Daisy Pearce called out by AFLW captain over inflammatory swipe after grand final

The retired AFLW player's comments didn't go down well with North Melbourne skipper Emma Kearney.

Daisy Pearce.
Daisy Pearce took aim at rival AFLW clubs after the grand final in 2022. Image: Getty

North Melbourne captain Emma Kearney has called out Daisy Pearce over the retired AFLW player's inflammatory comments following the grand final last year. Pearce led the Melbourne Demons to a drought-breaking premiership triumph in November, before taking a dig at rival clubs during a post-game interview.

“We’re not the most popular team and we don’t have all the bells and whistles,” Pearce said at the time. “We don’t give away cars to players that come to us – but we’ve got the best coach in the competition [Mick Stinear] that helps make you a good footballer.”

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Pearce was referring to AFL rules which allow players to be given sponsor’s cars to drive under an ASA (additional services agreement). In 2023 there is an ASA limit of $100,000, however clubs can give ASAs to two players outside of that cap.

Speaking to The Age on Wednesday, Kearney said she was miffed that there wasn't more backlash to Pearce's "subtle dig". Kearney said a male player would have received more scrutiny for similar comments.

“I know our club was one of those that she was having a dig [at]," Kearney said. "If that was a male captain, the media is probably jumping all over that and I just think we missed the opportunity where we can start having those - I don’t want to use the term negative news stories - but more critical."

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Mazda is a long-time sponsor of North Melbourne, but there are no suggestions they broke any league rules in giving cars to players. “Our club recruits players, or people come to our club, not because of car deals, but because of the program that we have on offer,” Kearney said.

A spokesperson for the AFL told The Age: “The AFL has oversight over all ASAs, Employment Agreements and Independent Agreements. They are all required to be reported to and approved by the AFL."

Emma Kearney, pictured here in action for North Melbourne in 2022.
Emma Kearney in action for North Melbourne in 2022. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Daisy Pearce-less Demons still the team to beat

Meanwhile, Hawthorn coach Bec Goddard has declared Melbourne are still the flag favourites this season despite Pearce's retirement. After seeing her side "ripped apart" by the Demons in their final pre-season hit-out, Goddard declared Stinear's experienced outfit primed to repeat their season-seven success.

"Melbourne are going to be a cut above everyone else," inaugural AFLW premiership coach Goddard told reporters ahead of round one. "They are unbelievably good."

The Demons lost inspirational leader Pearce to retirement over the off-season, but have kept the majority of their playing list intact as they chase back-to-back flags. They sounded a warning to their rivals with the 58-point thrashing of Hawthorn ahead of Friday night's season-opener against Collingwood at Ikon Park.

"Melbourne haven't lost any players other than the great Daisy Pearce and we're still a young group that's learning how to play football," Goddard said. "It was a really great opportunity to see the way they explode out of contests and spread the ground. They ripped us apart."

Daisy Pearce, pictured here after helping Melbourne win the AFLW premiership in 2022.
Daisy Pearce retired after helping Melbourne win the AFLW premiership in 2022. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Essendon coach Natalie Wood agreed, but said North Melbourne and Brisbane will be up there too: "(North) have recruited really well and they've got that height across the ground, as do Melbourne, and that's a bit of a testament to the two teams. They've got such athletic footballers and North will be pressing as well, but then you can't deny Brisbane.

"Every year they've lost players to expansion and they find a way to rally together. Over the whole eight seasons they've been able to build a really strong program that has high training standards, so it will be interesting as it plays out."

with AAP

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