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AFL’s first lady

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Peta Searle has become the first woman to claim a full-time AFL coaching position, with St Kilda appointing her as a development coach on an 18-month contract.

Searle had previously worked as a senior assistant coach with VFL club Port Melbourne and in several lower-level competitions.

“I am very much looking forward to starting at St Kilda and I feel that I can bring plenty of experience and skill to my new role,” she said.

“I understand that there will be some level of interest in my role because I am a female working in a role traditionally held by men, but I am confident and proud that I have been hired because of my football and teaching expertise and I wouldn’t have wanted the job based on any other criteria.”

St Kilda chief executive Matt Finnis said the club was thrilled to have Searle join the club’s coaching staff.

“Whilst our decision to appoint Peta was based on her experience, philosophies and values we do acknowledge and embrace the significance of Peta being the first woman to be appointed to coach at an AFL club,” he said.

“I’m delighted the combination of her credentials and the opportunity we had in our development program has resulted in this significant day for Peta and for all women who have ambitions to coach in the AFL competition.”

Head coach Alan Richardson said Searle’s background – including 18 years as a teacher and a slew of different coaching roles – was ideal for St Kilda, which is in a rebuilding phase.

“At the start of the year we had 27 players on our list with fewer than 30 games experience so player development is vital for our club,” Richardson said.

“We felt Peta was the perfect candidate to join our Player Academy.”

Searle, a mother of two, led Darebin to five straight premierships in the Victorian Women’s Football League from 2006-10.

She greatly impressed former Hawthorn champion and ex-Geelong and Adelaide coach Garry Ayres during her three-year stint as an assistant coach at Port Melbourne.

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