Bombers poach another Bulldog for AFLW coaching panel

WESTERN Bulldogs VFLW coach Kirby Bentley has reunited with former coaching colleague Natalie Wood at Essendon.

Bentley, a proud Noongar woman who became the first Indigenous woman to coach at VFLW level, will be an assistant under ex-Doggies assistant Wood at the Bombers.

Joining Bentley is Muthi Muthi/Gunditjmara woman and Vic Metro Under-18 Girls coach Jacara Egan, who will take the role of development coach.

Two former North Melbourne AFLW assistants have also made the switch, with Natasha Hardy (an ex-Essendon VFLW vice-captain) and Brett Gourlay named assistants.

Western Bulldogs VFLW coach Kirby Bentley. Picture: AFL Photos

Ex-Roos AFL player Gavin Urquhart – currently a member of the club's successful VFLW coaching group – will work alongside Egan in a development role.

"We are thrilled to welcome Natasha, Kirby, Brett, Gavin and Jacara to the Essendon Football Club," Essendon executive general manager of football Josh Mahoney said.

"This is another historic step in the formation of our AFLW program, and we are pleased with the calibre of personnel each with wide ranging backgrounds and experiences to best support Natalie Wood as they collectively lead the women’s program through their inaugural AFLW season."

The group will be sponsored by Palo Alto Networks as AFLW coaches partner and polo partner.

Essendon AFLW coach Natalie Wood and men's coach Ben Rutten. Picture: supplied

In more AFLW coaching news, former North Melbourne player Sam Wright – who retired due to chronic foot and ankle issues in 2019 after 10 years on the list – will return to the club as forwards coach for the AFLW side.

VFLW coach Steph Binder will now also be responsible for AFLW player performance, with two new development coaches – Noni Taylor (performance analyst AFL men's program, Western Jets) and Nick Devereux (VFLW program) – working alongside her.

Zac Read (backline), Brad Murphy (midfield) and Mark Kovacevic (talls) have returned for another season.

Sam Wright in action during round 22, 2014. Picture: AFL Photos

Carlton has appointed former Western Bulldogs premiership player Nicole Callinan as backline coach, with AFL player Nic Newman stepping back due to the overlapping commitments between men's and women's seasons.

Callinan is still playing for VFLW side Darebin after retiring from the AFLW, and has previously been a development coach at St Kilda.

Hawthorn's inaugural AFLW coaching panel has plenty of top-level experience.

Former AFL players David Mackay (midfield) and Brady Grey (backline) join ex-Magpie Lou Wotten (forwards), while VFLW senior coach Cherie O'Neill will also be game development and line coach.

Keegan Brooksby has been named strategy and opposition coach.

Keegan Brooksby in action at a Hawthorn training session on June 8, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

St Kilda's VFLW coach Dale Robinson has been promoted, and she will now also look after the AFLW's midfield.

AFL men's coaches Brendon Lade (ruck/talls and mentoring) and Jarryd Roughead (player and coach leadership) will also increase their involvement in the club's AFLW side.

Saints player Mason Wood will also continue his specialist craft and skills role, while head of player development and strategy Paddy Hill will step back somewhat for family reasons, with forwards coach Lachlan Harris taking on Hill's strategy portfolio.

David Carden will continue to coach the backline.

Frankie Hocking (left) and Dale Robinson pose for a photo on February 22, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Port Adelaide previously announced Hamish Hartlett, Dave Reynolds and Daniel Caire will be Lauren Arnell's assistant coaches, while former Adelaide premiership player Renee Forth, Clayton Lamb and Cam Sutcliffe make up the development coaching group.