Anyone in the AFL community who's crossed swords with Susan Alberti will attest her late husband Colin North boasted the rarest of claims to fame.
"Colin was a remarkable man. He was perhaps the only man who could ever say to me 'no'," Alberti said.
"I'm a woman of my own mind, but he was a man I could run things past."
Alberti, best described as a force of nature, was a raw mix of emotions as she stood on the MCG earlier this week.
She was bursting with pride as the AFL launched QuickKick, a program that aims to give women over 35 a way into playing Australian Rules.
Around her, women in their boots, guerneys and shorts practised their drop punts on the same ground where Alberti's beloved Western Bulldogs broke their AFL premiership drought six years ago.
Just as the AFLW has given young girls a clear pathway into the game, so QuickKick aims to give their mums, aunts and grandmas - a 73-year-old has registered her interest - a way to scratch the competitive itch.
It was the day before her 75th birthday and Alberti was the centre of attention as one of the fiercest supporters of the AFLW was honoured with a cake.
Few people have done as much as the former Western Bulldogs vice-president to champion women in the game.
But it is also just six weeks since her beloved Colin died after fighting cancer for more than three years.
Behind the beaming smile that rarely leaves her, Alberti is devastated.
"My husband was a great supporter of everything I did, particularly concerning women in all the areas I'm involved in," an emotional Alberti said.
"He was just there with me, 100 per cent, all the time.
"He felt women were not given a fair go - he was always saying to me 'Sue, we've got to provide pathways for these women'.
"If he was here today, he'd be so happy."
Amid her grief, Alberti is always ready to discuss the issues of the day.
She is equal parts passionate, enthusiastic and frustrated about the progress of the AFLW, with no confirmation as yet about when the next season will start.
"It's a slow process and I'm not going to say otherwise, but it's changing," she said.
"I'm patient. I waited 62 years for the Bulldogs.
"I know what it means to know how to lose - and lose every week."
But Alberti can see the wood for the trees, praising outgoing AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan on bringing forward the AFLW's creation.
As she notes, timing is everything - especially when it involves a global pandemic.
"Remember, if Gil hadn't come forward those three years, and the pandemic - would we still have women's football today?" she said
"We wouldn't have launched. It probably would have just died away.
"It was fortuitous, so we must remember that too. He went out on a limb."
Instead Alberti looks across the MCG, watches a group of women revelling in handball drills, and her smile is briefly replaced by a piercing look that could curdle milk.
"It is sacred turf, but it's sacred to all of us, not just the men," she says.
Australian Associated Press
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