A developing female Northern Territory coach has had the opportunity to learn from the SUNS AFLW program as a recipient of the club’s female coaching scholarship.

A prominent coach in the NT Thunder development program, Shannon Millar was invited to the Austworld Centre to be embedded in the AFLW program over a week-long intensive block.

Millar has also served as an assistant coach for the Allies in the NAB AFLW Under 18 Championships where she first met SUNS AFLW Head Coach Cameron Joyce, with the pair reuniting on the Gold Coast.

Speaking to SUNS Media, Millar said it was an unbelievable experience to be involved in the club’s AFLW program for the week.

“I was able to be in a couple of player reviews, the coaches meetings for the team selection and then obviously for gameday in the coaches box and just shadowing Joycey which was just an awesome experience to know how it runs at that level,” Miller said.

“Coaching community footy and being a part of the NT Academy programs, you probably don’t have access to the players as much as what you do at the AFL and AFLW level so being able to see how much feedback the players receive from the coaches and how much time you have with players is just really cool.”

This was the second time Millar had been invited down to the Austworld Centre, having also joined the program for a few days in December last year.

She said it was invaluable to see first-hand how an elite team operates and to be able to take some key learnings from the program back to the NT and her local club.

“For me it was a takeaway to go away and try to help invest in people locally to try and help coaches and support them as much as I can,” Millar said.

“If we can upskill coaches, that then upskills the players and that has a roll-on effect for more talent coming through and making women’s football stronger.

“It would be awesome to see more female coaches being head coaches of different teams even at community level.”

In September 2021 the SUNS launched its female coaching scholarship initiative with the aim of developing the next crop of professional female coaches.

Having been a successful candidate, Millar said it was important for AFL clubs to continue to offer opportunities like this one to emerging females in the industry.

“I think it’s amazing the SUNS are doing that and have opportunities for female coaches,” Miller said.

“Players obviously have really strong pathways now to go through and they know the steps they need to take to get to that next level and keep improving.

“For coaches I think they definitely need the same pathway, they need the same opportunities as players if they want to go to that next level.

“Obviously it’s a male-dominated sport so for females to get that opportunity to develop themselves with an AFL club, they’re only going to pick up good habits and can keep growing with that.

“I think me as a developing coach – to get that opportunity at the highest level is just amazing and if we can do that for more coaches it’s only going to benefit the sport as a whole.”