’Pride of Lions’ AFL legend hails club unity

Adelaide Crows’ AFL Women’s player Kellie Gibson talks to coach Bec Goddard in the build up to Saturday’s grand final against Brisbane Lions.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — FEBRUARY 01: Emma Zielke of the Lions poses for a photograph during the 2017 AFL Women’s Competition Launch at Laurens Hall on February 1, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

BRISBANE captain Emma Zielke and her teammates are the pride of the Lions.

Lions AFL captain Dayne Beams has been swept up in the women’s charge to the inaugural AFLW grand final and said the passion and pride with which they represent the club was an inspiration to his men.

Leigh Matthews, the biggest name in the club’s history, is a man who is known to ration out his compliments, but he stunned a club gathering this week when he delivered a stirring endorsement of 28-year-old Zielke’s leadership.

“He took me aside at a function about a week ago and said he was extremely impressed with my leadership, to know a guy like Leigh is in my corner and think I am on the right track filled me with confidence,’’ Zielke said.

“But then when he said it again in front of a whole function a few days later was a great moment for me.’’

Beams will captain the Lions in an AFL game for the first time in the Q Clash just hours after the women’s grand final against Adelaide at Metricon Stadium.

Emma Zielke has been hailed for her leadership skills

Emma Zielke has been hailed for her leadership skillsSource:Getty Images

He said win or lose, the women were already champions in the eyes of his side.

“The most pleasing thing I have taken away from the girls is the passion they have for our footy club and the way they want to play for our club and each other,’’ he said.

“Hopefully that can rub off on us because the way they play in our jumper, what it means to them, is how we want to be.’’

Beams said he had no idea the competition would grow so quickly and how invested he would find himself in the Lions’ fortunes.

He said at the recent captains’ conference in Melbourne he discovered the feeling of support for women’s footy among AFL players was widespread across the competition, not just in Brisbane where the girls have provided a ray of light after several dark years.

“The impact they are having is enormous, a lot of young girls now have role models to look up to and they are very positive role models, the girls are fantastic ambassadors for our sport,’’ he said.

“It has been a positive thing for our footy club, we haven’t had much positivity the last two years so that has been terrific.’’

He said the men’s team felt the frustration of the stoush over the Gabba even more than the women, who treat every day they get to pay football as a blessing.

“We’ve all been swept up in it. I can tell you all the boys were very frustrated on their behalf,’’ he said. “One thing I can say about them is they will play anyone, anywhere.’’

Originally published as ’Pride of Lions’ AFL legend hails club unity