19/05/2024

Paddy Hill celebrates Hawthorn's 2018 VFLW flag. (Photo: Hawthorn FC)

With coach Nick Dal Santo sidelined due to COVID protocols, assistant Paddy Hill will be stepping up into the St Kilda AFLW head role on Saturday.

Nick Dal Santo has cruelly coached just one game of AFLW before being forced to sit out Round 2 due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

It was announced on Tuesday that Dal Santo, St Kilda’s AFLW senior coach, would be unable to coach his side against Collingwood. Assistant Paddy Hill will now rise to the occasion in his place.

For fans of women’s footy, it’s a familiar name. Hill has a strong resume of coaching women’s sides for the past six seasons.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at St Kilda’s senior coach-for-a-day.

Who is Paddy Hill?

Hill entered the semi-professional football sphere in 2011, joining the Box Hill Hawks on the eve of the season as senior assistant to Damian Carroll. Carroll, a VFL stalwart for Springvale (now the Casey Demons), has since reunited with Hill at St Kilda as the head of development.

The now Saint would help oversee four straight finals appearances, including a premiership in 2013 and a grand final loss the year after.

Four players would be drafted to the AFL from the club in this time, the most well-known of them being Sam Gibson. Gibson would go on to play 130 games for North Melbourne and five for Adelaide.

After building a reputation at City Oval, Hill made his way to Frankston at the end of 2014, being appointed the senior coach.

It was a trial by fire, and perhaps one he was destined to fail. Hill entered the Dolphins at the worst time in the club’s history, struggling to remain afloat financially and thus failing to attract players. According to the Frankston FC website, Hill and his coaching panel were “working for nothing”.

He would only win two of 36 games in his time there before the club’s license was revoked, returning to the competition in 2018 and only growing since then.

It was after this point that the newly renamed VFLW competition caught Hill’s eye, as women’s football began to enter a new professionalised era.

As the clubs of the AFL were granted licenses into the AFLW, so too were those in the VFLW. Hawthorn and Box Hill took on Knox’s license.

More Aussie Rules

Hill was appointed as Box Hill’s inaugural VFLW coach in 2017. After winning just two games in his first season, his side exploded in the second, winning all but two matches.

In a thrilling finals run, the Hawks defeated Collingwood to claim a spot in the grand final, before doing away with Geelong by nine points.

Paddy Hill celebrates Hawthorn’s 2018 VFLW flag. (Photo: Hawthorn FC)

Some of the names featured in that match may ring familiar to AFLW fans. Sarah Perkins, Tamara Luke, Phoebe McWilliams, Rebecca Beeson. Hill knows what it means to coach the best of the best.

Chantella Perera, who would subsequently be drafted to West Coast in the 2019 AFLW Draft, won the Lisa Hardeman medal as the best afield.

Hill has a knack for coaching and getting the best out of players who are either already playing at AFLW level, or can get there.

The St Kilda connection

Hill is just one of many people that have links between the VFLW Hawks and the AFLW Saints.

Of the current playing group, both Rosie Dillon and Jayde Van Dyk have spent time in brown and gold, as have past players Mel Kuys and Tamara Luke.

After missing finals in 2019 by just two premiership points, Hill also made the jump, pulling on red, white and black as assistant coach.

He’s remained at the Saints since, helping to build the inaugural team alongside Peta Searle and the list management team.

https://twitter.com/glbastiani/status/1290185989374148609?s=20

Many rusted on fans of women’s footy called for Hill to be the coach of the Saints in Dal Santo’s place upon the initial announcement, seeing his credentials in the women’s footy world more suited to the role than Dal Santo’s in junior player development.

Gold Coast Suns coach Cameron Joyce similarly joined from a junior development background, after coaching the Tasmania Devils boys and girls sides in the NAB League in 2021.

As it stands, there is currently no female head coach in the AFLW. The Bulldogs are represented by an all-female assistant coaching line-up in 2022, led by Nathan Burke.

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