'Let myself love': Dani Laidley's inspiring words after AFL return

Dani Laidly spoke candidly about her life after AFL in a telling interview for the Herald Sun.
Former North Melbourne coach Dani Laidly has opened up about her life after leaving the AFL world in a heartfelt interview with the Herald Sun. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Former AFL and North Melbourne great Danielle Laidley has opened up about her life after football in a telling interview weeks after her heartwarming homecoming at Arden St.

Laidley, who won a premiership with the Kangaroos in 1996 before later going on to coach the side, joined several key club figures for a gathering to celebrate the club eliminating their debt.

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Various figures from North Melbourne rallied around Laidley last year, after she was arrested and subsequently ordered to complete a diversion program back in 2020.

Victoria Police were ordered 11 police to pay out thousands of dollars to Laidley after officers leaked photos of her mug shot while she was in custody.

Laidley discussed her arrest and the subsequent police controversy in her interview with the Herald Sun, which has come as Victoria Police face an anti-corruption commission probe over officers again secretly taking pictures of Laidley at the Melbourne Cup.

She said she was continuing to learn to love herself in the wake of what was ultimately a highly traumatic year in 2020.

“It’s been tough at times. But I feel I am a much more rounded person,” Laidley said.

“I feel that I can let myself love and be loved now, instead of self-sabotaging in lots of different ways from an early age, right up until 18 months ago.”

Laidley's return to Arden St for North Melbourne's debt celebration was her first true public appearance, in the sense that she actually knew pictures of her at the event would be published.

Flanked by the likes of club president James Brayshaw and fellow former coach Brad Scott, it was clear her legacy at the club would not only be unchanged by her coming out, but actually emboldened by it.

More importantly, later in the day Laidley gave a speech for Transgender Awareness Week at a regional forum in Torquay - a moment which has clearly stuck with her.

“Not only the messages of support but the messages from parents of transgender children and the impact that last Friday had has absolutely blown me away,” she said.

“I want to raise awareness of transgender people to live life without barriers.

"It’s very important to me, and not just the transgender person themselves, but also their families for the support and counsel required to adapt to change.”

Danielle Laidley lauded in widely-praised return to North Melbourne

In a panel discussion with Scott and current coach David Noble, Laidley spoke of how important North had been in her life.

She also relayed some old war stories about coaching the Kangaroos before their state-of-the-art facilities were built.

"I'm very proud today. It's a significant day," she said, in a rare public appearance.

"It's probably the first time I've represented my old tribe and my new tribe so it's a significant week for us.

"I think, going forward, the club's in great hands."

She was welcomed by everyone in attendance, including North legend Brent Harvey, who gave his former coach a big hug.

Dani Laidley was warmly welcomed as North Melbourne celebrated clearing the club's debt earlier in November.
Dani Laidley was embraced by former teammates such as Kangaroos legend Brent Harvey after her return to North Melbourne earlier in November. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

North chairman Ben Buckley was delighted Laidley accepted the club's invitation.

"Dani's been an important part of the North Melbourne footy club's history," Buckley said.

"She has a lot of friends, past teammates and we reached out to Dani, embraced her and embraced the new chapter in her life and it's fantastic to see her here.

"To hear her speak and her memories of the football club, it gives you a very warm feeling that football clubs are very embracing of their people and we're here for Dani."

Former North chairman James Brayshaw spoke glowingly of Laidley and the contribution she made in the late-2000s when the Kangaroos were scrapping to survive in Melbourne amid a move from the AFL to shift the club to the Gold Coast.

"In 2007, when we were really fighting city hall pretty hard, what we were able to be is incredibly relevant on the field," Brayshaw said.

"We were in a prelim final in 2007, finals in 2008 with the worst-funded footy department in the game."

With AAP

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