Kylie Wat­son-wheeler mixes Dis­ney with AFL.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Ni­cholas Fonseca

When I was grow­ing up, the two things that were clos­est to my heart and ex­tremely im­por­tant to me were Dis­ney films and the Western Bull­dogs AFL club.

Like many of my gen­er­a­tion, I have fond mem­o­ries of watch­ing The Won­der­ful World Of Dis­ney with my fam­ily on a Sun­day night. And I loved Mary Pop­pins al­though I never had a nanny – I was quite happy to have my mother at home. Now I’m man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The Walt Dis­ney Com­pany Aus­tralia and New Zealand, run­ning the busi­ness across mul­ti­ple ar­eas. I’ve been there 14 years.

I’ve gone to the foot­ball with my dad and sis­ter my whole life, and con­tinue the tra­di­tion by tak­ing my own kids now.

In 1989, when the Bull­dogs al­most ceased to ex­ist due to fi­nan­cial col­lapse, there was a Save the Bull­dogs rally held at Whit­ten Oval, run by a young lawyer named Peter Gor­don. I was in year 12 and asked my dad if I could go. He said, “No, you’re in study week!” I promised I would take my home­work with me. I sat on the gravel be­hind the goals at the rally, where Peter was host­ing. He’s now the pres­i­dent of the team’s board, and I serve as his vice. Look­ing back to that day, I could never have imag­ined this would be a pos­si­bil­ity.

I’m no more ex­hausted than any other work­ing mum. I have a 14-year-old son, an 11-year-old daugh­ter and a 25-year-old step­daugh­ter. They were of course raised on Dis­ney films. My son is a Marvel boy – he loves The Avengers. And I have en­joyed in­tro­duc­ing him to the Star Wars fran­chise – Princess Leia was on my folder when I was in grade one. My daugh­ter loves Pixar. That hu­mour ap­peals to her. I think Mon­sters, Inc. would be her favourite; my hus­band calls her Boo.

The per­cep­tion can be that Dis­ney is for young kids and pre­dom­i­nantly girls, but we have a far broader reach than that. And with foot­ball, it’s amaz­ing: about 40 per cent of a typ­i­cal footy crowd and close to 50 per cent of en­gaged fans are fe­male.

In fact, it’s a de­fault to think of my two roles as gen­dered, but it’s cer­tainly not the re­al­ity. I get funny re­ac­tions when peo­ple hear I’m on an AFL board. Ini­tially, at least, be­cause I def­i­nitely am a Dis­ney princess! But I can move be­tween both roles quite seam­lessly, more than you’d think. I don’t have to stop and re­set. Be­cause at their core, each is an en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness – they con­nect emo­tion­ally and build re­la­tion­ships with a broad fan base.

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