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‘We’re here to win’: Former St Kilda champ Dal Santo unveiled as Saints’ AFLW coach

And the man, himself, believes the Saints’ AFLW team – who, incredibly, has 11 players aged between 19 and 20 – has an opportunity to build sustained success if they make strong decisions now.

“We’re here to win … we’ve got a lot of ground to make up, there’s no doubt about that,” Dal Santo said.

“Winning three games this year and last year, it’s a good foundation and a great starting point, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“I’m heavily relationship-based. I’m a massive believer in doing things together, so I definitely won’t be the dictator-type where I say and everyone does … that’s not me, I think I’m more collaborative than that.

“But at the right time, you need to be held to account and I think that’s what a good culture is.”

Dal Santo in action for the Kangaroos in 2014.

Dal Santo in action for the Kangaroos in 2014.Credit:Pat Scala

Dal Santo admits that he’s missed the competitive side of football since retiring at the end of 2016.

He was in the leadership group at different times across his career at both clubs and he wants to bring his own style of leadership to women’s football.

“I think I’m extremely trusting and supporting, and I think my greatest quality is to have empathy and understanding … but I think there’s also a point when things aren’t going to plan that you need to be able to get a clear message across firmly.

“At the crux of it, they are footballers that come to this club three or four times a week because they love football and they want to win.

“Yes, they are a different gender, but ultimately they are footballers and there’s a lot to take out of that.

“Right now I feel a huge responsibility to this football club and this group of girls to create an environment where you love to come to.

“I just can’t wait to compete again.”

Dal Santo’s role will remain in the NGA and the AFLW programs for the time being, but with clubs under continued soft cap pressure, it would seem likely that the Saints will look to utilise him in the men’s program at some point.

Club boss Matt Finnis said Dal Santo’s strong and clear vision for the team was what helped win him the role.


“During his time as a player, and now more recently as coach of our NGA, Nick has impressed us with his leadership and ability to motivate and drive his athletes,” Finnis said.

“At every stage of the selection process, he gave us great confidence that he was the one to take us forward.

“Nick knows what it takes to be part of a high-performing team and will be instrumental in driving the standards and professionalism of our AFLW program.”

Dal Santo replaces St Kilda’s inaugural AFLW coach Peta Searle, who departed the club in June.

Searle – who was at St Kilda across different roles for seven years – was the only female AFLW coach in 2021.

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