Ann Rulton

The pioneer and the legacy: Ann Rulton's impact will never be forgotten. Pictures: @VUWesternSpurs

Women’s football lost an icon of the game in legendary volunteer Ann Rulton, who passed away this week.

Women’s football lost an icon of the game in legendary volunteer Ann Rulton, who passed away this week.

Rulton joined the St Kilda City Football Club in 1991, and over the next three decades would assist the creation of the women’s side at the Sharks in 1992 and helped keep rival Darebin (then known as Fairfield) afloat by contributing numerous roles from 1999 to 2004, including team manager and treasurer.

Darebin is now a powerhouse of the VFLW, while the Sharks have grown to now field multiple women’s teams, and in 2021, Rulton was named an immortal of the club. Rulton is also a life member of both clubs.

Rulton’s influence spread across all of women’s football, spending countless hours as a committee member of the VWFL to 2013, working to grow the game and the competition as a whole. Her service was not only honoured with life membership but with the VFLW Volunteer of the Year award named in her honour.

Rulton never played the game, nor coached a team, but is revered, all the same, having touched so many over a three-decade journey.

Tributes flooded in from across the footballing landscape, led by the clubs that she worked tirelessly for over the last 30 years.

The St Kilda Sharks posted on Facebook:

“Vale Ann Rulton. On behalf of the entire St Kilda Sharks family, we’d like to send our condolences to Leesa Catto and all of Ann’s friends and family. What an incredible lady.

“For three decades Ann Rulton played a pivotal role in the growth and development of the women’s game. She never kicked a ball or coached a team but is revered by so many in the football community for the time she has given to our great game.

“Ann was a long-serving committee member for the old VWFL (Victorian Women’s Football League) and spent countless hours working behind the scenes to grow and develop the league. For Ann, the AFLW was a dream long before it became reality and without her hard work and contribution, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

“Ann did so much for the league and the greater football community, but the St Kilda Sharks was always home. She was there for our very first season in 1992 and our last in 2021. She loved the club with all of her heart and was the glue that held it all together.

“Ann Rulton was the backbone of our great club. She was our longest serving committee member and held many off-field roles at the club, often doing the jobs that few others wanted to do.

“She was a constant at every game and every function, and she touched the lives of so many of our players, coaches, and members. Ann, THANK YOU!

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for us as a club and the greater football community. You will be missed dearly and your contribution to the game will never be forgotten.”

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The Darebin Falcons posted on Twitter:

“It is with great sadness Darebin Falcons acknowledges the passing of VWFL & DWSC Life Member Ann Rulton who passed away last night.

“She did a huge amt [sic] of work for Falcons and the League in the late ’90s & early 2000s, a great supporter of Women’s footy.”

Outside her club associations, many paid tribute on social media, including dear friend Susan Alberti.

“It is with great sadness I mourn the passing of Ann Rulton, a pioneer of AFLW football,” Alberti wrote on Twitter.

“Ann was there at the time of the revolution and beyond. She worked tirelessly behind the scene[s] to make AFLW a reality. A beautiful lady and my friend. Vale Ann. Thank You for everything.”

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