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Roche happy to be on board

New St Kilda director Danni Roche with Saints president Greg Westaway

THE new-look St Kilda board is about as diverse a group of people as you could imagine.

Among the four new recruits to the board for 2013 is a corporate advisor who has been based in Tokyo and New York, the former chair of a major petrol company, an Olympic gold medallist and a Queen’s Counsel who was actively involved in investigating the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

It’s quite a contrast to most people’s image of what a football club board looks like and Saints president Greg Westaway said the club actively looked for people of various backgrounds for the board.

“It hasn’t fallen that way, it was quite deliberate because we needed a set of skills that were spread,” Westaway told saints.com.au.

“Before we were heavy in some areas like legal and this way we’ve got a good spread in all aspects that we need to run a competent board.”

Westaway said each of the four new directors brought their own unique qualities to the board room.

“We have Jack Rush QC, Russell Kaplan who has a very strong financial background, Paul Kirk who has a plethora of experience both here and overseas and of course Danni Roche who is experienced in sport to a level we haven’t had on the board in some time and that will certainly strengthen us,” he said.

Roche won a gold medal while playing for the Hockeyroos at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games but her CV extends well beyond that.

She has held finance and commercial positions with Telstra, has been a Director at UBS, a partner at Evans and Partners and was a crucial player in the re-shaping of Australian hockey as a director of Hockey Australia.

“We’ve changed that enormously,” Roche said of Hockey Australia.

“We’ve grown the revenue, improved the sponsorship and got some great management people in there.”

Roche said her experiences in hockey held her in good stead for a role with an AFL club.

“I think elite sport is fairly similar across the board. I think coming out of a sport that is global and being involved in competitions like the Olympic games in a multi-sport environment you get to meet athletes across the world in various different sports and really there is a similarity in elite sports and how culture creates elite success,” she said.

“I think hopefully there will be a dynamic from various different sports I’ll be able to contribute to the St Kilda board.”

The self-confessed “mad Saints supporter” is the latest in a long line of female St Kilda board members following on from Susan Taylor, Sheena Ferguson and Judy Mann.

She says the female presence in key football roles will only increase.

“I think there have been more women involved in AFL and I think that’s a good thing. You compare AFL to Rugby League and AFL is so far advanced with having females involved in the sport,” she said.

“Women are a very big part of football, from spectators to being involved as physios and doctors at the club and right through the commission even to our first ever female goal umpire. Everyone in Melbourne loves footy, whether it’s men, women or children so it probably makes sense. Although I do get a bit of a hard time from my mates calling me the token chick.”

Westaway said there was nothing token about Roche’s appointment.

“It’s one of those things - we wanted to welcome a woman on the board but it wasn’t going to be a woman because they were just female. It needed to be someone with a talent that we could use and I’m quite sure Danni is going to give us that.”