ESSA appoints Danielle Smith as new CEO

20 May 2024

ESSA is pleased to announce the appointment of Danielle Smith as its new CEO.

Danielle is an experienced and highly decorated CEO who shares in ESSA’s passion for exercise and sports science. Her career spans more than 25 years across a range of industries including sport, major events, management consulting, chartered accounting and consumer products.

She joins us from the Melbourne Storm Group, where she was the inaugural CEO of Sunshine Coast Lightning among several other executive and board positions held during her 12-year tenure.

Under her leadership at Lightning, Danielle built a high-performance culture, combined with exceptional skills in stakeholder engagement, commercial growth and a strongly engaged membership base, that launched Lightning to immediate success.

The club won back-to-back premierships in its first two seasons of 2017 and 2018, making it the most successful professional sporting club start-up in Australian history.

The Board is excited about the opportunity to leverage Danielle’s experience and expertise to drive ESSA’s vision and purpose.

Dr Brendan Joss, President and Chair of the Board expressed his excitement about Danielle's appointment, stating "We are delighted to welcome Danielle as our new Chief Executive after an extensive, nation-wide search process.  She is a dynamic, values-driven leader, with exceptional strategic capabilities, proven operational effectiveness, and a strong business acumen.

"The Board looks forward to Danielle taking ESSA forward as the leading exercise and sports science organisation in Australia.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Acting CEO Carmen Jenkinson for her dedication and leadership of ESSA during this period of transition, her contribution has been immense."

Expressing her enthusiasm for her new role, Danielle remarked “I am deeply honoured to lead ESSA and contribute to its vision, purpose and strategic growth plans. Building upon its strong foundation, I am eager to collaborate with our dedicated Board, talented staff, and esteemed members, to achieve ESSA’s vision of all Australians embracing exercise and sports science to improve their health and performance.”

As Australia gears up in the coming years for the Brisbane 2032 Paralympic and Olympic Games, Danielle sees a significant opportunity for ESSA to play a pivotal role in advocating for the integration of health, sport and physical activity.

“It’s an exciting time for ESSA as we have a unique opportunity to leverage the runway to the 2032 Games”, Danielle noted.

Brendan added: “We have great confidence in our professions’ ability to enhance outcomes for the health and performance of all Australians, and for ESSA and its members to take a leadership role towards a more active and healthy nation.”

Danielle is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD), a chartered accountant (CA), and holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts from Monash University.

She currently serves on the Board of Sport Inclusion Australia and Sunshine Coast 2032 and was awarded QSports’ 2021 Sports Administrator of the Year.

Danielle will officially commence her role as ESSA CEO on Monday 22 July 2024.