Mackenzie Eardley isn’t your average AFLW player.

Not only is she balancing her developing career as a Hawthorn defender but she has also recently been appointed as the head coach of the Dandenong Stingrays’ U16 Boys team. 

Having spent time as a U18 Girls Development Coach last year, the 19-year-old is now leading a young brigade of boys in 2024. 

With a practice match now under her belt, Eardley is enjoying the challenge this new opportunity presents. 

“We’ve been together for about three months now and as we’ve developed over time, the boys have gained a level of trust and respect with me,” she says.

“They’re such a good group of boys, they’re exciting.

“I’ve definitely gotten lucky with my team, they’ve all got so much potential and they’re so fun to work with.”

In a short time, Eardley has already developed meaningful relationships with her players. 

She believes that is one of the most important elements of coaching. 

“As a coach, I know it’s important to build a relationship with your players to a point where they’re able to trust what I say and respect what I’m saying,” Eardley says.

“At the same time, they can approach me if they have any questions about drills or anything.

“I think it’s really important that we have an honest relationship, that’s what I try to have at the moment with my boys.”

Eardley’s coaching is not only helping her players to develop, but it is also helping her continue her rise in the AFLW ranks. 

Having just begun her second year of coaching, the defender believes she now has a greater understanding of how her own coaches at Hawthorn are thinking. 

“I think my coaching experience helps me understand things to do and things to say in training, when’s a good time to speak and when’s a good time to let the coach speak,” Eardley says.

“I think my coaching helps with the understanding of drills as well.

“When we’re doing certain drills, it’s for a specific purpose and I can really focus on that whereas before, I probably tried to overthink everything and tried to do everything at once.

“I think it just helps me better understand what the coaches are saying and where they’re coming from a lot of the time.”

Image of Mackenzie Eardley taken by Jazz Bennett (@jazzbennettmedia on Instagram).