Proud Wirangu and Kokatha woman Aunty Patty Miller had no hesitation putting her hand up to lead Mallee Park Football Club’s under-14 boys’ team in 1992.
After no one else was willing to give it a go, Aunty Patty rose to the occasion and coached the Port Lincoln side, which her son, Archie Saunders, was set to line up in.
Aunty Patty, together with her sister-in-law Aunty Agnes Saunders, became the first two female coaches and trainers at the Club.
They used their passion for Australian rules to not only mentor the young side, but lead it to a premiership.
The Indigenous, female footy pioneer is now preparing to feature as part of Adelaide’s Indigenous Round celebration this Saturday.
Thanks to co-major partner BHP, Aunty Patty will toss the coin before the start of the clash with North Melbourne and her two granddaughters will run out with the players.
Aunty Patty, whose nephews are former Crows forwards Graham Johncock and Eddie Betts, said putting her hand up to coach was a no brainer, given her family’s long involvement in footy.
“It started because my son played footy for Mallee Park and nobody wanted to coach the under-14s, so we decided we would do it,” Aunty Patty said.
“The canteen at Mallee Park is named in my mother’s honour, Evelyn Johncock, and she went across to Bute and looked at the Clubrooms and got the plans for that.
“She’s a Life Member of Mallee Park and she did a lot of work for the footy Club, so footy has been in our blood for years.”
Aunty Patty said the AFL and AFLW’s Indigenous Rounds were an important way to showcase the talent and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander footballers.
She said it was also a way to help non-Indigenous people learn about their First Nation People’s culture.
“I feel proud that we have Indigenous Rounds in both the AFLW and the AFL,” Aunty Patty said.
“It recognises the Indigenous People of Australia.”
She said she was looking forward to being part of Adelaide’s Indigenous Round Celebrations and was keen to toss the coin.
“It’s going to be good and I’m really excited,” Aunty Patty said.
“The AFLW has come a long way since it started
“It’s been great to watch my two Granddaughters put on the boots this year for the first time in the junior boys’ competition and they want to make footy their career.
“There’s quite a few girls in the footy competition in Port Lincoln, so it’s good.”
The Crows take on North Melbourne at Unley Oval on Saturday, at 12.10pm.
The match is proudly sponsored by BHP, which is passionate and committed to inclusion, diversity and female empowerment, as well as giving back to regional communities.
Tickets available here.