Essendon Football Club is proud to reveal the AFLW coaching panel to support senior coach Natalie Wood in the club’s inaugural AFLW season.

Natasha Hardy, Kirby Bentley and Brett Gourley will join as assistant coaches, while Jacara Egan and Gavin Urquhart will support as development coaches.

Returning to the club to fulfil the role of backline coach, Hardy will bring with her experience as both a player and coach.

Hardy was the 2018 Essendon inaugural Essendon VFLW vice-captain before moving into coaching as a stoppage coach within the VFLW program.

Most recently, Hardy has worked as an AFLW development coach at North Melbourne and a line coach at the NAB League club Calder Cannons.

Joining Hardy is Bentley, a proud Noongar woman who was the first Indigenous woman to coach at VFLW level when she took the reins of the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side this year.

Bentley also worked as a development coach for the

Essendon's newest AFLW assistant coach, Kirby Bentley. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Bulldogs’ AFLW team and will take charge of the Bombers’ forward line.

Utilising her experience as a coach and professional athlete to guide Essendon’s newest team, the former dual-sport athlete played professional netball for Perth Orioles for five years before switching to football.

Bentley went on to play 10 AFLW games for Carlton and Fremantle across the first three seasons of the competition before retiring and taking up coaching.

Gourley joins the Bombers with a strong teaching and education background, as well as extensive coaching experience across Vic Metro and Calder Cannons and most recently with North Melbourne’s AFLW team.

Urquhart, a 41-game player for North Melbourne, has been a respected member of the Bombers’ VFLW coaching panel and will support the AFLW coaching panel in a development role.

Essendon's newest AFLW development coach, Gavin Urquhart. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Essendon’s Indigenous player manager Egan will step up as AFLW development coach, bringing a range of coaching experiences with her.

Egan was the assistant coach for the 2022 NAB AFLW Academy and NAB League’s Calder Cannons’ boys’ side as well as head coach of the Vic Metro under-18s girls’ side.

Essendon's newest AFLW development coach, Jacara Egan. (Photo: AFL Photos)

A proud Muthi Muthi/Gunditjmara woman, Egan was the first Indigenous woman to coach NAB League programs across both boys and girls.

Executive General Manager of Football Josh Mahoney said it was talented line up of assistant coaches to support Wood.

“We are thrilled to welcome Natasha, Kirby, Brett, Gavin and Jacara to the Essendon Football Club,” Mahoney said.

“This is another historic step in the formation of our AFLW program, and we are pleased with the calibre of personnel each with wide ranging backgrounds and experiences to best support Natalie Wood as they collectively lead the women’s program through their inaugural AFLW season.”

Alongside this significant step, the Bombers are also thrilled to announce Palo Alto Networks will be coming on board as the AFLW Coaches Partner and Polo Partner.

Palo Alto Networks is the global cybersecurity leader, helping address the world's greatest security challenges with continuous innovation that seizes the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, analytics, automation, and orchestration. Its vision is a world where each day is safer and more secure than the one before. 

AFLW senior coach Natalie Wood with President of JAPAC Palo Alto Network Simon Green (Photo: Essendon FC)

President of JAPAC Palo Alto Networks Simon Green said the shared vision for a more inclusive world was a key driver in partnering with the Bombers.

“This collaboration is based on a shared belief that our communities flourish when we invest in the full potential of all people,” Green said.

“Essendon’s commitment to the AFLW aligns with our commitment to inclusion and diversity, where we strive to provide an equitable playing field for all.

“There has never been a greater focus on mental, digital, and physical well-being and we're delighted to bring the value of cybersecurity awareness and best practices to the forefront."