‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ – female coaches in AFLW pave the way for a more inclusive competition

Lauren Arnell celebrates kicking a goal with her fist in the air

When Lauren Arnell swaps her footy boots for the magnet board as the AFLW season gets underway in August, she will make history as the first retired player to take the reins as a head coach.

Key points:

  • The number of female AFLW head coaches increases from zero to three
  • That is set to increase as retired players transition to off-field roles
  • But there are still barriers in the quest to improve the gender imbalance

After every AFLW club was coached by a man last season, three of the four expansion teams have appointed women in the top job for the seventh edition of the competition – Arnell at Port Adelaide, Natalie Wood at Essendon and Bec Goddard at Hawthorn.

“In the space of the last few months, to go from zero to three is a significant leap,” said Arnell, who was Carlton’s inaugural captain before calling time on her 36-game playing career in 2021 when she won a premiership with Brisbane.

Lauren Arnell celebrates kicking a goal with her fist in the air
Lauren Arnell played in every season of the AFLW until she hung up her boots in 2021.(AAP Image/Darren England)

Across the first six seasons of the competition, there were just three female coaches– Michelle Cowan at Fremantle, Goddard at Adelaide and St Kilda’s Peta Searle, who was the only one in 2021.

Author: Ivan Robinson