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Searle heads up Southern Saints

Peta Searle will take charge of the Southern Saints in 2018 as the journey to the AFLW begins. Women's football pioneer Peta Searle will take charge of the Southern Saints in 2018 as the journey to the AFLW begins.To get behind the Southern Saints sign up for a membership here: http://stk.lt/2tkR40i

Women’s football pioneer Peta Searle will take charge of the Southern Saints in 2018 as the journey to the AFLW begins.

St Kilda’s inaugural women’s team will make their debut in May when the revamped VFL Women’s season kicks off, with Searle leading a diverse and talented coaching team.

Searle, who made history when she was appointed as a development coach at St Kilda in 2014, will be assisted by none other than St Kilda legend Nathan Burke.

Dale Robinson and Stacey Bourke will also play key roles as assistant coaches, while Jamie Pi and Sam Calogero have been appointed development coaches, and Anna Schwagger ruck coach.

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Searle’s impressive coaching resume includes stints at VFL club Port Melbourne and TAC Cup side Western Jets, while she was a key driver in the emergence of Darebin Falcons as a women’s football powerhouse.

Searle said she was excited by the challenge of creating a team from scratch and helping St Kilda’s young list reach their potential.  

 “I’ve loved being involved in the men’s footy but when I moved into St Kilda there wasn’t a semi-professional league for women,” Searle said.

“The only space for me was to continue to grow in men's football, but now that that’s an option, it’s good to be able to be working with girls again.

“The Saints have invested a lot of resources in it. To run your own program with elite resourcing (is a great opportunity).”

Searle will continue to have a role with the men’s program as a development coach, but her main priority is building a strong base for women’s football at the Saints.

“For us, we’re not aligned to an AFLW club, it is basically a team made up of local girls,” Searle said.

“We’re playing the long game, so a few of those girls we see as three-year projects and we’re happy to commit to them ... but having said that, we want to be able to play the best footy we can next year to obviously give some players the chance to be drafted in 2019.”

Searle hoped the AFL would offer recruiting concessions ahead of 2020 to acknowledge the Saints’ development work.

“If we’ve developed players, there should be an opportunity for them to come back to us in 2020,” she said.

Searle said the Southern Saints was a great opportunity to also develop female coaches.

“It’s a great opportunity to develop female coaches so that there’s more available at AFLW standard,” she said.

“I’ve got quite a big coaching staff here. I’ve got three females, Nathan and two males. It’s fantastic resourcing at VFL level.

“I’m really mindful of upskilling the females so perhaps they can be AFLW coaches sooner rather than later.”