St Kilda Football Club has confirmed that pioneering coach Peta Searle will depart her role leading the club’s AFLW team to pursue leadership opportunities beyond senior coaching.

Searle led St Kilda’s first-ever affiliated women’s team in the VFLW, and was pivotal in shaping the club’s debut into AFLW as its inaugural senior coach. Following a successful entry into the competition and laying the foundations of the program, Searle will now hand over the reins to focus on the next chapter of her career.

“After spending over seven years at St Kilda Football Club, parting ways isn’t easy,” Searle said.

My time at the Saints has been amazing and the opportunity to lead young men and women on their playing journey is something I am so grateful for.

- Peta Searle

“My greatest achievement and pleasure has been setting up the AFLW program – watching it grow from a bid right up to where the club is now. 

“Having won three games in each of our seasons so far is something I am really proud of and I leave St Kilda feeling as though I have left an important footprint and a great foundation for future success.

“To the playing group - I have been in awe of your perseverance and hunger to grow over the course of the last two seasons. Many of you are only at the beginning of your careers but I am grateful to have played a role in shaping your love of the game. 

“Lastly, I would like to thank the Saints fans and the wider community for the support that they have provided my family and I – your embrace of me has enriched my life.”

St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis thanked Searle for her significant contribution to the club over the past seven years and paid tribute to the enduring legacy she leaves behind.

“On behalf of everyone at the football club, from the board, to the players, staff and supporters, I want to express our enormous gratitude to Peta for her commitment and so professionally building the foundations of our AFLW program from scratch,” he said.

“Peta’s passion and determination has helped us shape the culture of our women’s program that we see and appreciate today.

She has invested the highest level of time and energy into shaping the next generation of footballers and we will always be grateful for the commitment shown to the club over the past seven years.

- Matt Finnis

“Since walking through the doors in 2014, she has embraced every challenge and opportunity - from her appointment as the first female full-time AFL Assistant Coach to establishing the foundations for the club’s first-ever women’s side at the Saints – and her achievements will go down in the history books. 

“Her accolades and successes speak for themselves but the way in which she approached the challenge of building a young squad and fostering a culture of care for and commitment to one another has been particularly impressive. 

“We’ve been very fortunate to have had Peta Searle and her family involved at our football club and we thank them for embracing the club’s journey so wholeheartedly. 

“I have no doubt that with the opportunities before her, the impact of Peta’s leadership will only continue to grow beyond St Kilda.”

St Kilda Football Club will now embark on finding a replacement senior coach to help lead its AFLW side in 2022 and beyond.