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VFLW: Lessons learned in inaugural season

Coach reflects on VFLW achievements Penny Cula-Reid, coach of Collingwood's VFL Women's team, reflects on her team's achievements in its inaugural season after its campaign ended at the hands of Geelong in the Preliminary Final.

For Collingwood VFL Women’s coach Penny Cula-Reid, there are plenty of lessons to take from the 14-point loss to Geelong that ended the Magpies’ season on Sunday.

“It’s a good learning curve for the girls,” Cula-Reid told Collingwood Media.

“To go out in straight sets is not something we wanted to do, but that’s football,” she mused.

The Magpies struggled from the onset with Chloe Molloy going down early in the opening term.

“Chloe rolled her ankle and we weren’t going to risk it. We thought we had enough cattle, but we lost that class up forward”, Cula-Reid admitted.

While Sunday’s match hurt, Cula-Reid praised the efforts of her players having finished the season as minor premiers, an outstanding achievement in the team’s inaugural season.

“Having a lot of youth girls who have never played senior level footy, it came down to the work rate of the players and the leadership group.”

She notes the combination of Collingwood’s AFL Women’s prime movers alongside up and coming players allowed for both team and individual development, as well as providing an elite experience as footballers.

“Amy Malander came with a soccer background having never picked up the footy before. It’s been fantastic to see the development of players like her.”

Sophie Alexander was a key target in the Magpies’ line-up and was recently named in this year’s VFLW Team of the Year.

“(She) hasn’t quite made that step into AFL yet, but this year she really showed what she’s capable of, having that belief in herself.”

Former Australian volleyballer and AFLW-listed Magpie Eliza Hynes starred as one of the team’s most improved players.

“Having played two games with AFLW and now a full season of VFLW, her ability to ruck is amazing.”

For Cula-Reid herself, her role has been extremely rewarding, making the transition from player to senior coach.

“I never would have pictured myself being 30-years-old and coaching the first VFLW side at the Collingwood Football Club,” she smiled.

“The biggest reward is knowing these girls want to listen to me, and they respect me and understand what I’m saying.

“Luckily for me, I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a player.”

This season will forever be treasured by the diehard Collingwood supporter, given her title as the club’s first female senior football coach. Her efforts were recognised by AFL Victoria, too, who named her the 2018 VFL Women’s Coach of the Year.

As the season comes to a close, she has spent time reflecting on the season that’s been and is looking ahead to what the future has in store for all the team, players, coaches and herself.

“It’s just important to enjoy what has been, enjoy the celebrations and enjoy each other’s company,” Cula-Reid said.

“There’s something special about this team.

“It was just amazing to be a part of.”