Essendon has confirmed its coaching panel for the 2024 NAB AFLW season, with a blend of new and returning coaches to bolster the program this year.

Senior Coach Natalie Wood will continue for a third season alongside assistants Natasha Hardy and Bernard Shepheard, while the Bombers also welcome former AFLW Premiership Coach Paul Groves to the program as Midfield Coach. VFLW Senior Coach Cherie O’Neill will now step up to take on the Development Coach role this year.
The addition of Groves brings a wealth of knowledge to the Bombers from over 13 years of coaching experience, his CV including a maiden AFLW flag for the Western Bulldogs as their Senior Coach in 2018 and more recently holding the position of Head of Sport at St. Bernard’s College.
After serving as a Development Coach in 2023, Shepheard will step into the role of Forward Coach this season, now entering his 14th year at the club after prior roles as Head of VFL and Community.
Hardy started with the Dons as their inaugural VFLW Vice-Captain in 2018 before moving into coaching roles with North Melbourne, re-joining the AFLW Bombers ahead of their inaugural season and holding the post as Defence Coach this year.
Enjoying a strong season with the VFLW squad challenging for a finals berth, O’Neill’s shift into the development role will provide over a decade’s worth of coaching experience for the side this season.
Acting Head of AFLW James Polkinghorne said the coaching group will provide excellent leadership and guidance to the playing group.
“We are thrilled to have finalised our coaching panel for the 2024 season. It’s fantastic to have stability in the group, with Natalie and Natasha continuing for their third seasons and Bernard stepping up to an assistant role after his year as a development coach last year,” Polkinghorne said.
“We are also excited to welcome Paul to the club. Paul is well respected throughout the industry and has excellent experience working in women’s football and education. As Premiership coach with the Western Bulldogs AFLW program, Paul understands what it takes to be a successful football program. His knowledge will be highly beneficial to the playing group and wider program.
“It’s also fantastic to have Cherie step up from our VFLW program into a development coach role. Cherie only joined Essendon before this year’s VFLW season and has already made a great impact throughout the club. With over 10 years of coaching experience, Cherie is an excellent addition to our panel.”
2024 AFLW coaching panel
Senior Coach - Natalie Wood
Assistant Coach (Defence) – Natasha Hardy
Assistant Coach (Midfield) – Paul Groves
Assistant Coach (Forwards) – Bernard Shepheard
Development Coach – Cherie O’Neill