2023 NAB League coaching changes
NAB LEAGUE regions in Victoria and Tasmania have all but completed their coaching appointments for 2023, after it was announced that roles would again been split between girls and boys teams. The move comes as part of the AFL’s commitment to boosting resources in the girls’ talent pathway, with all regions now having dedicated full-time head coaches for either department.
In total, 16 of 17 new appointments have been made, while nine coaches reprise previous roles at their respective clubs. Calder Cannons mentor Ross Smith will be the longest serving NAB League coach as of next season, having started at the Cannons in 2017. He’ll be in charge of the girls squad. We run you through the changes, team by team.
There will be a strong sense of familiarity for the Pios in 2023 with Danny O’Bree remaining at the helm. He’ll take over the boys group having previously coached both sides, and has been in the leading role since 2021. Whitney Kennedy has earned the girls coaching role, fitting the bill nicely having been part of this year’s V/Line Cup mentor group and assisting at the club’s Swan Hill satellite. The region will also have a new talent operations lead in Rick Coburn, who was formerly head coach from 2017-2019. Coburn previously held roles with AFL Victoria in the space of football and coaching development.
With Ross Smith continuing his stay at Calder, the region now boasts the longest serving NAB League coach. Smith initially arrived at the club as the boys senior coach, but will take over the girls side moving forward. That means Andrew Sturgess fills the other half of the program, having recently cut his teeth as head coach of Coburg in the VFL. The Cannons have also announced handy appointments as assistants in the girl’s program, with Christina Polatajko and Tanya Hetherington bringing experience from the top level. Matt O’Connor also continues in the same role.
Having led Dandenong to grand finals in both Under 18 programs throughout 2022, it is no surprise to see Nick Cox go around again for the Stingrays. He’ll solely be in charge of the boys program going forward, while long-time assistant Josh Moore takes on the girls head coaching role. Moore arrived at the club in 2018 and will be ably assisted by new girls development coaches Mackenzie Eardley and Charley Ryan, who recently graduated to the AFLW.
The Eastern Ranges have made a historic appointment for 2023, with Lauren Morecroft set to become the first woman to take the senior coaching reigns of a NAB League boys side. Morecroft has experience in the role having briefly filled in for Travis Cloke this year, promoted from assistant. She also mentored at representative level in the girls space and played two AFLW games for the Western Bulldogs. With Cloke moving on to Essendon, the girls coaching role was filled by Ash Close. He arrives fresh off roles with Collingwood and previously played VFL football for the Magpies.
The Falcons have retained Paul Corrigan as head coach of the boys program for 2023, and he’ll also mentor the Vic Country Under 18 squad once again. A terrific appointment has been made for the girls side, with Melissa Hickey moving into the role of senior coach. Hickey is familiar to the Geelong region having captained the Cats at AFLW level, and brings strong pathway coaching experience. The pair will be supported by new talent operations lead Bree Beckley, who takes over from the departing Tom Lonergan. Beckley is currently AFL Barwon’s female football co-ordinator, but has been embedded in the Falcons program and is also a leader in Geelong’s VFLW team.
Gippsland Power have made one new appointment over the off-season, with Nathan Boyd entering as girls head coach. Moving in from his role as midfield coach at Williamstown VFLW, Boyd will mentor alongside ongoing boys coach Rhett McLennan, who lead the Power to a minor premiership in 2022. Club life member Scott McDougal will also continue his role as talent operations lead.
David Loader has been head coach at Greater Western Victoria since late-2020 and looks like taking over the boys side heading into next season. The Rebels have announced the appointment of Sally Riley as senior coach of the girls, who joined as an assistant just last year. An AFLW premiership player with Adelaide in 2017, Riley also played for Gold Coast before retiring in 2021 and is one of the many new head coaches who comes from a teaching background.
As is the case in every other Country region, the Murray Bushrangers will carry their 2022 head coach into next season, with Mark Brown taking on the boys role. The club has thus added Emma Mackie as senior coach of the girls squad, after she came onboard last year as an assistant. The talented dual athlete has elite level experience in both cycling and Australian football, and retired in 2020 after nine games for the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda.
A Northern Knights legend returns to the region in 2023, with Anthony Rocca one of two new coaching appointments. Taken with pick two in the 1994 AFL Draft, Rocca is one of the program’s great graduates having booted 415 goals in 242 AFL games with Sydney and Collingwood. Rocca will take over the boys head coach role, while Allana Dickie comes in as girls head coach. A former assistant at Calder, Dickie will also mentor the Vic Metro squad and will be supported by a star-studded lineup of Futures coaches. Former Knights Jess Fitzgerald, Maddy Guerin, Gabby Newton, Sarah Sansonetti, and Brent Wallace are all now playing or umpiring in the top flight, and are poised to come full circle in 2023.
The Oakleigh Chargers were thrilled to promote former assistant Ty Vickery to the girls senior coaching role, while maintaining the services of Jason Davenport for the boys group. Davenport will also continue to mentor the Vic Metro Under 18 squad alongside his Chargers commitments. Atop the tree, Jy Bond departs his post as talent operations lead after four years. He oversaw the drafting of over 50 players in both programs and a premiership for each, having gone through Oakleigh as a player in the 90’s. Bond has been appointed chief executive officer at the Eastern Football Netball League.
After a NAB League boys premiership, Sandringham will have two new coaches in 2023. Wayne Cripps has departed for opportunities at GWS, leaving the Dragons to appoint Rob Harding (boys) and Martha Cantwell (girls). The former enters his new post from Norwood in the SANFL, where he was the Reserves head coach. Harding also has experience as an opposition analyst and strategy coach in the AFL. Cantwell comes in from Collingwood’s AFLW and VFLW programs, where she was a development and assistant coach respectively.
After a successful season on-field and in a draft sense, the Devils are yet to formally announce their 2023 coaching panel. They were in a unique position this year with Jeromey Webberley taking on the role of talent manager alongside his commitments as coach of both the boys and girls teams. He is expected to continue with the region.
There will be big shoes to fill at Western after the departure of Robbie Chancellor, who led the Jets to their maiden premiership with the girls, and an inspired finals appearance with the boys. Hayley Gossow has been promoted from assistant to take on the girls head coaching position, having also been an assistant for Vic Metro. On the boys side, former Saint and Swan Trent Dennis-Lane enters the fold with pathway experience at St Kilda’s Next Generation Academy.