Almanac VFL Women’s: Darebin Coach – Jane Lange

Canadian ice hockey coach Fred Shero neatly encapsulated the Faustian pact of reigning champion sport teams when he said, “There’s plenty of room at the top, but not enough to lie down.”


No one could ever accuse the Darebin Falcons of complacency but as they reach the business end of their campaign for a fourth straight premiership, might the wear and tear of repeatedly defending their title be taking its toll?


“It’s always been, this is a new season, what do we do to try and improve or make things a little bit different,” says playing coach Jane Lange.


Lange faced a challenge when she took over from three-time premiership coach Richard Dal Pos in 2016 in her tenth year at the Falcons. Although her side has never wanted for either competitiveness or professionalism she would have had a lot to answer for if Australia’s best female football team receded on her watch.


By any estimation, she has done a tidy enough job: the Falcons finished the home and away season undefeated, three and a half games clear on top and with four players signed as marquees for the 2017 Women’s AFL competition. Champions Katie Brennan, Karen Paxman and Darcy Vescio had arguably their best seasons while new finds Natalie Exon and Brooke Howells became regulars in the Falcons’ starting line-up.


“I think the girls were able to lift and achieve that level we were aiming for, particularly in the back half of the season,” says Lange, who has been signed as forward coach of Carlton’s Women’s side for 2017.


Lange eschews extraneous distraction as she reflects on her side’s achievements: she dismisses the contentious footy proverb of ‘the loss you have to have’ but refuses to lose perspective on the Falcons’ stunning 12-goal final round win over third-placed Melbourne Uni.


“For the girls to beat a quality side who could be Grand Final contenders, that’s good on the day,” she concedes, “but only on the day. Once it’s done, it’s done. It doesn’t count for something.” 


Lange is the only VFL Women’s playing coach and has no qualms in saying her game-day crew is just as important to the strategy of victory as her players.


“I couldn’t do it without them. I would fall on my face,” she says of assistant coach Emma Kerry, trainer James McConnell and the Falcons’ statisticians. “When I come off I’ve already got things in my mind about what needs to happen but it’s really good to have these concrete things come in from the side. Without them, this doesn’t work.”


Darebin face the St Kilda Sharks at Box Hill City Oval this Sunday in the first qualifying final. Although it isn’t an openly spoken point of her team meetings, Lange is aware that should the Sharks, Melbourne Uni and Eastern Devils miss out on premiership glory, they would all content themselves with the Falcons not winning.


“If we were other sides, we’d probably feel the same,” says Lange fairly. “We know it, certainly, but it doesn’t become part of our conversation in how we prepare. We base our preparation purely on what we do which helps us to get rid of the idea that the game is ours to lose.”

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.


  1. Go the Falcons! Lange has very capably filled Richo’s shoes. Here’s hoping she takes her team all the way!

    Keep the interview stories coming Callum, you are helping build a better understanding of the talent that is women’s footy.


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