In 2018, the Carlton Football Club , in partnership with La Trobe University , opened Carlton College of Sport (CCoS), providing an opportunity for students to get a foot in the door of the sports industry

Boasting a campus like no other, CCoS is located at the home of the Carlton Football Club, IKON Park. Combining tertiary study with real-world experience, students are immersed in the sporting world from day one, with the classrooms looking out over the training ground of both the Carlton AFL and AFLW teams.

Carlton College of Sport graduate Ash Naulty, now the Head of AFLW at Carlton, began his journey into sport slightly later in his career.

“I did a variety of things in the construction field, I started as an apprentice and then worked as a subcontractor on the tools, as well as doing some project management and supervising work,” Naulty said.

“At the end of 2019, I wanted to make a shift to working in sport so started looking into what opportunities there were to study and upskill. At the time I was coaching locally at Aquinas Old Collegians, and I wanted to make a career of working in sport, particularly footy.

“I did some research and came across the Carlton College of Sport. I looked at some other competitors but the courses and teachings on offer at CCoS were exactly what I wanted to study, to kickstart my career in sport.”

The partnership between Carlton and La Trobe, one of Australia’s leading sport universities, instills confidence in students, that the unique opportunity to combine tertiary-level study with immersive learning experiences in Carlton’s elite sporting environment is worthwhile.

Being based at IKON Park gives students at CCoS the opportunity to interact with staff, coaches, and players from the Club, furthering their professional networks.

“I always talk so highly of the Carlton College of Sport; I don’t think there are many opportunities out there like it. The coursework combined with the learning opportunities you have and the chance to network is incredible,” Naulty said.

Guest lectures are a regular at CCoS, with students given the opportunity to hear firsthand from a range of industry professionals, including the likes of Brian Cook, the CEO at Carlton, about their journey into the industry. This was an invaluable aspect of Naulty’s studies who raved about the guest speakers CCoS brought in.

“Hearing from people who are currently working in the industry gave me a different side of teaching that I appreciated, especially for my own personal growth,” Naulty said.

“I started to understand and notice a lot of key attributes in those guest speakers, which included some of the leaders of departments at Carlton. They each had a high attention to detail and showed genuine connections with their audience and high preparation.

“I began to drill in these attributes and focused on how I could better prepare, but equally what areas I needed to work harder in.

“I always sought out feedback when I was submitting work, to be able to see if I could get better. I learned what it was like being in the environment and then I tried to put the attributes of what I was observing into action.”

At the end of each year, the Carlton College of Sport offers four full-time positions at the Carlton Football Club, for the graduating cohort.

“The tangible opportunities that are provided through Carlton College of Sport are unmatched. I graduated with a Diploma of Sport Coaching and Development and the opportunity to work for the Carlton Football Club,” Naulty said

Naulty was offered a job as Development and Pathways Coordinator, with his first role seeing him working across The Academy and the Carlton College of Sport.

“I worked closely with Torin Baker, the Carlton College of Sport and Academy Coaching Lead and AFL Development Coach, to set up some systems and processes to recruit students. I also had a great mentor in Chris Clay , who, at the time, was the manager of the College,” Naulty said.

“The role was fast-paced and had a high level of accountability and feedback which I really appreciated.”

Within four weeks of working within the elite sporting environment at Carlton, Naulty was given another opportunity to advance his career.

“ Len Villani , Head of Football Operations and Special Projects, asked if I would be interested in managing the VFL program at Carlton. That was a huge shock to me, I remember I was driving out to coach my local footy club at the time and got the phone call and almost wanted to say yes straight away,” Naulty explained.

“Fast forward another 12 months and Len again asked me if I wanted to work alongside Dr Tarah Kavanagh , the Club Psychologist, to work more directly in football. I relinquished the College and Academy role and took up the AFL well-being coordinator role and remained as the VFL operations coordinator.”

With his reputation continuing to grow, Naulty was offered a position in the football’s AFLW Program, which was in the midst of considerable change.

” Brad Lloyd , General Manager of Football, asked if I wanted to step in as the interim Head of the AFLW program. I began in February and went straight into the sign and trade period, trying to make sure we retained all our great players,” Naulty said.

“I really tried to hone in on the attributes and teaching from CCoS, so I prioritised connecting with the broader business to establish relationships, people plan and strategy, and our overall vision for the AFLW program.”

Reflecting positively on his time spent at the Carlton College of Sport Naulty expressed his gratitude.

“I have so many highlights from my time. One important to me is the connections with my fellow peers and the teachers. Everyone was super supportive at CCoS, I saw a difference of people that I wasn’t privy to in construction,” Naulty said.

“The teachers were genuinely so invested in watching you grow and develop and that rubbed off on me. I would really encourage people who are serious about their career and sport, it’s a great opportunity for them to explore what it is like to work in sport.”

The Carlton College of Sport offers two higher education diplomas; Elite Sport Business and Sport Coaching and Development, ensuring there is a range of pathways on offer.

“Anyone, including mature-age students, even if they are new to tertiary education or looking for a career change, should consider CCoS,” Naulty said.

“The time I spent at CCoS was incredible, I built so many great relationships, and I am proud to have some of those relationships to this day.

“I love working in a place that’s so connected with their values and really want to display an inclusive environment that is equally relentless.”

For more information about the Carlton College of Sport, please visit

By Carlton Media, published in Youthwise Magazine Autumn issue 2024.