From East Melbourne YCW, Searl started his career as a forward, but developed into a fine defender for Fitzroy. At Collingwood he played in the losing 1966 grand final side. A safe mark and a long kick, Searl topped Fitzroy’s goalkicking in 1968-69. His 1969 tally of 77 goals was the best by a Fitzroy player in 37 years. After recovering from a broken ankle in 1970 he was tried at centre half-back and the move immediately worked. He later became a highly-distinguished Under 19s coach and also coached VFA club Port Melbourne, the team his father had played for. Searl said that his coaching gave him more joy than anything he did as a player.