Collingwood VFLW senior coach Penny Cula-Reid hopes her team’s 2019 Swisse Wellness VFL Women’s ‘Love the Game’ Grand Final triumph is the springboard for big improvement for the club in the 2020 AFL Women’s season.
The Magpies claimed their first VFLW premiership with a 37-point victory over the Western Bulldogs at Ikon Park on Sunday, erasing for many the memory of a third consecutive disappointing AFLW campaign this year.
Following fifth and sixth-place finishes in 2017 and 2018 respectively, Collingwood prevailed just once in seven AFLW games earlier in 2019 to register the worst record of the competition’s 10 teams and lead the club to replace AFLW senior coach Wayne Siekman with Stephen Symonds.
Former Carlton AFLW captain Brianna Davey also came to the Magpies during the post-season trade period, and while her experience stood out in the VFLW this year, Cula-Reid said Collingwood’s state-league success would bring the most benefit to Davey’s younger teammates.
“One of the things we always said (about this VFLW season) was that development is our key focus,” Cula-Reid said after the VFLW Grand Final.
“If we can get games into our inexperienced AFLW girls and the more they push through and play in moments like this and really perform and execute the skills, the better for our program.
“This is the first win for the Collingwood women’s (program) on Ikon Park too, so it’s fantastic that we’re moving forward into the AFLW season and we know how to win on a stage like this.”
"This club just means so much to me and it means so much to everybody."
Penny Cula-Reid will go down in history as the Pies' first women's football premiership coach ✨ pic.twitter.com/9UXC4jYXBQ
— Collingwood Women's (@CollingwoodFCW) September 22, 2019
While the likes of Davey and fellow star AFL-listed Magpies Jaimee Lambert, Chloe Molloy, Brittany Bonnici, Maddie Shevlin and Lisa Hardeman Medal winner Stacey Livingstone have been integral in the VFLW team’s drive to the flag, Collingwood’s youth has stood out in their own way.
For example, 2019 Oakleigh Chargers graduates Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Alana Porter became important parts of the line-up toward the back end of the season, with Cula-Reid praising their readiness to adapt to senior football.
“I said (to them before the Grand Final): ‘Just go out there and play!’” Cula-Reid recalled. “The key message from me was: ‘Make sure that we’re composed with the footy – and play with freedom but play with confidence.’
“(The premiership) is great recognition for our program at Collingwood. I think it’s just fantastic that our girls go out and perform each and every week.”
Magpies co-captain Grace Buchan echoed her coach’s sentiments, the VFLW-listed midfielder reflecting on a club culture that many at Collingwood will hope can spur a more successful AFLW showing next year.
“I’m just so proud of each and every one of the girls,” Buchan said on Sunday. “Everyone brought their A-game today.
“They went in hard and it didn’t matter if they made mistakes, because at least they were going for it. It’s a credit to every single one of the girls on our list, down to the coaches, the trainers and the staff.
“We’re just so lucky to be a part of something so special in the women’s football program at Collingwood.”
Listen to Penny Cula-Reid from the SEN VFL Hour on Tuesday night: