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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Former AFL coach Dani Laidley avoids conviction over stalking claim

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Former AFL coach Dani Laidley has received extra support in court as she avoided a conviction over stalking allegations.

Former AFL coach and champion player Dani Laidley admitted to stalking but avoided a criminal record as former teammates backed the premiership player.

Ms Laidley appeared using an audio link in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday for a hearing over the stalking allegation.

It was revealed last week the 53-year-old had been through a gender transition and now identified as a woman.

She sent texts, took photos of the victim’s car and apartment, put flowers on the car and repeatedly called the woman between April 25 and May 2, the court was told.

Ms Laidley called the victim 43 times between 12.28am and 8.24pm on May 2, according to a summary read in court.

Her lawyer Rob Stary said his client was remorseful and at the time of the offences was immersed in a “drug addled” culture.

But she had an extended stay in a rehabilitation clinic, complied with bail conditions after spending nine days in custody and reconnected with her children, Mr Stary said.

He argued a conviction could undermine Ms Laidley’s plans to help others in the trans community by sharing her experience.

“That’s what she wants to do, she wants to be able to utilise that experience in a positive way,” Mr Stary said.

Former teammates including North Melbourne players Mark Brayshaw and Anthony Stevens also gave references to support the former football star over the charges.

Mr Brayshaw described his friend as a “remarkable and inspiring person” in a letter read in court.

“He greatly admires your resilience,” Magistrate Jack Vandersteen said of Mr Brayshaw.

The former player learnt “a lot about the issues in the trans community”, and Ms Laidley shared with him “almost unconditionally”.

Mr Stevens said the ex-coach showed strength in her determination to be the best version of herself after “hitting rock bottom”.

Six other charges, including using a carriage service to menace, were thrown out.

Ms Laidley’s AFL career began as a player for the West Coast Eagles in 1987 before moving to North Melbourne at the end of 1992. She helped the club take the premiership in 1996.

She was also coach of North Melbourne for seven years and has since been part of coaching teams at Port Adelaide, St Kilda and Carlton.

The magistrate also accepted Ms Laidley suffered extra-curial punishment because of the coverage of the alleged leaking of a photograph showing the former player in custody.

Mr Vandersteen placed the former premiership player on an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour for 18 months, and she must comply with the treatment of her doctor.

No conviction was recorded.

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