Trailblazing coach Peta Searle makes shock exit from Saints

TRAILBLAZING AFLW coach Peta Searle will hang up the magnet board, departing St Kilda after seven years.

Searle was at the forefront of the club's female program, leading the Saints' first-ever VFLW team before becoming the inaugural coach of the AFLW side.

In 2021, she was the only female AFLW coach. Previously, she became the AFL's first female assistant coach in 2014.

Searle said she was proud of building St Kilda's female program from the ground up.

St Kilda AFLW coach Peta Searle speaks with the players in the rooms ahead of the Saints playing their first ever AFLW game, on February 09, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

"After spending over seven years at St Kilda Football Club, parting ways isn’t easy," Searle said.

"My time at the Saints has been amazing and the opportunity to lead young men and women on their playing journey is something I am so grateful for. 

"My greatest achievement and pleasure has been setting up the AFLW program – watching it grow from a bid right up to where the club is now. 

"Having won three games in each of our seasons so far is something I am really proud of and I leave St Kilda feeling as though I have left an important footprint and a great foundation for future success.

"To the playing group - I have been in awe of your perseverance and hunger to grow over the course of the last two seasons. Many of you are only at the beginning of your careers but I am grateful to have played a role in shaping your love of the game. 

"Lastly, I would like to thank the Saints fans and the wider community for the support that they have provided my family and I – your embrace of me has enriched my life."

St Kilda AFLW coach Peta Searle celebrates a win with Kate McCarthy during round three, 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis paid tribute to Searle's trailblazing seven years at the club.

"On behalf of everyone at the football club, from the board, to the players, staff and supporters, I want to express our enormous gratitude to Peta for her commitment and so professionally building the foundations of our AFLW program from scratch," he said.

"Peta’s passion and determination has helped us shape the culture of our women’s program that we see and appreciate today.

"She has invested the highest level of time and energy into shaping the next generation of footballers and we will always be grateful for the commitment shown to the club over the past seven years. 

"Since walking through the doors in 2014, she has embraced every challenge and opportunity - from her appointment as the first female full-time AFL assistant coach to establishing the foundations for the club’s first-ever women’s side at the Saints – and her achievements will go down in the history books. 

"Her accolades and successes speak for themselves but the way in which she approached the challenge of building a young squad and fostering a culture of care for and commitment to one another has been particularly impressive."