21/04/2024

Sam Virgo coached the Coorparoo Kings to a 90-point victory in her men's senior coaching debut. (Photo: HighFlyer Images/Supplied)

Shining a spotlight on Women's Coaching Month, Sam Virgo guided the Coorparoo Kings Division One men's side to an emphatic 90-point win.

Coorparoo assistant coach Sam Virgo took a successful step up into the head role on Saturday.

Virgo, who retired from the AFLW at the end of the 2021 season after playing 29 games with the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns, coached a senior men’s side for the first time.

The QFA Division One club announced the decision mid-week before the match, coinciding with Women’s Coaching Month.

She joins a number of women making Aussie rules coaching history in 2021. GWS Giants captain Alicia Eva joined Tarkyn Lockyer to coach the AFL Academy boys team, and retired Cat Melissa Hickey was named coach of the Vic Country girls side.

Jacara Egan also became the first Indigenous woman to coach at NAB League level, joining the Calder Cannons earlier in the year.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Virgo explained that while the week held extra responsibility for her, she aimed to make hers and the players’ preparation as normal as possible.

“[Senior coaching] was a shift for me just from the side to the front,” she said.

“I took the meeting on Thursday and then training on Thursday leading in, so that was a little bit different. Normally I’d come in and I’d just contribute 50% to training and maybe say one or two things in the meeting.

“I do take a significant chunk of training as it is, so it wasn’t too different. I think that was kind of important for the players as well, that they weren’t experiencing anything significantly different.”

Virgo on the ground on game day. (Photo: HighFlyer Images/Supplied)

Winning the game itself was no challenge for Virgo and her Kings at home, demolishing Aspley to the tune of 90 points.

It was a battle of fourth versus bottom of the table seventh coming in, a game Coorparoo had to win to keep its finals hopes alive.

The Hornets challenged early, trailing by just three points at quarter time. Inspired by two Jack Tomkinson goals, the Kings charged to a four goal half-time lead, and didn’t look back. They would kick 12 goals to Aspley’s two in the second half, well and truly running away with it.

Tomkinson was duly named best on ground, finishing with a game-high eight goals; his best for the season.

Other strong contributors for Coorparoo included Kell Gadsden, returning to Queensland after signing with the Essendon Douta Stars in 2020, and long-time King Sam Holna.

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Virgo has worked hard to build a rapport with the playing group. Now that she’s gained their respect, getting the best of them on field comes easier than ever.

“They’re an easy group to be honest with you,” she explained.

“Really responsive, really keen to get better, and we’re kind of in a position where we have to win every game to not just qualify [for finals], but to be comfortable to be in charge of our own destiny. They’re pretty motivated to get better and get results. In that sense, they’re pretty easy to coach.

“When someone enters an environment you don’t know, the building respect piece takes a little bit of time. I think I got to a point where I got the players and the people in the club’s respect based on the body of work we’ve put in this season already.

“We started from a great position, leading into the game. They kind of knew what to expect from me and I knew what to expect from them.

“When I suggested a solution to a problem I was seeing on the field, they were able to implement it straight away because that respect level was there.”

Coorparoo now sits just two points behind third-placed Caloundra, and six points behind second-placed Springwood.

The side will enjoy a bye this weekend, before tackling both mighty opponents back to back. Coorparoo will be hoping to extend its winning streak as the Kings aim to control their finals destiny.

Looking ahead

After getting her shot at the top job in the seniors team, Virgo is continuing to weigh up where she sees her coaching career heading.

Biding her time now as an assistant with Coorparoo, she already boasts a laundry list of coaching accomplishments. This includes coaching Queensland’s girls state team and the Gold Coast Suns girls academies.

Virgo (R) coaching Queensland alongside North Melbourne’s Britt Gibson. (Photo: Siren/Supplied)

A 90 point win is a step in the right direction for the budding coach. She’s proving to herself and others that whatever direction she’s heading, is a good one.

“I’d enjoy a head coaching role, I’d also enjoy to continue being an assistant,” Virgo said.

“I know I’m capable, and probably it did attest to the fact that I am capable of a head coach’s role. It’s always nice to get some positive affirmation… with a result like that.

“I asked all the players for some feedback, and I got some constructive things back. It’s all I’m trying to do really, is to get better and make sure I’m on the right track about what I’m seeing and then what the players are hearing from me.

“I don’t really have a set destination, I’m just having a look at what opportunities are in front of me and seeing how that fits into my life. It was another point in time where I know I’m on the right track.”

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