FOOTBALL fanatic Claire Cartwright has joined Wodonga Saints' coaching staff.
In a first for women in the region, Cartwright has been appointed as the Tallangatta and District league club's reserve grade assistant-coach.
"I can't wait," Cartwright said.
"It's something that has been on my bucket list for many years.
"I played football when I was 10 and it's been a passion of mine for a very long time."
Cartwright has been involved with Wodonga Saints for the past three seasons with her daughter, Hannah, playing midgets netball and her son, Joel Broadley, being a senior and reserve grade footballer.
The business banking manager has forged a strong connection with reserve grade coach Troy Vennix during that time.
"Over the past couple of years I'd be at every training session and game and would often sit down with Troy and talk about things like mental strategy," she said.
"Within the Saints' walls, people know my passion.
"Because my son plays, I've got to know a lot of the players and have helped some of the guys with the mental health side as well as being a mentor.
"I'd often stand on the sidelines and see a broad spectrum of the game.
"I think I read the game pretty well and the club recognised that.
"I've wanted to coach for many, many years."
One of the first phone calls Cartwright made after her Saints' appointment was to Joel who was in the US.
After being side by side throughout his football career at Wodonga Raiders, Keilor and Wodonga Saints, he was understandably rapt with the news.
"I was very excited so I face-timed him to see his genuine reaction," she said.
"He knew what it meant to me and was thrilled."
Wodonga Saints senior coach Gerard Midson hopes to draw on Cartwright's enthusiasm and knowledge during the season.
"She's really good with the guys, particularly the younger ones with her mentoring," Midson said.
"Her understanding of the game is excellent.
"She's usually the first to arrive at training and the last to leave and we're all rapt to have her on board."
Cartwright played football at Wodonga South Primary School before being forced out of the game due to a lack of opportunities.
"When AFLW came out I was a bit crushed because I would have absolutely loved to have played in that but the opportunity wasn't there," she said.
"This is an incredible opportunity for women and I'm so excited as I've seen the club go through some fantastic change."