Trailblazing coach not overawed by external pressure

INAUGURAL Port Adelaide coach Lauren Arnell has certainly felt well supported in her role at the Power. Though she takes on the mantle of trailblazer, she is not feeling any added pressure associated with the fact that she is the first person who has gone from playing in the AFLW, to coaching.

“I’m really enjoying it, and I think the question around pressure, that is just external perception to be quite honest,” Arnell said. “I feel really highly supported around my role and the day to day elements of what I’m focused on. External pressure’s not one of those.”

“I was doing the same sort of thing for the Lions Academy and was driving that program in Brisbane for 18 months to two years I was teaching and part of that I was still playing, so I guess in that role I had a real feel for what was required to lead a program.

“Then obviously now coming in at AFLW level there are some small differences and some big differences in that, and quite a few more staff and less players in an Academy system, but a lot of staff and a lot of support around that.”

She had very positive things to say about how the Power’s first preseason has gone. 

“Preseason’s great. I think every club you’ll hope would say that preseason is going well because you haven’t had any wins or losses and you’re really just competing against yourselves and trying to improve everyday,” she said. “So for us that’s what we’re seeing and it’s really exciting that we’re towards the back end of preseason now.”

Although much of the talk surrounding the short turnaround between AFLW seasons has been on the new sides, Arnell noted that should not be the limit of the conversation.

“There’s no doubt each expansion team has been impacted by the short turnaround, and I think every existing team has to be quite honest,” she said. “There’s a lot of conversation around how quickly the turnaround is between these two seasons and a lot of that is centred on expansion teams and the rush.

“For us there was quite a lot in place, which externally might not be appreciated, for us to be ready, but I also think what hasn’t been spoken about for existing clubs is there are players who were expecting to be travelling overseas at this time of year, and they’ve had to turn around from lot a clubs playing finals right through March and April, and then having a very short offseason.

“These players have been playing through Covid protocols for the last few years, and there’s a lot of athletes who needed time and still probably feel they need time away and they haven’t had that. And so while it’s been a rush for us, it’s been a rush for everyone and we may seem some impacts of that on existing teams.”

When the Power were building their inaugural list, much of the talk surrounding it was about how they were going to pillage players from crosstown rival, Adelaide. Although they tried to entice more than the three Crows they managed to win over, Arnell says that there is a reason no more made the move.

“I think what people underestimate about the Crows is they’ve been the most successful team in the AFLW’s short history,” she said. “When you’ve had success like the Crows have been able to have with complete access to the most talented footballers in South Australia, you actually build a culture of people wanting to be in a successful environment.

“The list strategy and the list we’ve been able to build, we’re absolutely stoked with, and we’re so excited with the players we have at Port Adelaide, but any assumptions around us being only targeting three players at the Crows would be inaccurate. There’s no doubt we put time in with other players, that didn’t come through and I think the position that we’re in now is a really strong, whichever way that sort of fell.”

The Power may be the only new side not playing in their home state in Round 1, but Arnell is not fussed by that. She noted that Alberton Oval is undergoing significant redevelopment at the moment so to play there in round 1 was not feasible anyway.

Arnell is looking for her side to be competitive from day one, and after what fans saw from her troops on the weekend, it will be hard for her to not tick that goal off.

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