Inaugural Eagles coach excited about opportunity

THE OPPORTUNITY to be a senior coach of West Coast's inaugural AFLW team was too good for Luke Dwyer to pass up.

Starting his footy journey playing 146 games for WAFL sides East Perth and Claremont, Dwyer, a PE teacher, began coaching at Christ Church Grammar school in Perth.

From there, he led University football club to four flags in five years in Perth's amateur competition, before being approached by the West Coast to coach its WAFL-aligned side, East Perth, at the end of 2015.

After a season, Dwyer was offered a full-time development role at the Eagles, and has now moved across to their women's program.

"If I was to reflect on where I'd come from, I'd always had my own team," Dwyer told womens.afl.

"If you were to ask me five or six years ago, was a women's head coaching role on my radar, I would have said, 'maybe not', just because I hadn't given it that much concrete thought.

"I was excited by the thought of having my own team again, and working in a head coaching role and having some control over the direction of the program. It's an inaugural team, so it's really exciting."

Dwyer may not have coached women's football before, but he was familiar with the AFLW competition through an unlikely connection over the other side of the country: former Western Bulldogs premiership coach Paul Groves.

"He's a relative of mine through my partner, so I'd watched his progress as to where he'd come through as coaching the under-18 girls then taking on the AFLW role," he said.

"I'd watched a lot of AFLW; as part of my midfield development role, I was watching a lot of the way the game was being played.

"But without really forming a strong opinion of it, it was more I was a fan of footy, of where it had got to. I didn't have any preconceived ideas from the coaching point of view, it was more 'this is an exciting game that's improving every year'."

West Coast's squad of signed AFLW players (18 at this stage, although Grace and Niamh Kelly are remaining home in Ireland until pre-season begins) have been training together once a week, given they all play for different WAFLW sides over winter.

It's been a learning curve for Dwyer, although he refutes that women's and men's football is completely different.

"I'm drawing on a lot of different things that I've witnessed, experienced, done myself in coaching journey, things I've seen in AFL team and line meetings," he said.

"What I probably have found I'm doing more of – and certain people have commented on it – is be a bit open and happier, to have lighter moments, and express myself in a way that I didn't used to do. I think it's just a level of trying to understand the players. They can't always be on (either), there has to be a level of being in it together.

"I've openly said to them, 'I'm going to make mistakes, I'm learning about you guys, I'm learning how to coach and train women properly', but I don't feel deep down I'm coaching any differently."

So what's next for the Eagles?

A selection team comprising of Adam Selwood (head of women's footy), Chad Morrison (AFLW head of recruiting), Steph Walding (recruiter and East Fremantle WAWFL football manager) and Dwyer will be working on finalising the club's first list.

"We've got 12 spots to fill. Seven of those will come from our academy, we'll go to the draft with four picks, then we still have a rookie selection still available," Dwyer said. 

"We're very much in that phase now of looking and watching the WAFLW, getting a clearer picture on the seven, and that's within the next four weeks, then the draft later in the year (October)."