2013 - The year Peggy O’Neal became first female president of an AFL club
27 - the years Peggy has been in Melbourne
American Peggy O’Neal never imagined she would end up in Australia when she went on a trip to Europe in the late 1980s.
Having grown up in a small town Virginia, Peggy was keen to visit European countries she had read so much about. A chance meeting with a backpacker in a bar in Greece changed her life.
By 1989 she was happily married and living in Melbourne. Fast-forward and Peggy, a dual-citizen and recent RACV member, is one of Australia’s leading superannuation lawyers and an AFL history maker.
Peggy had worked as a lawyer in the US specialising in employee benefits and pensions. She arrived in Melbourne as superannuation laws created a need for more lawyers with her experience.
After a year of study at Melbourne University, Peggy was hired by Freehills law firm (now Herbert Smith Freehills).
Peggy became something of a household name in 2013 when she was elected president of one of the AFL’s biggest clubs, Richmond. In the process, she became the first female to hold such a title.
Peggy became involved with the Tigers when they were struggling to survive in the early 1990s. At the time she was living in Richmond, just walking distance from the club’s famous home grounds, the Punt Road Oval and the MCG.
“I went to a game and decided that it was such a wonderfully exciting game to watch,” she said. “Then I thought I should support my local team. Maybe I was sucked in by the great club song as well.”
Peggy became a player sponsor, before helping set up the Tommy Hafey Club, by providing some voluntary legal help, in the early 2000s.
In 2005, she became the first female on Richmond’s board, a move that put her on a path towards the club presidency.
Now she hopes to achieve another goal by helping the Tigers claim a long overdue premiership.
“That’s what everyone at the club wants to do,” O’Neal said. “And I think we’re on the right track.”