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How Berry went from AFLW star to local men’s footy coach

The request to become the senior assistant coach for a local men's side came out of the blue, but Deanna Berry has loved every minute at Panton Hill.

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The request to become the senior assistant coach for a local men's side came out of the blue, but Deanna Berry has loved every minute at Panton Hill.

A small club on Melbourne's north-eastern outskirts playing in the second division of the Northern Football Netball League, it's a fair way from playing AFLW at VU Whitten Oval.

While Berry played her junior footy at Mernda, her grandfather had been heavily involved in Panton Hill, and her uncles still are.

"It was a bit of a random one, really. I had never really thought about coaching, to be honest, and the head coach Simon Moore asked my uncle if I would be interested," Berry told womens.afl.

"He didn't think I would be, because I was young, still playing and coaching wouldn't have crossed my mind, but he passed on my number anyway.

"Simon rang and said it'd be good to get some females involved in the club, and that someone of my experience would be good, as the guys can learn from me and I can learn from them.

"I said why not, it'd give me something to do in the off-season. There wasn't too much thought, it just kind of happened and we went straight into it."

Berry – who has looked after the midfield group – was a little wary of her first foray into coaching being a senior men's team, given her age (23) and the scarcity of women involved in coaching men's footy.

"The first thought was I'd be coaching senior men, it wasn't the under-14 boys or girls, it'd be senior men who probably have played more footy than me," Berry said.

"So I was quite shocked, but also grateful that a club would give me an opportunity and thought I would fit the role.

"It was quite daunting the first time I went down, it was pre-season and they were training at a local school, and I didn't know how I'd fit in. But they were pretty good, it's a small club and they made sure they got around me.

"A few of the boys texted me before I got there just to say welcome, and I hadn't done my [ACL] at that point, so I got involved in drills, which I thought was the best way to show the boys that I know my stuff."

Berry ruptured her right ACL in late February during round five, and recovery is progressing smoothly.

"We're hitting the ground running at the moment. We've had a week off where I've just done some jumping, landing and agility exercises, and ticking off a few boxes," Berry said.

"We're right on track with how it should be, but there's no deadline or timeframe we're looking to. We're just hitting every day as it comes and hopefully I'll get to play a game next year, but we're not too sure how it'll pan out."

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