Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann, Lions Senior coach, Chris Fagan and triple premiership captain Michael Voss have all paid glowing tribute to club stalwart Nicole Duncan, who passed away on Saturday.
“She was a true Lions legend even though she never played,” Swann said of the club’s 31-year football administration manager, who succumbed after a short battle with leukemia.
“She ran everything in the football department with a minimum of fuss and was never fazed by anything,” said Swann.
“Football clubs at every level are made up of the people involved and I would say that no-one in the history of the Lions had a bigger influence on the players, coaches and the workings of the club.”
Lions Senior coach, Chris Fagan, said Nicole was the most competent and diligent colleague he's worked alongside in his time in the AFL.
“Her work was her passion and she was an expert at her role. She wanted nothing but the best for our club and her daily aim was to serve the Lions with purpose and efficiency. Without doubt she achieved her goal consistently over a 30-year career,” said Fagan.
“My wife Ursula, daughters Jessica & Ellen and I loved her dearly. She made us all feel so welcome at the club and part of the family.
“To me she is a hero because every day she let her work and actions do the talking. She never complained and took so much pride in everything she did.
“People like her are the heart and soul of a football club. There is no doubt she has left an enduring legacy for all of us to follow.”
Voss, who was a 17-year-old going into his second season when he first met Nicole and worked with her through 14 years as a player and five years as senior coach, said he always saw her as the ‘gatekeeper’ of the club.
“The stories she could tell …” he pondered. “Not many got past her and not many knew as much as her,” said Voss.
“No task was too big or too small and she would do everything with the same ruthless efficiency. She never wasted a word but you always knew she cared. Every detail was mastered and there are many who are grateful to her for doing so much for them.
“Her impact on so many is undeniable,” Voss added.
In a family post on Nicole’s Facebook page today her family said: “It is with a heavy heart we write this. Nicole sadly passed away yesterday afternoon surrounded by loved ones. She fought so hard and until the very end.
“Words can’t describe how much we’ll miss her. She lit up every room with her sunny smile and always knew how to make people laugh. She lived an extraordinary life filled with adventure, laughter and love.
“We know Nicole touched many lives, and we’re devastated to have her leave this earth so soon, but she is at peace now. We know she was well loved and will be missed by so many. Thank you to everyone who was a good friend to Nicole. We are forever grateful for the impact you made on her life.”
Nicole, daughter of former Fitzroy player Stewart Duncan, who played 30 VFL games in the early 1960s, is survived by husband Brian, children Mitchell and Jade, and the ever-popular “Stewey”, now 83.
A life-time football person aligned in her early days with Springwood, Nicole joined the then Brisbane Bears in April 1993 shortly after the club’s relocation from Carrara to the Gabba.
Having formerly run the Brisbane Junior League, she was lured to the AFL club by then newly-appointed Bears football manager Shane Johnson.
“Thinking ‘who do I know we can trust with this critical role?’ my thoughts turned quickly to Nicole, knowing her from my QAFL days and knowing her football pedigree, knowledge and personality. Thankfully she said ‘yes’ immediately and the rest is history. She enjoyed a stellar working career at the ‘Den’ and became a club icon.”
Nicole, who lost her mother Fay early in life, was the oldest of three children, with brothers Andrew and Angus, who captained the Queensland State Schoolboys side and played in the Teal Cup (Under 17) carnival.
She replaced then Bears football secretary Wendy Beachley, who later became Wendy Eade after marrying former Hawthorn and Brisbane player, and Sydney, Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast coach, Rodney Eade.
The club’s longest-serving employee (easily), Nicole celebrated her 30th anniversary in last year in a Bears/Lions journey which saw her work under seven coaches – Robert Walls, John Northey, Roger Merrett, Leigh Matthews, Michael Voss, Justin Leppitsch and Chris Fagan.
She was in the all-encompassing role through 713 of the club’s 845 games, including every one of the club’s 37 finals, and with 263 of the club’s 346 players.
She worked out of six different offices – in the original Stanley Street headquarters under the Clem Jones Stand, in the mid-tier of the Gabba Social Club Building, three levels of the Gate 2 offices on the corner of Stanley Street and Main Street, and the Lions’ new Springfield ‘home’ at Brighton Homes Arena.
In her first game with the club in Round 1 1993, when the Bears played North Melbourne at the MCG, Justin Leppitsch, Matthew Clarke, Nathan Chapman and Nathan Buckley made their AFL debut and Adrian Fletcher played his first game in club colors.
The side also included Voss in his seventh game, a 21-year-old Marcus Ashcroft in his 63rd game, and a 19-year-old Darryl White in his 30th game.
Amazingly, in what turned out to be her last season with the club, the playing list included Will Ashcroft, Jaspa Fletcher and Darryl White Jnr. And the Lions won their second AFLW premiership to add to the glorious AFL hat-trick of 2001-02-03 under coach Matthews and captain Voss.
NICOLE DUNCAN SERVICE DETAILS: