerful because it’s so authentic,” she said.
“People aren’t intimidated or afraid to mess up around her, because she’ll accept all her blemishes, all her mistakes.
“I think it is just how open she is with her players – that’s where people really connect with her.
“She opens herself up to the team and that’s when you get to know and respect people, when you get let in.
“She’s someone who does that.
“Then in a footy sense, her footy IQ is unbelievable, and she just has the perfect timing in terms of what she says and when she says it.
“That’s not a coincidence, that’s something she’s put so much time into – being the best leader she can be.
“And she’s willing to pass that on to everyone around her.”
While Pearce has always been a crucial part of the Demons’ AFLW program, in recent years she has brought more to the table than ever before: twins.
After the birth of Sylvie and Roy in 2019, Pearce has truly made Melbourne the family club.
And that club is a great place to be.
“That family aspect to a footy club is so important – that’s why so many people play,” Mithen said.
“Having Sylvie and Roy around is so special and seeing how happy it makes Dais is such a nice touch.
“It completes Daisy, but it also completes our footy club.”
The Dees will benefit from at least one more season of Pearce’s football prowess, but her legacy will live far beyond her playing career, that’s for sure.