Meet Peta Searle: The First Female Australian Football Coach


Being a woman in a man’s world is a title reserved for an extra special breed of ladies. These are the women who have ultra thick skin and are determined to achieve a goal. And on the days they may not feel so confident, the thought that they are pioneering a way forward for future generations helps them to keep going. For that we salute the women of the world who fit this description!

Australia is about to be added to the list of “female firsts” in sport. 40 year old working single mom of two kids, Peta Searle, has just become the first female coach of the Australian Football League, also known as AFL. She resides in Melbourne, and her journey leading up to this monumental career move has been nothing short of inspiring.

She played football herself for 11 year before switching to coaching. Peta was the head coach for the Western Bulldog women’s team, ran the AFL Women’s High Performance Academy and the Victorian Women’s stateside. All while working a full-time teaching job at a high school in Melbourne where she lives.

The AFL is the national league, and the VFL (Victorian Football League) is the league just for the state of Victoria, for which this particular code of football is akin to religion. In 2013 Peta became the first female coach of the VFL, which in itself is a darn good milestone, but she was always going to go much further.

In an interview about her VFL appointment last year, Peta said this: “The biggest challenge is for me, now, is getting into an AFL final. That’s tough. Every year I keep knocking on doors and keep asking questions, and every year, I keep getting turned back so that’s the challenge. Am I ever going to get to an elite level? I’m not sure.”


Eight months later, here she is! Standing in that doorway with the door well and truly broken down. She signed an 18 month contract with St. Kilda Football club and will be their new development coach.

Not too long ago she had to make a decision to either give up her teaching job, or the football coaching job she had at the time because her schedule was getting too full. She chose the sensible route and gave up the coaching job, although it pained her. However, her sacrifices, hard work and persistence have paid off because now she will quit her teaching job in favor of her full time position at one of the top-level clubs in Australia.

“Six weeks ago, I was working as a teacher at a high school and I was coaching with Port Melbourne.”

Peta said the St. Kilda players and coaching staff have been very welcoming to her, and acknowledged that she got the job not because she was a woman, but because she was the best for the job. That’s an attitude we hope to see grow exponentially in all industries around the world, where women are chosen because of their abilities, not their gender.


Peta joins a list of women around the world who are pioneers in various sports. Violet Palmer became the first female referee for the NBA back in 1997, opening the door for others after her.Sarah Thomas, 23, is set to be the first female referee in the NFL. Over in France, Helena Costa just became the first female coach of a male soccer team in the league there.

“At the end of the day, I always want to be a great role model for my daughter – she’s my benchmark. And this has shown that if you work hard, persevere, put yourself out of your comfort zone, you can open doors for yourself and achieve some great things,” Peta told Australian lifestyle blog Mamamia.

“If you’ve got the background that she has and you’ve got the knowledge and you work hard and you can communicate and you value people, gender doesn’t matter at all. It’s about the person and we’re pretty confident we’ve got the right person,” said fellow St. Kilda development coach Simon McPhee, who was involved in Peta’s interview process.

She may have been a little “overwhelmed” and “lost for words” upon getting the phone call of a lifetime, but Peta has also made history. No longer will young female football fans in Australia have to wonder about a career that seems like a distant dream. Peta Searle has just made it a reality for many more to come.

Check out how the Australia media are embracing this history-making, trail-blazing story:


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