AFLCA Women's Coaching Pathway Scholarship Winner Announced

Tuesday, Jun 29, 2021


Hawthorn VFLW Assistant Coach Christina Polatajko has been awarded the 2021 AFL Coaches Association Women’s Coaching Pathway Scholarship.

A physical education teacher by trade, Polatajko who has been coaching for six years, is a passionate educator, leader and coach, who employs a motto of “Connecting before Coaching” and her values are to care, provide opportunity, build and celebrate.

Polatajko, is currently an Assistant Coach looking after the Defensive Line for Hawthorn’s VFLW team, assisting Senior Coach and mentor Bec Goddard in implementing game strategy, whilst working closely with other coaches to develop and implement a professional training program that ensure an environment focused on developing players and performing at the highest level possible.

Prior to her involvement with the Hawks VFLW team this year, Polatajko was with Carlton Football Club’s VFLW team and for the last five years has been coaching with Victoria University Western Spurs, a coaching stint which included two Premierships and in 2019 was appointed Director of Coaching.

The AFL Coaches Association’s Women’s Coaching Pathway Scholarship was launched at the start of 2019 to support ambitions of AFLW players and fast-track their development to coach at the highest level. In 2021 the AFL Coaches Association expanded the Women’s Coaching Pathway Scholarship to include applications from women coaching in State Football Leagues (women’s and men’s) and players from the Women’s State Football Leagues and AFLW and received applications from both coaches and players across the leagues.

Polatajko is the third scholarship recipient. The inaugural winner of the AFL Coaches Association Women’s Pathway Scholarship (formerly known as the AFL Coaches Association and Lucky Chicken Eggs Women’s Coaching Pathway Scholarship) was GIANTS captain, NEAFL Development Coach and NAB Academy Coach, Alicia Eva, and last year former Collingwood AFLW vice-captain Emma Grant received the scholarship. Grant is currently assistant coach, Bendigo Pioneers and Vic Country.

Through the 2021 scholarship Polatajko will be upskilling through professional development opportunities including the AFL Coaches Association’s Next Coach Program, various coaching courses and receive a mentorship from Hawthorn Assistant Coach, Brendon Bolton.

AFL Coaches Association CEO, Alistair Nicholson congratulated Polatajko on receiving the 2021 Scholarship.

“Christina is a standout winner. Her creativity, leadership, communication skills, passion and dedication to coaching and football is inspiring. I hope the scholarship helps Christina become an even more successful, long-term coach in our national game.

“The aim of the AFL Coaches Association Women’s Coaching Pathway Scholarship is to aid the development of women coaching in the AFL and to increase the number of female coaches in football,” said Nicholson.

Christina Polatajko, expressed her gratitude and excitement at being awarded the 2021 scholarship. 

"This opportunity is something I’ll be forever grateful for. I thank the Hawthorn Football Club for their support not only towards me, but towards our female coaches. I cannot wait to get started, to build on my knowledge and development in coaching. 

"I believe I have the potential to coach at the highest point within AFLW, this scholarship from the AFL Coaches Association and working closely alongside Brendon Bolton, will help me get there. I’m just so motivated and love coaching and educating athletes. This is the next step and I’m just so proud to be part of this program and proud that female coaches are getting these opportunities," said Polatajko.

Knowing the impact mentors have had on his development is the reason Hawthorn Assistant Coach, Brendon Bolton has offered to mentor Christina through this scholarship.

“Mentors have played a big role in the coach and person I have become, and they continue to as I grow and develop. Christina’s passion for people and coaching is evident and I look forward to working with and supporting Christina in a small way as she continues to develop as a coach and person,” said Bolton.