Danielle Laidley has laid bare her disdain for the ‘Junkyard Dog’ nickname that she says only further masked her inner turmoil.
A new Stan documentary ‘Revealed – Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes’ details the turbulent life of the 1996 AFL premiership winner grappling with gender dysphoria, her efforts to hide it, and the fallout from the controversial reveal by police after being arrested.
In the expose, former North Melbourne teammate Wayne Schwass describes the half-back as a “feisty, fiery, scrappy, and angry” player.
That persona was far from the identity she hid from view.
“This scrawny, little, foul-mouthed, tough, angry, half-back flanker was indeed a Junkyard Dog,” said AFL Coaches Association CEO Mark Brayshaw, a long-time friend of Laidley’s.
“Exactly. It was a ripper of a name from the media standpoint – and it stuck. In fact, all that huff and puff and bravado was trying to cover the person underneath.”
Laidley explained, “I hated it because that persona was even further removed from who I was.
“I had times where there was stuff in my car. One time there was tissues with make-up on and my wife at the time accused me at the time of playing up, cheating.
“The fear would just rise in your body to the point where you were nearly going to have a heart attack. I took the cheating and said ‘yep’ over telling her about me.”
Laidley’s struggle came at a time when little was known about gender dysphoria and transgender people were not widely accepted.
In hindsight, Schwass bemoaned Laidley’s inability to open up on her struggles.
Stan Original Documentary Revealed: Danielle Laidley: Two Tribes trailer
“It does sadden me that she never felt, whether it be me or anyone else at that time and in our club environment, that she could talk to us about that,” said Schwass.
“I probably, realistically, if I’m being honest, would not have known how to respond. But she’s a friend and she’s a teammate. I would have listened. That’s what I would like to think I would have been able to offer had something had been said. But for her reasons, which I respect, the time wasn’t right.”
Winning the AFL premiership with the Kangaroos in 1996 was Laidley’s ultimate triumph in the sport.
While she basked in the sun of that victory for months after the fact, it soon wore off and she found herself battling her demons again.
“It was always a day I had hoped for,” said Laidley.
“It was always a day I thought would always complete me, if we won.
“It probably did for the first two or three months. There’s a lot of celebrations, partying.
“I reached this pinnacle that I had been searching for for so many years.
“But then when the lights went down, ‘What’s the next phase of my life?”