It seems to be enshrined in law that all Mother’s Day ads show mums looking squishy and scented as they unwrap lotions for their lady skin and slippers for their lady feet.
It’s funny that the flagship day of motherhood—which starts with the physical and emotional hard work of childbirth then pushes every button from there—is sold with pastel images of women’s softer side.
As a gift to fellow mothers, I give you the anti-cliché poster girl: Colleen Hunter.
When Colleen’s son, Lachie, was picked up by the Western Bulldogs in the 2012 AFL national draft, it was under the father-son rule, thanks to dad Mark playing 130 games for the club.
Lachie, 22, and his sisters Lauren, 23, and Jemma, 16, won the lottery with Colleen as their mum.
She’s tough. Growing up with six brothers, Colleen learned to hold her own. And kick a footy—when Lachie started Auskick, his volunteer mum would roost it casually into the distance.
Once, playing tennis, she and some girlfriends had obscenities yelled at them by a man in a ute. Colleen gathered the women into the car to comb nearby streets: “Don’t put your racquets in the boot. We might need to teach him some manners.”
The man wasn’t found and Colleen saved her aggression for the lacrosse pitch.
At 159cm and 55kgs, the former primary school teacher starred for (and sometimes captained) Australia in four lacrosse World Cups, including the winning 1986 team that beat behemoths the United States.
I don’t even know how many times I’ve played for Australia. Probably a dozen. I had a lot of other things on.
“I’m not taking the mickey here,” says Colleen, 57, whose last World Cup was in Japan in 1997 as a mother-of-two, “but I don’t even know how many times I’ve played for Australia. Probably a dozen. I had a lot of other things on.”
Lynne Pike, a friend since primary school and national teammate, says Colleen, “would never blow her own trumpet”.
“She never needed to—she just went out and did it. She’s honest, loyal and humble.”
Humility is big with Colleen. When 10-year-old Lachie raised his arms after winning a Little Athletics race, his parents made him sit out the next two events.
Even when he celebrated kicking his first AFL goal with a raised finger, “Mark told him to cut that rubbish out,” says Colleen. “There’s no showboating in our family.”
Her brother Tony’s sons include former Essendon premiership player Mark McVeigh and Sydney Swans star Jarrad. At the MCG for last year’s Grand Final, Colleen had both a son and nephew on the ground.
She was still playing state level lacrosse at age 48 when a breast cancer diagnosis forced her to retire in April, 2008.
Over three years, she had six rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and multiple surgeries, including two reconstructions.
“Hunched” over in a wheelchair after one early test, “I was devastated I was a crumpled mess, and I thought, ‘This is not the way I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to deal with it standing straight.’ And I did.”
Now cancer-free, Colleen coaches two teams for the Williamstown Women’s Lacrosse Club, where she’s been a member for 42 years.
“She’s taught me that, in sport and in life, your ‘people’—be it teammates or family—are the people you should fight for and value,” says daughter Lauren, a nurse who is an alternate for the Australian team for June’s World Cup in England.
“She has taught me nothing replaces hard work. She’s taught me joy and love for what I do is the most important thing.”
Mother’s Day advertisers, take note. Real mums are fierce, not fluffy.