IF YOU want to learn about football, be coached by Peta Searle.
That was the advice Lauren Arnell gave Nat Exon when the speedy midfielder was tossing up a move to St Kilda.
The duo had played together at VFLW side Darebin and then reunited at Brisbane, but Exon was keen to return to Victoria – and her third AFLW club – after two years in the sunshine state.
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"I'm good mates with 'Loz' Arnell, and she was raving about 'Pete' as a coach. She said if you want to learn as much as you can about footy, she's the coach you want to have," Exon told womens.afl.
"I had a couple of chats to [St Kilda] on the phone and I got a really good vibe straight away.
"I really wanted to go to a new club as well. Everyone's starting off on the same foot, you get to build a new culture from the ground up.
"Everyone has come in and there's been no egos or anything. Everyone's really laid back and on a level playing field. It's been awesome so far; all the girls have been great."
Exon's starting the 2020 pre-season after a career-best AFLW season, finishing second in Brisbane's best and fairest and making the Virgin Australia AFLW All Australian squad.
The 27-year-old averaged 15 disposals and kicked four goals, up from nine and two in 2018.
She caught the eye with her pace and willingness to break through packs, and wasn't afraid to lay a tough tackle when required, either.
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"I managed to stay injury-free, that was the main thing, and get a lot of consistency in my training," Exon said.
"Obviously, I was a bit more comfortable with the group, being my second season [at the Lions], but I think just being able to train consistently was probably the main thing.
"I had broken my leg in the second-last game for Carlton (in 2017), just had a bit of on-going hip stuff, this and that, and a few soft-tissue injuries as well."
With her partner studying in Queensland, Exon stayed up north following the end of the AFLW season, playing for University of Queensland in the QAFLW, named in the best in four of her five games.
"QAFLW is very different to VFLW, so that was interesting, but it was an awesome group of girls, it was just a lot of fun playing there," she said.
"A lot haven't played before or really watched it, and some haven't quite got the knowledge of footy yet.
"At Darebin we had a physio and team manager, all that sort of stuff, but it was more a local club sort of feel in QAFLW. There's a duty roster, everyone does something every week. I liked it.
"Doing the washing after a muddy game was the worst job, but everyone always wanted to do lollies. It's pretty easy and if you've got some favourites, you can sneak them in."
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Exon – who's coming into the final year of a Masters of Secondary Teaching, having already completed a Bachelor of Commerce/Law – feels the Saints are preparing for the future.
"We want to be successful and I think we've got a pretty good team. Even with the existing teams, it's hard to judge what's going to happen every year.
"With the number of young girls we've got – and I'm just guessing here – but it's probably more of a build towards something really successful in the long term. But I think we'll go all right this year as well, too."