Photo: www.williamstownfc.com.au

In the next instalment of our Women in Coaching series we speak to VFLW Premiership and current Williamstown coach Penny Cula-Reid

Many know Penny Cula-Reid as one of the first AFLW players at the Collingwood Football Club as well as successful footballer at VFLW level for the St Kilda Sharks.

Not many people know Cula-Reid as the coach. Since taking over as a coach for the Collingwood VFLW team in 2018, her coaching career has been very successful.

The Inner Sanctum spoke to Cula-Reid on her coaching career to date as well as her style of coaching.

Cula-Reid first got into coaching after her AFLW career wrapped up at the end of 2017.

“I was speaking to the coach and operations manager at the end of the 2017 season and they basically said look Pen, we don’t think you’re quite up to this level and we are looking at delisting you,” Cula-Reid told The Inner Sanctum.

“We want to provide you with a coaching development opportunity to be a development coach in the AFLW and I said can I think about it because I want to give AFL another crack and then during that VFL season I remember one day I was like when is this siren going to end.

“In the moment I knew my playing career at that highest level was done because I was wanted the game to end.

“I reached back out to the Collingwood coach and operations manager and said I would love to take on the role of the development coach for the 2018 season great opportunity.

“After the 2018 AFLW season because they [Collingwood] were putting in a VFLW team they offered me the senior coaching role or an assistant coaching role.

“I spoke to a few people that was close to me and came up with the decision that if I’m going to do something I’m going to do it well. I decided to take on the VFLW senior coach of the Collingwood Football Club in 2018.”

One of the challenges in the transition from player to coach was many of the players were once Cula-Reid’s teammates.

“Difficult if I’m being honest, the transition from being a teammate of a lot of senior and respected players in the competition and now being their coach.

“I think the relationships for me were really hard to balance now that now I’m more their boss. I guess it was a big learning curve and the only way to do it is to jump headfirst.

“I found that I learnt a lot over the way, made a lot of mistakes and still am but it’s I guess it’s owning up to them and saying ‘hey girls, sorry my bad’ and just being on the journey together.

” I think that was my mantra from the 2017-2018 season was we’re in this together, I’m learning, you’re learning lets do this together.”

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In 2018 a player by the name of Jessica Edwards joined the Collingwood VFLW side, what happened throughout the season was one of Cula-Reid’s proudest coaching moments.

“There was a player called Jessica Edwards who was on my VFL list in 2018, she flew across from South Australia to play for Collingwood Football Club.

“She was on the older age of the draft pool and I think for me to see her hard work, her dedication and her leadership, her discipline to be drafted to the Carlton Football Club.

“I think for me for a coach would be one of my proudest moments just knowing how much she worked and how much I helped her to get to her dream of being drafted.

“Even though it wasn’t to Collingwood it didn’t matter, it was more about the individual goal and me helping her through that was one of the proudest moments as a coach.”

Cula-Reids time as Collingwood VFLW coach was quite successful, within 2018 the team making it all the way to the Preliminary final but it wasn’t until the 2019 season that the team was able to go all the way.

“In the 2019 season knowing that the AFLW girls had a tough year and seeing them succeed and see the happiness and belief that they can be a really good football team.

“I think it’s really shown this year in 2021 that the 2019 season and winning the grand final helped these girls believe that anything is possible and they are good enough to be a really successful football team.”

The Grand Final win left Cula-Reid speechless although it wasn’t just the win itself but what the win meant for Women’s footy.

“I think it was just like a weight off the shoulder really because of the pressure I put on myself and not anyone else about being successful and being the first female at the Collingwood Football Club but also being one of the only female coaches in the VFL and AFL.

“I wanted to prove to everyone that females are on equal par as the men in this world and for me it was a really proud moment not just for myself personally or the girls but also I guess that anything is possible.

“Just because you’re a female your not pigeon hold into a certain stereotype, that you don’t have to play netball, you don’t have to be this, you don’t have to be that.

“The saying is you can’t be what you can’t see and now that the girls are starting to be it and starting to see it.”

Penny Cula-Reid coaching for Collingwood in the VFLW
Penny Cula-Reid coaching at Collingwood. Photo: www.collingwoodfc.com.au

After the 2019 season, Cula-Reid made the tough choice to leave behind her beloved magpies and make the move to the Williamstown Football Club as their senior coach for 2020 and beyond.

“A couple of ways it happened, I was in negotiations with Collingwood to renew my contract. I got a phone call from Williamstown and they said that they’d like me to come down for an interview to be their new head coach.

“Then I also spoke to Nicole Livingstone at the AFL and she said this is a great opportunity for you. You’d be working with Williamstown and a standalone club with the AFL, state league academy.

“What was really appealing that it was a full-time role and that was my goal to be a full-time football coach and Williamstown were able to provide me with that security and that role.

“Unfortunately It didn’t work out with Collingwood which is probably one of the hardest decisions.

“Knowing it was my club and I’ve loved them ever since I could talk and I think for me from a career perspective if I’m going to move my career forward I need to learn everything.

“I basically run the whole program I have full autonomy and I’m really enjoying the experience.”

Penny Cula- Reid after signing as Head Coach of Williamstown in the VFLW Photo: www.williamstownfc.com.au

The Williamstown Football Club has a rich connection with its community and has some star talent coming out of the Western Region Football League.

“I mean I think that’s what I’ve found that rich connection and rich community between Williamstown and its community and how important football is and how important that team is and that club is to not just Williamstown itself but the Western Region.

“It’s so different to the Western Bulldogs connection it’s a bit deeper and a bit richer than that and it’s a fantastic club and I’m very privileged to be a part of it.”

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