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Coach Michelle Cowan loved football from an early age

There is a market here and what better way than to rock up to the MCG to watch the men play and to see a curtain raiser of your female team play?
Michelle Cowan
MICHELLE Cowan's earliest football memories involve standing room at Subiaco Oval and kicking a ball with her brother around their Kambalda backyard in regional Western Australia.
 
After moving from Durban, South Africa, at the age of four, Cowan and her family settled in the small mining town about 60km from Kalgoorlie.
 
Despite her father Ernie's love of rugby and fondness for the South African national team the Springboks, Cowan and older brother Jeremy quickly found the game of Australian Rules irresistible.
 
Now, as Cowan prepares to coach Melbourne against the Western Bulldogs this Sunday in the second women's exhibition game, she remembers why her family fell in love with a game once foreign to them.    
 
"I love the pace, the courage, the way it brings people – clubs and teams, on and off the field - together," Cowan told AFL.com.au this week.
 
"It's an absolute spectacle to watch, and that's why I love it."
 

Cowan's life has always been centered around sport – she played state level golf and cricket and has been involved with football for 18 years – but she decided aged 16 it was Australian Rules she wanted a coaching career in.  
 
She worked with Geelong as a Perth-based scout and match analyst before becoming the first female in Australia to coach at a state level in 2004.
 
Her appointment as an assistant at WAFL club West Perth – at the age of 21 – led to her role as midfield coach at South Fremantle under former Docker Paul Hasleby, which she has been in since late 2012.
 
Just recently, she was named WA coach of the year at the 2014 Sports Industry Coaches and Officials Awards, which were held in Perth.
 
She's also coach of the WA Youth Girls team, which recently beat Vic Metro in the final at the national championships for the first time ever, and founded the annual Dean Cox camp for five to 15-year-olds.
 
This has all happened while raising children Albie (five) and Milly (three) with husband Chris, and establishing and running her own national training company.
 
With football occupying 20-25 hours a week, she highlights the importance of delegation in ensuring all her balls stay in the air between the sport, the business and her home life.


Michelle Cowan surveys Patersons Stadium on a trip to Perth. Picture: AFL Media

Now, she will coach Melbourne with continuing hope the interest in the match will lead to the formation of a women's league that aligns with AFL clubs.
 
"I think we'll start seeing other clubs doing what Melbourne and the Bulldogs are doing – the talent is there – and other clubs will come on board," she said.
 
"There is a market here and what better way than to rock up to the MCG to watch the men play and to see a curtain raiser of your female team play?
 
"I think that's brilliant for the future."
 
Cowan believes the pathway for women coaches is becoming clearer with the appointment of Peta Searle to St Kilda earlier this month encouraging.
 
She also believes the interest in women's football as a spectacle has grown as the result of last year's game, which Melbourne won.
 
"The talk about this game and the amount of interest and exposure it's getting has been outstanding and so it should be," she said.
 
"It's the pinnacle of female football and every young girl that's playing the game is talking about ultimately putting on an AFL guernsey.
 
"I think people that came and watched the game thought, 'Wow, these girls can really play', and it just showed the country we're serious about the sport and we've got a lot to offer it."
 
Cowan believes her team is stronger than last year, having watched games across the country to ensure the best talent was drafted in May.
 
The team's age demographic mimics an AFL list with the youngest 17 and the oldest 33.
 
The players will arrive in Melbourne on Thursday before meeting Paul Roos and the Demons' leadership group on Friday, as well as training over the next two days and analysing the Bulldogs' team.
 
They'll use Melbourne's facilities, which Cowan hopes she'll get to know even better this season after CEO Peter Jackson indicated she could return and spend a week honing her skills as part of their coaching team.
 
Cowan spent a few days with Roos and the Demons in round nine, which she said had been invaluable.
 
With ambition to pursue a career at an AFL club, she's hoping her experience with the women's team and Melbourne will lead to an opportunity. 
 
"It's been an exciting couple of years and I've certainly taken coaching to a whole new level in the last few years, which has been really good," she said.
 
"If there's a role that is the right role for me that's going to be a challenging and fit within my career, it's certainly something I want to do.
 
"I look forward to taking my coaching to that next level … and coaching at the highest level."