PORT ADELAIDE senior coach Lauren Arnell has taken to motherhood like a duck to water. 

It helps that three-month old baby Marlie is sleeping well, but Arnell is acutely aware of just how temporary this stage could be. 

For now, she and wife Lexi are soaking up every little, lovely part of being new mums. 

“Marlie is 12 weeks old now, she's a little star and we feel very, very lucky to have her,” Arnell said. 

“It’s a very different lifestyle to being an AFLW senior coach. But it's been really nice to be able to take her out to skill sessions a couple of times and have our staff and our players interacting with her. It feels like a bigger element of our family.” 

Not short of visitors since Marlie was born on January 4, almost every single AFLW player at Port Adelaide has stopped by for a cuddle. 

“We've had the majority of the team come over to my house for a cuddle with Marlie, I don't know how much they want to actually chat to me!” Arnell laughed. 

“Everyone's been really keen to spend time with her and get to know her, which has been just lovely. It's one of the best parts of parenthood. 

“I'm a pretty organised person and I'm a planner, and with a newborn, those plans can all go out the window. You have to be dictated to by a little person, and you’ve got to adjust to that. So, it's teaching me a few lessons in adaptability and just going with the flow.” 

Since Arnell has been on parental leave, Shane Grimm was appointed Head of AFLW, with Arnell voicing her support for Grimm’s new position. 

“I've gotten to know Grimmy pretty well since I started at the club in May 2022,” she said. 

“He’s a really professional operator who understands footy and the environment as well as anyone. I think his ability to drive professional standards in our environment and understand what's required to go to that next level for our group, on and off field, will be invaluable. 

“Working closely with him already has been fantastic and he's been really supportive of me and the balance for me going forward.” 

At just over three months old, Marlie

Assistant coach Sam Virgo has led the playing group through a long off-season, but Arnell has supported Virgo from afar however she can. 

“Sam and her wife are mothers of three children as well, so just bouncing thoughts off her about parenthood has been great. 

“She’s driving our football program in this off-season, with great support from our coaches, particularly Dan Merrett. Being as strongly connected with Sam as I am, I still feel like I'm across everything that I need to be and I’m able to support her where she needs it. She's doing a fantastic job from all reports. 

“Dan and I have caught up a few times since he’s arrived in Adelaide too. He was an assistant coach of mine when I was playing at Brisbane so I know how fantastic he is, and it’s been really nice to hear how well he's already integrated himself into all elements of our football club.” 

While Arnell knows babies can be unpredictable, she is hopeful to return to the club in pre-season, before gradually increasing her workload. 

“I'll return day one of pre-season, but I just need to work through which days and in what capacity,” she said. 

“Marlie will be five months old when we return in June and I’ll be balancing that with leading this group as the senior coach. I'm really looking forward to that. It will be challenging, but it'll be an even better experience having Marlie there with me and bringing her into our group.” 

With new recruits in the fold, Arnell is looking forward to the opportunities presented for the season ahead, which will mark the club’s third year in the league. 

“We’ve got a playing group that now understands what's required in an off-season and we're seeing some really hard work getting done together,” Arnell said. 

“There’s a natural maturity going into a third season, and the pressure for spots has only increased with the additional talent we brought in at the back end of last year. It’s really exciting.” 

Port Adelaide will begin pre-season training on June 3, with the 2024 AFLW season to commence during the pre-AFL finals bye weekend.