2020 Alumna of the Year - Ballarat


Graduate Diploma Teaching (Secondary)

Graduation year


Current position

Chief Executive Officer


Swimming Australia

Leigh Russell is an accomplished executive, director and elite sports leader who is passionate about developing the next generation of female leaders. In an impressive career she has worked with athletes, coaches and behind the scenes staff in high performance environments across Australia.

Graduating with a Graduate Diploma Teaching (Secondary) from the University of Ballarat, Leigh was the first woman to hold a senior executive position within an Australian Football League (AFL) club working across both football and administration, the youngest CEO appointed in Netball Victoria’s history and is currently the first woman Chief Executive Officer of Swimming Australia.

Widely respected for her work across people and culture, strategy development, and leadership of organisations, Leigh’s executive experience includes Director and Principal Consultant at Inspired Heads where she facilitated the Victorian Governments Taskforce into Women and Girls in Active Sport; Athlete Career Advisor at Hawthorn Football Club; General Manager, People & Culture at Essendon Football Club, and General Manager, Leadership & Development at Gold Coast Football Club. She has also worked with the AFL Players Association, Melbourne Vixens and is Special Advisor to the Male Champions of Change in Sport.

Leigh has considerable governance experience including as Chair of the  Australian Cricket Players Development Committee; Chair of Nominations Committee at Tennis Victoria; State Sports Centres Trust (SSCT) board member, and Chair of the State Netball and Hockey Centre (SNHC) Advisory Committee; Director, Chair, Deputy Chairperson and committee member at Women's Health West, a not for profit promoting women’s health and responding to family violence in Melbourne’s west; and Director of AFL SportsReady program.

Leigh’s reputation as an elite sports leader is built on excellence and diversity. Her considerable expertise in the sport sector has seen her become a sought-after speaker and mentor. She has co-authored two books focussing on leadership, career and wellness skills for women and girls, appeared as the Mind Coach on Foxtel’s The Recruit and is a media commentator and subject expert on topics such as psychology in sport, diversity in sport, leadership and career coaching.