Chasing A Footy Dream: Peta Searle, AFL’s First Female Coach

Just six weeks ago, this single mother of two had given up on her coaching dream and walked away from an assistant coach job at the Victorian Football League. Now she is back, making history as the first woman to hold a full-time coaching job at the AFL. She is Peta Searle, a woman who is most ‘at home’ on the footy field.

A long-cherished dream

Searle has been offered an 18-month contract as a development coach for St. Kilda. As a player, Searle had gained three All-Australian guernseys and won five premierships. She brings 18 years of experience as a physical education teacher along with seven years of coaching history.

During her tenure as head coach in the VWFL, she turned a club (Darebin) with an ordinary history to one that won five consecutive premierships. In 2011, she coached the Victorian State Team and was later appointed as assistant coach at Port Melbourne Football Club. Working with Gary Ayres won her significant praise from all quarters and gained her experience in coaching at the highest level.

In 2013, she had to return to her teaching job reluctantly, while still keeping her foot in the coaching ranks as an assistant for an amateur football association. But finding herself unable to continue with little prospect of promotion, she had finally decided late April, 2014 to give it up – until she won the St. Kilda contract, of course.

A role model for women

Peta Searle considers her decision to accept the position as being a role model for her daughter and all women who aspire to achieve their goals. She believes that refusing to grab an opportunity for fear of the future is just not an option. If one does not work out, another will come along.

Searle prefers to be judged on her credentials and actual performance rather than on her gender. As a woman in a job traditionally held by men, she knows that she will attract a lot of attention. But, in her own succinct words, when she coaches, she just ‘coaches people’ – with no particular regard for gender or age.

Searle hopes that now that she has shown the way, there will be many more women holding senior AFL roles. She would like every woman to strive for success with no limitations on what they can achieve.

For Peta Searle, everything is now ‘business as usual’. But for all women who strive to be noticed in male-dominated fields, her appointment brings a huge ray of hope.

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