AFLW: Western Bulldogs sack coach Nathan Burke after wooden spoon

The Western Bulldogs have sacked AFLW coach Nathan Burke with a year remaining on his contract after slumping to the wooden spoon in 2023.

The Bulldogs finished seventh with a 7-3 record last season but managed only a solitary win in 2023, against lowly West Coast in round 9.

Burke was forced to call upon train-on players several times during the season as injuries rocked the Bulldogs’ list, but he also lamented wider issues with fitness and professionalism among his players after early season losses to Melbourne and St Kilda.

The Saints great, who played 323 games and whose daughter Alice plays in the Saints’ AFLW side, said after the round 10 loss to North Melbourne he believed he had the strong support of players to continue in the role and personally had the drive to rebuild after the disappointing season.

Burke is the third AFLW coach to depart this season, after West Coast axed Michael Prior in round 9 and Collingwood parted ways with Steve Symonds after missing the finals for the first time in five seasons.

“I thank the Western Bulldogs for allowing me to live my purpose of making a difference in other people’s lives – if I did that, then I walk away content,” Burke said.

“I also want to thank the people of the west for embracing me as part of your club. I hope success is just around the corner for you.”

Western Bulldogs chief executive Ameet Bains said Burke had played a “significant role” for the club over the past five seasons, after taking over from inaugural coach Paul Groves.

“(Burke) became our first full-time coach after leading the team to finals at the end of 2022, and has developed strong relationships with his staff and players during his tenure,” Bains said.

“After careful consideration, the club has decided to move in a different direction heading into next season, as we strive for sustained success in all aspects of our women’s football program.

“We thank Nathan for his time at the Bulldogs and wish he and his family all the best in their future endeavours.”

The Bulldogs also made a significant backroom appointment on Wednesday with former Australian Grand Prix boss Andrew Westacott set to join the board as a member-elected director.

Westacott’s appointment is expected to be confirmed at the Bulldogs’ AGM on December 18.

Bulldogs president Kylie Watson-Wheeler said his addition to the board, which will not involve an election, was a “great sign of stability” for the club.

“We’re thrilled to have Andrew join our Board in December. He has a strong passion for the red, white and blue, and is excited to play a key role in the future direction of our club,” Watson-Wheeler said.

“Andrew clearly has a strong skill set which will add significant value to our current board, and we will welcome his knowledge and expertise.”

Originally published as AFLW 2023: Western Bulldogs sack coach Nathan Burke after wooden spoon