In a significant move towards Essendon's commitment to ensuring elite medical and wellbeing services are provided to all AFLW players, Lauren Spark has been appointed as a full-time player development manager for the women’s team.
The Western Bulldogs foundation and premiership player will take on the new role, which will include welcoming and inducting new players into the club and promoting their personal development and wellbeing.
Spark is coming across from North Melbourne, where she was in a similar role with the Kangaroos' AFLW program, and comes with a wealth of teaching experience, including over 14 years in both Australia and the United Kingdom.
She also played with the Western Bulldogs for five years and volleyball at the national level. This experience as an athlete at the top level will especially come in handy in the women’s program, where players have to divide their time between many different facets, including other work commitments.
“My focus is going to be making sure the girls are doing the best they can off field to be able to perform on field,” Spark said.
“So, making sure off field, their work life, social life, mental health and other things are all in check.”
Spark said she wants to help remove any barriers players may face to stepping on to the field and help them become “well-rounded athletes” and “allow them to thrive”.
The new appointment will see Spark work closely with head of medical services Megan Smith, along with AFL player development manager Chris Byrne and Indigenous player development manager Jacara Egan.
Spark noted Essendon’s commitment to providing paramount staff for all players, including her new role in a full-time capacity, was a main defining feature in her coming across.
“I could really see their investment in the off-field staff and getting that right in the initial stages,” she said.
The new position will not be without its challenges, however, as Spark will have 30 new players to welcome to the club, get to know, induct and set up, all within an extremely short time period. But she said she’s up for the task.
“It's pretty exciting to get a brand new group of girls together, plus all new staff,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone works and putting together 30 different personalities into the black and red jumper.
“I know every club wishes for good people that walk into the club, but I’m looking to develop great people.”
Spark will link up at with former teammate Bonnie Toogood at the NEC Hangar, with the pair sharing a premiership with the Bulldogs in 2018.
Bonnie's a Bomber through and through. pic.twitter.com/clGDg5dGhr— Essendon FCW (@essendonfcw) May 13, 2022
Toogood joins Carlton's Maddy Prespakis and Georgia Gee, Fremantle's Stephanie Cain, Collingwood's Sophie Alexander, VFLW stars Georgia Nanscawen, Federica Frew, Joanne Doonan, Jordan Zanchetta and Danielle Marshall, and under-age signing Caitlin Sargent, on the Bombers' inaugural AFLW list.