Peta Searle is a 39-year-old mother of two. She’s an assistant school principal at a high school in Melbourne. And she’s also a woman who is kicking some ridiculous goals (no pun intended) in the world of Australian football.
After a long career in women’s football, and an even longer string of coaching roles over the last few decades, she was the first-ever woman to get a coaching role in the VFL (Victorian Football League). She has been with Port Melbourne for the last two years, training up the boys along with Gary Ayers.
She was also the first female coach in the TAC (another AFL league) with the Western Jets, and the first head coach of the AFL Victoria VWFL (Victorian Women’s Football League) Academy Coach/Mentor.
She’s also the head coach for the Western Bulldog women’s team, runs the AFL Women’s High Performance Academy, and the Victorian Women’s stateside.
Busy. Busy. Busy.
I had a chat to her about how she’s managed to get to where she is. Have a read:
Natalia: How did you even get started in football?
Peta: Yes. I was brought up into a football family. My mum and my sister were very passionate supporters. In those days there was no Auskick or anything so, I played one year with the boys in the under 9’s when I was about 8, and then when I was about 20 I started the women’s league. So I played for about eleven years and then went from playing to coaching.
When I first became a coach, there were a lot of radio callbacks and stuff like that. You get people ringing up saying, “oh well I wouldn’t listen to a female.” But really, those times are gone and the support I have behind me has been amazing.
I’d like to work in an AFL club as a resulting coach. 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.
N: And why do you think AFL is that way?
P: There are so many AFL clubs and lots of coaches out there. There’s so much competition – everyone wants to get there. Because it’s such a cut-throat environment, they tend to go with people who they’ve played footy or coached before.
If you’ve played footy before, it’s all about the amount of trust that you have earned from the people you play with – so I think they take that into account. Employing unknowns such as myself – you know they don’t know whether its going to be a positive thing or not.