JACARA Egan comes from a football family, but she's forging her own path as the first Indigenous woman to coach at NAB League level.
Egan, a proud Muthi Muthi/Gunditjmara woman, is an assistant at the powerful Calder Cannons, and her father Phil played 125 games for Richmond between 1982 and 1990, and one game for Melbourne the following year.
Egan herself most recently played for VFLW team Melbourne Uni (now North Melbourne) in 2019, having previously played softball for Australia at the under-19 level.
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"My route to footy was unfortunately delayed. As a young woman, I didn't have a path to footy at all, there was nowhere for me to play. I grew up watching my dad play … and he retired and we went back home to Mildura," Egan told the Cutting Oranges podcast with Darcy Vescio.
"When we were there, I'd watch him play seniors and my brother play juniors. At school, I'd have a kick with the boys and play 'markers up', but never had that way to play in a League.
"I didn't come back to footy until I was 29. I was here in Melbourne and played my first official game of footy at the women's Koori statewide carnival down at Punt Road. I got to play my first proper game where Dad played for most of his career."
Egan began coaching the under-10s at Fitzroy Stars, before moving into Carlton's Next Generation Academy, coaching alongside the likes of Maddy Prespakis and Tayla Harris.
The revamped NAB League this year, combining the boys and girls programs, meant roles were available, and Egan was successful in her application to join the Cannons.
The mother-of-two is thrilled her sons (four and six) are growing up in a world where footy is no longer a male-dominated game.
"I come home from coaching at the Cannons and I have my whistle and they're grabbing it saying, 'I'm going to be a coach like Mummy' or 'I'm going to play footy like Mummy', so raising them in a world where for them, that gender neutrality across the board, footy isn't a men's game," Egan said.
"Right now, having to talk to the club about having to bring the kids with me, that's the only way I can get to training, and people are adjusting and building systems to support women, mothers and primary care-givers.
"I've been a social worker for over 10 years, and I think what really drives me is I love supporting people to be the best versions of themselves, being able to see the potential and then be able to facilitate that. I wanted to meld the physical with the psychological, knowing that we aren't beings that exist in a silo, it's holistic.
"I just wake up, jumping out of bed, just loving the opportunity to get out there and work with these young men and women. The young men kind of scare me, they're all about two feet taller than me, but they're really respectful young men and absolutely loving the women's program at the moment."
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that parts of this podcast contain discussion of a person who has died. If you find any parts of this distressing and you want to speak to someone: Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation www.naccho.org.au, Head Space - headspace.org.au, Lifeline 13 11 14.
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