AFLW: New Fremantle Dockers coach Lisa Webb’s family sacrifice for the senior team

Lisa Webb and husband Marc will once again be forced to separate their families on other sides of the country after naming Freo’s head coach, ELIZA REILLY writes.

The toughest decision Lisa Webb will have to make this year will be before the ball bounces.

There is no attempt to decide between two players at the selection table when to pull the trigger late in a game or whether a player deserves a contract extension.

Webb has already made an agonizing decision, and it is symptomatic of the casualties the AFLW cohort continues to face.

Exactly five years to the day since her game debut for Fremantle against Collingwood, Webb returned to the club as the new AFLW senior coach on Friday in a historic moment.

Winning the race to become Fremantle’s next AFLW coach is a significant achievement for Webb and a fitting tribute to the reputation she has quickly built as a relationship builder and tactical football technician.

It also means she and husband Marc, an assistant with the Western Bulldogs, will once again be forced to separate their families on other sides of the country.

It’s not the first time.

Webb spent the first half of 2022 as an assistant at Freo, meaning her family, including children Ollie and Leo, lived on opposite sides of the country when Marc started as Luke Beveridge’s midfield manager.

The family was able to reunite for the second AFLW season last August when Webb landed a role as midfield coach with the Bulldogs’ women’s team.

Now the two boys will return to Perth with their mother while Marc has dedicated himself to his work with the Western Bulldogs. The mechanics are the same, but this time Webb will try to navigate her first senior coaching position.

Webb thinks she’s primed for the act of juggling.

“We’ve done this before and we know we can do it again. I have strong support. Whether it’s my 30 new babysitters (a jab at the 30 players she’s in charge of now), my mom and dad, or anyone else, I think I’m well-equipped to go through this again,” Webb said .

“That’s the best way to go about it. It will be a challenge for me as a senior coach but it’s really important that I make sure my family is taken care of too and the club have supported me in that. We have taken some steps to fly them home and make sure they are as comfortable as possible.”

Fremantle’s first mentor Michelle Cowan and former St Kilda coach Peta Searle have also struggled through motherhood while holding AFLW coaching positions. It will become more common as the current player cohort eventually advances into the coaching ranks.

If you had asked a mother of two a few years ago to decide between family and career, she would almost certainly have slipped into the “too hard basket” despite the career opportunities on offer. Some of AFLW’s founding coaches even left their positions to focus on family.

The now seven-year-old competition has evolved.

While it is still only a part-time sport and athletes are not yet considered professionals, the importance that clubs attach to it is growing significantly. A recent survey found that 12 of the 18 clubs now employ their senior AFLW coach on a full-time basis.

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Webb was appointed full-time on a three-year contract, which was essentially unknown two years ago. It gives Webb the best chance of succeeding with Dockers’ current generation of stars, and the resources Fremantle has dedicated to juggling her family are also significant.

Webb is also only the second former player to graduate as a senior manager, following in the footsteps of Port Adelaide’s Lauren Arnell, and the first player to return to her old club as a manager. Women are finally getting the opportunities men have long been given.

As a mom, Webb will continue to nurture Ollie and Leo in an environment where women can do anything. As a coach, that message sounds just as true.

Webb might not be the prototypical head coach, but she might just be Fremantle’s first prime minister.

“It’s crazy to think where we came from. I remember walking down the stairs here as an assistant coach a week after a cesarean a few years ago,” Webb said.

“When I think about how far I’ve come and how far the club has come, there’s a real chance for us (to win a Premier League). But I’m really process-oriented, so I’ll think about what I can do in this initial phase before we move on to anything else.”

Eliza Reilly

Eliza Reilly is a Perth-based sportswriter for CODE, specializing in AFL, AFLW and netball. Born and raised in Perth, Eliza began her career as a sports cadet with the Gold Coast Bulletin and later became assistant sports editor. In 2020, she returned home to join The West Australian where she had the chance to cover a major AFL final in her home state. Eliza has also received recognition for her journalism, including winning a Clarion Award and multiple WA Football Media Guild Awards, including the Tracey Lewis Emerging Talent Award in her freshman year with The West. AFLW: New Fremantle Dockers coach Lisa Webb’s family sacrifice for the senior team

Ryan Sederquist

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