By Robyn Molloy

When the women’s West Coast Eagles and Dockers battle it out in their first derby next year, West Coast Eagles assistant coach Michelle Cowan will be nervously watching on.

The former Fremantle Dockers women’s coach hopes the match will be a record breaker of 60,000 fans cheering on their teams.

“I think I’ll be nervous, but I reckon we can probably sell out Optus stadium,” she says.

“We had 42,000 last year when the Dockers women played Collingwood which was an incredible game and today that is still a record in Australia for the highest attendance for a women’s sporting event and I think a derby can beat that, which would be good.”

Cowan, a for more than 20 years, has been a leading light for women in football, achieving what may seem impossible when the odds were stacked against her as a woman in a man’s world.

She’ll outline her path the top path to the top and the male champions who made it possible as guest speaker at the CCI-ANZ Economic Breakfast on March 19 at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Cowan will join CCI CEO Chris Rodwell and ANZ Chief Economist Richard Yetsenga, who will outline what’s on the horizon for the year and the impacts of international economic trends on WA.

Cowan will tell her inspiration story, shining a light on leadership, challenges and triumphs. She says the future for women in football is now much brighter with clear career paths and mentors, including herself.  

Cowan took a “really good break and a bit of a holiday” after two seasons as the inaugural Fremantle Dockers women’s coach before signing on as WCE assistant coach in December. The WCE women’s team will join the national competition next year.

“That team will be starting their preseason in October this year, so we are building that list at the moment and signing on a few players for that team,” she says.

“It’s an exciting time for the club where we’ve got the women’s team now, premiership team and a WAFL team as well.”

The competition is fast gaining fans and participants since it started in 2017.

“We’ve had a 78 per cent increase in participation and over half a million women playing AFL across the country so it has been huge and live steamed into the living rooms of households so young girls can see what they can be.”

Cowan is also head coach of the national AFL coaching academy, which has six female coaches coming up the ranks.

“We’ll have another cohort of coaches coming through the system in the next month as well. We generally fly into Melbourne and have a residential camp for three to four days and then it’s just on the phone having conversations with the coaches about any challenges or questions they have.”

Cowan started with the Eagles in January and is “absolutely loving it”.

► Tickets are selling fast for the March 19 CCI-ANZ Economic Breakfast, which is in its 20th year. Book your place here.